The Place d’Armes is a jewel that has withstood the passage of time, right in the heart of the Principality. The pride of the Monegasque people, the square is a hub of community life, where Italian-style pasta, socca and barbagiuans meet. After Place Joséphine Baker last month, Monaco Tribune continues its series on Monegasque neighbourhoods, around La Condamine.

If there is one place that symbolises Monegasque life, this is it. The Place d’Armes, in the heart of La Condamine, is a must-see spot on this side of the city, cherished by its regulars and fascinating its visitors. Its Provencal character and affordable prices contrast with the Monte-Carlo side of Monaco.

“This is the only place in Monaco where people still speak French and even a little bit of Monegasque”, boasted one Facebook user in a comment on our Out and About piece in la Condamine.  A feeling that was echoed by regulars there. “I love this place, it’s so authentic”, confides a customer in the market, at lunchtime. Her spouse adds: “[the food] is good, and it’s lovely here.”

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Nowadays, the Place d’Armes is known mainly for its market, which has been here since 1880. With fruit and vegetables in the morning, then barbagiuans and afterworks in the evening, the square is central to the Monegasque way of life: there’s the La Condamine Market, the restaurants, the large terraces in the arcades, the children’s play area and… a Christmas tree.

So central that, on November 22, the city will light up from the Condamine market square, to kick off the end-of-year celebrations.

The Christmas tree on the Place d’Armes © Simon Zwierniak

A car park in the square

In popular parlance, the Place d’Armes meant the “gathering place for a small troop with a central space hosting the important ceremonies in military life. “ A description that certainly fits this square, especially with its police station.

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The Prince of Monaco’s Carabinieri at Place d’Armes © Collection Jean-Paul Bascoul 

The Condamine district gradually became urbanised from the 20th century on, and was then designated as one of the Principality’s three municipalities in the Monegasque Constitution of 1911. Before that, the surroundings were green, the square was full of gardens and served as a junction between the Rock, the road to la Turbie and the road to Nice.

The square continued in this role of a transitional space in the following years: it was home to a tram stop and a bus stop. There was also a car park along the side of the arcades.

The Place d’Armes in the 1920s © Collection Jean-Paul Bascoul 

A friendly place

In La Condamine, or “condominium” in Latin, i.e. “common domain”, this community spirit is still present. In the old days, people would go to the kiosk to buy their tobacco or take the tram. Today, they come for lunch or a coffee.

Despite the transformations that Place d’Armes has undergone over time, the essence of a place where people can gather, has certainly survived.

The Place d’Armes in the 1920s © Collection Jean-Paul Bascoul