Monte Carlo, or more specifically the ward of Monte Carlo/Spélugues, is an area within the Principality of Monaco in central Europe. Sitting on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps, it is chiefly famous for its casino and its opera house: Casino de Monte-Carlo (Place du Casino) and Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Salle Garnier). Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Café de Paris are also located here.
Informally, the name Monte Carlo is sometimes used for an area that is a bit larger than this ward, and which corresponds to the old municipality of Monte Carlo, including what is now Saint Michel, La Rousse/Saint Roman, and Larvotto/Bas Moulins.
The Climate in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, where a warm and dry summer is followed by a mild and rainy winter.
The Casino in Monte Carlo
Since Casino de Monte-Carlo opened in 1863, it has become one of the iconic casinos in the world and an important source of income for the ruling royal family.
Coordinates: 43°44′22″N 7°25′44″E
The casino is a part of the leisure complex that also includes Opéra de Monte-Carlo.
Examples of game types that are available in Casino de Monte-Carlo:
- Trente et Quarante
- Stud Poker
- Slot machines
- Video poker machines
Trente et Quarante is a 17th century card game of French origin. It is very popular in casinos in France and Italy, and in certain other parts of Continental Europe, but rare outside that region. With traditional Trente et Quarante, the house edge is very low (less than 2%).
Casino de Monte-Carlo is owned and operated by the public company Société des bains de mer de Monaco (SBM), which also owns the principal hotels, nightclubs, and foodservice establishments in Monaco. The Monaco government and the ruling royal family have a majority interest in the company.
Casino de Monte-Carlo – the background story
Necessity is the mother of invention
In 1848, the towns Menton and Roquebrune broke away from Monaco and refused to pay taxes on olive oil and fruit. The House of Grimaldi – the ruling family of Monaco – was already in financial trouble by then, and now the situation became acute. It was Princess Caroline (1793-1879), the wife of Florestan I, Prince of Monaco, who suggested that a gambling casino should be opened in Monaco to bring in revenue. She had been a stage actress prior to her marriage and was a smart woman who understood both entertainment and business.
However, it would take some time before the princess’ suggestion became reality. In 1854, her son Charles hired a French team to create a development plan and write a prospectus that could attract 4 million francs from investors. The money was to be used for a casino, a spa, and English-styled villas. Eventually, the writer Albert Aubert and the businessman Napoleon Langlois were granted a 30-year concession to run a bathing establishment with gambling tables in Monaco. In late 1856, a temporary casino was opened by them in Villa Bellevue, a mansion in La Condamine.
After the death of Florestan I in 1856, the son Charles inherited the throne and became Prince Charles III. Together, mother and son continued to work on their plan to turn Monaco into a major resort destination. Aubert and Langlois, however, threw in the towel and ceded their concession rights pretty quickly. In 1857, these rights ended up with Pierre Auguste Daval, who managed to make the casino profitable but not much more.
In 1858-1863, a casino building was erected in the Les Spelugues area of Monte Carlo. (Les Spelugues means The Caves.) The building was designed by the French architect Gobineau de la Bretonnerie.
After much lobbying from Princess Caroline, the French entrepreneur François Blanc – who ran the successful Bad Homburg Casino – finally agreed to run the casino in Monaco. The Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers was formed with Blanc as the majority stockholder. The project attracted investors such as the Bishop of Monaco and Cardinal Pecci (future Pope Leo XIII).
Blanc didn’t like the name Les Spelugues, so the location was renamed Monte Carlo after Prince Charles III.
Salle Garnier, home of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, is a part of the Monte Carlo Casino. Nowadays, a typical season at Salle Garnier consists of five or six different operas.
The hall is named after the architect Charles Garnier who designed it; the same man who designed the famous Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. For Salle Garnier, a private entrance for the Prince of Monaco was placed on the western side, while the main public entered the hall from the casino.
Salle Garnier was inaugurated in 1879 with a performance by Sarah Bernhardt. The first opera performed in the new hall was La Chevalier Gaston, which opened on 8 February that same year.
Since it’s inauguration, Salle Garnier has hosted 45 world premier productions of operas.
Cafe de Paris
Cafe de Paris is a café-style restaurant adjacent to Casino Monte Carlo. It’s located opposite from Hôtel de Paris.
The cafe, established in 1868, was originally named Cafe Divan. It underwent several renovations in the 1900s. The current style, which has been kept since the 1980s, is inspired by Parisian bistros from the Belle Époche.
Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo is a four-floor luxury hotel from 1863, with 99 standard rooms and 83 suites. Originally designed by Gobineau de la Brétonnerie, the hotel was expanded in 1865 with Jules Dutrou as the head architect, and in 1908 the architect Édouard Niermans was responsible for a major remodeling of the public rooms.
Owned and operated by SBM, Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo is a staple on lists of the most amazing hotels in the world. SBM(Société des bains de mer de Monaco) is the company that also runs the casino and the principal hotels, nightclubs, and foodservice establishments in Monaco. The Monaco government and the ruling royal family have a majority interest in the company.
The hotel features several restaurants, including the Michelin 3-star Louis XV and the Michelin-starred Le Grill. Le Bar Americain is generally considered one of the best upscale bars in the world.
Even if you’ve never visited Monaco before, you might have seen parts of this hotel, because it is featured in many movies, including the James Bond films Never Say Never Again (1983) and GoldenEye (1995). As early as 1936, the black-and-white French movie Le roman d’un tricheur was filmed here. More recently, the hotel was featured in the movies Iron Man 2 (2010) and Monte Carlo (2011).
The rooms and suites
The 99 rooms are divided into four groups based on the type of view, decoration, and luxury.
- There are 59 rooms with Exclusive Sea View
- There are 20 rooms with Exclusive City View
- There are 29 large Superior Courtyard rooms
- There are only 6 Exclusive Casino rooms
The 83 suites are divided into single suites, double suites, Courtyard Junior suites, and Sea/Casino Junior suites. There is one presidential suite.
Miscellaneous events in Monte Carlo
Here are a few examples of events that take place in Monte Carlo through an average year:
- European Poker Tour Grand Final
- World Backgammon Championship
- Monte Carlo Rally
- Monaco International Auto Show (Salon International de l’Automobile de Monaco)
- Monte Carlo is a recurring choice of location for world championship boxing events.
The Monte Carlo Masters tennis tournament actually takes place in nearby Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which is on the French side of the border.
Monte Carlo Rally
The Monte Carlo Rally (Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo) is an annual rallying event organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco. It’s one of the most well-known and celebrated rallies in the world. During its early days (it premiered in 1911), it was an important way of showcasing automobile improvements and innovations.
Nowadays, the rally takes place outside Monte Carlo; on roads in other parts of Monaco and also in nearby parts of France.
Circuit de Monaco
Circuit de Monaco is a street circuit on the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine around the harbour in Monaco.
Examples of major events
- Formula One: Monaco Grand Prix (held in May
- Formula E: Monaco ePrix (takes place in May on odd-numbered years)
- The Monaco Historic Grand Prix (held on even years, typically two weeks before the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco)
Getting to Monte Carlo (Monaco) by air
There is no airport anywhere in Monaco, but there is a heliport in the district of Fontvieille. This is the only aviation facility in Monaco.
Fontvieille is not located in Monte Carlo, but the heliport is still referred to as the Monte Carlo Heliport in some contexts simply because so many of the passengers that land here are heading for Monte Carlo. The official name is Héliport de Monaco (Monaco Heliport).
Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco operates two bus routes with stops fairly close to the heliport, and there are also special shuttle buses that connect the heliport with major hotels and many other locations within Monaco.
Where is the heliport?
Coordinates: 43°43′35″N 007°25′14″E
The heliport is located in the district Fontvieille, near the stadium Stade Louis II and the circus venue Chapiteau.
The Monaco Heliport only have one scheduled destination: the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport in Nice, France.
Three different airlines offer scheduled flights between the Monaco Heliport and Nice Côte d’Azur Airport :
- Heli Securite
- Heli Air Monaco
To minimize noise in the city, the helicopters fly over the water instead of over land.
In addition to the scheduled destinations, the helipad is used by charter services. Charters to French ski resorts are especially common.
Short facts about the heliport
Heliport type : Public
Operator : Direction de l’Aviation Civile
Country: The Principality of Monaco
Hub for: Monacair
Elevation: Circa 6 metres / 20 feet
Coordinates: 43°43′35″N 007°25′14″E
The heliport have eight helipads, including two that juts out over the sea.
There is one terminal building and four hangars.
Cars can be parked in the underground parking lot.
The heliport was opened in 1976. Back then, it had only one helipad.
Getting to Monte Carlo (Monaco) by train
You can travel by train to Monaco on the Marseille-Ventimiglia railway line. There is no station in the small Monte Carlo area, but getting from the Monaco railway station to Monte Carlo by bus or taxi is not difficult. If you are staying in a hotel in Monte Carlo, ask them about shuttle pick-up.
The railway station, just as the entire railway line within Monaco, is underground. The entire length of railway within Monaco is 1.7 km and all of it is below ground.
The Monaco-Monte Carlo railway station has 2 platforms and 3 tracks. One of the platforms is on the south side, and the other is an island platform between the two tracks to the north.
Where is the Monaco-Monte Carlo railway station?
The railway station in Monaco is called Monaco-Monte Carlo, but is not located within the borders of Monte Carlo. Instead, you’ll find the railway station in the administrative ward of Les Moneghetti, which is in the northcentral part of Monaco.
Coordinates: 43°44′19″N 7°25′09″E
The Monaco-Monte Carlo railway station is chiefly served by trains of the state-owned French operator SNCF. SNCF runs two types of train services to Monaco: TER and TGV.
- TER = Transport Express Régional. Regional train service.
- TGV = Train à Grande Vitesse. This is France’s intercity high-speed rail service.
There is also Thello’s EuroCity services for the route Marseille – Cannes – Nice – Monaco – Ventimiglia – Genoa – Milan. Founded in 2011, Thello is owned by the Italian state-owned railway company Trenitalia. It’s an open-access train operator, which means that it purchases individual slots on the mainline from the railway infrastructure company.
The railway line that goes through the Monaco-Monte Carlo railway station is the Marseille-Ventimiglia railway line. This is a 259 km long line used for both passenger and freight traffic.
The main stations on this line are:
- Les Arcs-Draguignan
The railway from Marseille in France to Ventimiglia in Italy, via Monaco, was built in stages from 1858 to 1872. When the line from the French side reached Monaco in 1868, it was a huge improvement for the budding tourism sector in Monaco, as it made it much easier to reach Monaco from northern and central Europe. In 1872, it became possible to continue from Monaco into Italy.
The railway station was originally named Gare de Monaco (Monaco Station) and there was a second station within Monaco named Gare de Monte Carlo (Monte Carlo Station). In the 1950s, a railway tunnel through the hills behind Monte Carlo was built and the train no longer stopped in Monte Carlo. Thus, the name of Gare de Monaco was changed to Gare de Monaco-Monte Carlo to make it clear that if you were heading for Monte Carlo, this was the place to get off the train.
Getting to from the Monaco railway station to the casino in Monte Carlo by road
- Head southeast toward Pont Sainte-Dévote.
- Turn right onto Pont Sainte-Dévote.
- Follow Boulevard Rainier III to Pont Sainte-Dévote
- Turn right onto Pont Sainte-Dévote
- Continue on Boulevard de Suisse to Avenue Princesse Alice
- Turn right onto Avenue Princesse Alice
- Follow Avenue de Monte-Carlo to Place du Casino
The whole trip is circa 1.2 km and takes 5-10 minutes to drive during normal traffic.
Getting to Monaco by road
A8 autorute (La Provençale)
Monaco is served by the A8 autorute.
The A8 autoroute, also known as La Provençale, is a highway running from La Fare-les-Oliviers just west of Aix-en-Provence to Côte d’Azur. It’s an extension of the A7, and when it crosses the border into Italy it becomes the A10.
Examples of cities and towns served by the A8:
The part of the A8 that follows the Grance Corniche along the upper cliffs, between Nice and Menton, offers amazing views over the Mediterranean Sea.
- The A8 has heavy traffic and risk of congestions all year round, but congestions are especially common in July and August, especially around Antibes and Nice.
- Rocks from the cliffs are prone to fall onto the road between Nice and Menton.
- The Maures and L’Esterel mountains are especially prone to wild fires, and in the summer time this can be a problem for the section of the A8 that passes through here.
A500 autoroute (Bretelle de Monaco)
This is a 2 km stretch of motorway opened in 1992. It departs from the A8 near Monaco exchange and arrives to the Moyenne Corniche near Cap d’ Ail via monotube tunnel. The A500 has 3 lanes in one carriageway; there are two lanes in the east-west direction and one lane from west to east.
- West end: 56 (Monaco) Half exchanger from A8 and A500
- 57 (La Turbie) Half exchanger that serves the French town La Turbie
- East end: D6007 (Moyenne Corniche) near Cap D’Ail. The A500 enters the D6007 with a half exchanger to serve Monaco. Cap D’Ail is a French commune that borders Monaco’s La Colle district.
The A10 (Fiori Autostrada / AntoFiori)
The A10 is an Italian motorway that passes through Liguria and connects Genoa with Ventimiglia. When it leaves Italy and crosses into France, it becomes the A8, and the A8 serves Monaco.
Monte Carlo is located in the Principality of Monaco (Principauté de Monaco), which is a sovereign city-state, country, and microstate on the Mediterranean coastline. From a tourist perspective, it is a part of the French Riviera, even though it is not actually a part of France.
Monaco borders France on all sides, except for the part that is on the coast. Italy is not far away, and driving from Monaco to the French-Italian border takes around 30-40 minutes.
With a total area of 2020 square kilometres, Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world. It used to be even smaller (less than 2,000 km2) but the landmass was expanded through land reclamation in the 20th century.
Monaco is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. At the 2016 census, the population consisted of 38,897 people. Due to the country’s low taxation, many wealthy people reside in Monaco.
Monaco is a principality with Prince Albert II as reigning monarch and head of state. Nowadays, Monaco is governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, but Prince Albert II is immensely powerful. He belongs to the House of Grimaldi, a princely house that has ruled Monaco – albeit with some interruptions – since 1297.
The official language in Monaco is French, but the Gallo-Italic language Monégasque (Munegascu) is also taught in schools and spoken by a substantial minority of the residents as a first or second language. In Monaco-Ville, street signs are in both French and Monégasque.
As Monaco is close to the Italian border, Italian is also widely spoken, and Monaco’s legacy of being a tourist and leisure destination for visitors from all over the world also means that English is widely spoken and understood here, especially in the service sector.
Is Monaco a member of the European Union?
No, Monaco is not a member of the European Union (EU). It does, however, participate in certain EU policies, including many that pertain to customs and border controls.
The official currency in Monaco is the Euro. Monaco is not a part of the EU but uses Euro anyway.
The quarters of Monaco
Monaco is traditionally divided into four quarters. From west to east, they are:
- FontvieilleThe southernmost ward in Monaco. Almost entirely located on artificially reclaimed land. Developed between the 1970s and 1990s.
- Monaco-VilleThe southcentral ward in Monaco. It’s located on headland that extends into the sea, and is therefore nicknamed Le Rocher (The Rock). This is the heart of Monaco, and the Prince’s Palace is found here.
- La CondamineThis is the central ward of Monaco, and it includes Port Hercules, the only deep-water port in the country.
- Monte CarloMonte Carlo is situated on a prominent escarpment. This is where you find the famous Casino Monte Carlo.
Time zone: UTC +1 (CET); UTC+2 (CEST) during the daylight savings time part of the year
Driving side: Right
Calling code: +377
Internet TLD: mc
ISO 3166 code: MC
Official religion: Roman Catholicism
Highest point: Chemin des Révoires, at 161 metres above sea level.