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Place du Casino is a bustling square full of people, luxury vehicles, the latest sports cars and stunning limousines. Even the Monegasques joke that one of their favourite pastimes is walking around to see which famous celebrity is visiting Monte Carlo.
In this square, popularly known as Camembert, in addition to the Monte Carlo Casino, after which it is named, there are numerous iconic places that are worth discovering, because all of them bring together history, art and glamour, and represent the true essence of Monte Carlo.
To start off, in front of the casino, there are gardens that you can lose yourself in. It is full of charming nooks and crannies, ponds, fountains, flowers and carefully looked-after plants that will provide you with memorable images for your photo album. The classic photograph is perhaps that of one of its fountains flanked by palm trees with the Casino in the background. Unmissable.
Now, if you stand in front of the casino and look to your left, you will see the Café de Paris. Opened in 1868 under the name Café Divan, it also has an excellent and intimate casino, but is best known for its terrace and brasserie. Particularly outstanding is its beautiful Art Deco entrance in iron and glass. Inside, you will feel as though you are in one of those romantic bistros in Paris. It is, of course, a real treat to sit on the terrace and enjoy a coffee or, better still, a glass of champagne while you watch the Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Rolls Royces pass by. If you would like to eat here, we recommend you order steak tartare. Many tourists agree that it is the best in all of Monaco and much of France. And for dessert, a crêpe suzette, perhaps the most spectacular. It is a sweet flambéed pancake accompanied by tangerine and citrus sauce which has a curious history.
According to Henri Charpentier himself, he created this recipe in 1896. Although not all experts agree, there is no doubt that his version is particularly charming.
The story goes that the Prince of Wales was in the Café de Paris and Charpentier wanted to make a special dessert for him with a warm fruit sauce, based on an old recipe from his stepmother, to which he wanted to add a liqueur. Instead of going onto the plate, the liqueur accidentally fell into a saucepan and began to burn. After a slight panic, he tasted the sauce and thought it was so different that he took it to the table and served it. The prince, impressed, asked him for the name of the dish and Charpentier replied that it was a Crêpe Princesse. But the prince corrected him, explaining that the young lady at the table with him was not a princess. She was a girl of about 10 years old, the daughter of the friends of the Prince of Wales who were accompanying him. Her name was Suzette. It is well worth giving it a try. You will love it.
While you are sitting on this very exclusive terrace, with the Monte Carlo Casino to your left and the gardens to your right, the next place to visit is right in front of you. It is the Hotel de Paris.
This building was built in 1864 with the intention of being the best hotel in the world. And, of course, it still claims to be. In the late 19th century, the businessman François Blanc, nicknamed the Wizard of Monte Carlo, together with Prince Charles III of Monaco, took on the project, which also included the Monte Carlo Casino. To build the hotel, the services of top professionals from around the world were used.
It is a remarkable building, both from the outside and the inside. Indeed, for many, it is the true Monte Carlo Palace. Its façade features belle-époque columns and capitals, bas-reliefs from the time, beautiful statues of nymphs and entrances with semicircular arches. It is an architectural wonder.
And it gets even better when you go inside. If you are not lucky enough to be staying here, just enter and admire its details. Once you have passed through the door, as well as the elegant people and very luxurious atmosphere, you will see a bronze statue of Louis XIV on horseback. As a curiosity, look at the knees of the horse. Yes, they are worn down and shiny from being rubbed so much by superstitious players. Then admire the solemn marble columns, gold ornamentation, arches, beautiful glass dome and lavish crystal chandeliers that will transport you to a dream world in which even the baths have Louis XIV chairs.
For all of this, Monte Carlo’s Hotel de Paris has always welcomed and still welcomes the most sophisticated clientele and has also received and continues to receive the most prestigious international awards.
It also has several restaurants where the pleasure of eating is elevated to its maximum exponent. If your budget allows, book a table at Le Louis XV, the first of the hotel’s restaurant to win three Michelin stars, run by the renowned chef Alain Ducasse, who today has the largest collection of fine-dining restaurants in the world.
And the fact is that Monaco is full of luxury hotels. A few metres from here, you can also see the famous Hermitage Hotel, a work of belle-époque art from 1900 which features, among its spaces, the wonderful winter garden, whose dome was designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel.
Evidently, the golden triangle formed by the Monte Carlo Casino, the Café de Paris and the Hotel de Paris was the Principality’s major commitment in the second half of the 19th century. It is worth noting that by 1869 Monaco was attracting over 170,000 of the most select tourists every year, including the Prince of Wales and future Edward VII, Alexander Dumas, Jacques Offenbach and Prince Napoleon.
Today, it attracts many more. Including you.