For a tiny country measuring no less than 0.7 miles squared, the Principality of Monaco boasts a rich and fascinating history which belies its miniscule size.
And very much at the centre of its modern history is the foundation of the Monte Carlo Casino, one of the most famous gambling halls in the world which can be reached in no time at all by helicopter to Monaco from almost anywhere along the French Riviera.
The grandiose building, which stands majestically in Casino Square surrounded by some of the most luxurious hotels, restaurants and bars in Europe, has been a focal point of Monegasque life since it first opened its doors in 1863.
Built under the order of Prince Charles III to boost an ailing economy, the casino was designed by Charles Garnier, the very same architect who built the Paris Grand Opera House some years before.
The Prince’s plans for the principality, just six minutes from Nice by helicopter to Monaco, were ambitious and well-documented. Newspapers from the era noted: “The new Casino launched by the Société des Bains de Mer will soon rise from the ground in monumental proportions. Around the Casino, fine hotels will be built, having nothing to fear by comparisons with those that have been opened in Paris, London or New York”.
Their predictions couldn’t have been more accurate. The casino drew distinguished crowds from far and wide and Monte Carlo quickly became synonymous with luxury, elegance and extravagance. In 1869 alone, records revealed that Monte Carlo, a 25-minute flight from Saint Tropez on a helicopter charter company flight to Monaco, welcomed more than 170,000 tourists, many of whom came from European elite, even royalty such as the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.
Some 150 years later, the Casino – the facades and interiors of which have been used in no less than three James Bond movies – is still attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world who come to play on its gamut of games every year.
The Casino is open every day from 2pm, so those arriving in style with a helicopter charter company can enjoy the evening sunset on the balcony in the casino bar before enjoying the frivolities inside. The minimum age of entry is 18.