A picture postcard: the Casino and its square
Retrace the history of your favourite neighbourhoods, in pictures. Today it’s the turn of the iconic place du Casino.
What would Monaco have become without its Casino? A legendary venue that has contributed to the Principality’s fame and its wealth, the Casino is instantly recognisable. And yet, its outline has changed several times over its history.
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First off, the Casino de Monaco has not always stood where it is today.
In 1856, the Principality had just lost Menton and Roquebrune. To replenish its coffers, Prince Charles III opened the first Casino of Monaco in the Villa Bellevue, in the La Condamine neighbourhood.
In 1862, the Casino moved on to the Rocher, on the place du Palais, in the Hotel de Russie. However, due to a lack of space and the inability to provide accommodation for players from Nice, after their four-hour horsedrawn omnibus ride, the Casino moved permanently to its present location.
At the time Monte-Carlo was still only a deserted plateau, but François Blanc, the founder of the SBM, decided to situate the Casino on the Plateau des Spélugues where he could have all the space he wanted. In this location, the Casino gained a magnificent view of the Mediterranean, and a site to build the Hotel de Paris, where visiting gamblers could be accommodated.
In 1864, the Hôtel de Paris was built, and the complex was inaugurated in 1865. The Café de Paris (formerly Café Divan) joined them three years later, in 1868. This was also the date of the inauguration of the Nice – Ventimiglia railway line, which contributed to the influx of more than 170,000 tourists to the area.
In the 1870s, an extension was built on to the left of the Casino. The entrance was extended and a rooftop clock added, while the Casino’s original three pediments disappeared. The fountain that adorns the square in front of the Casino was enhanced with vegetation, street lamps and balustrades.
In 1879, the Monte-Carlo Opera, built by Charles Garnier, the same architect as the Paris Opera, was inaugurated behind the Casino. The cupola and the two bell towers started to give the Casino the silhouette we all recognise.
In 1892, two towers were erected and clocks installed. The Casino was also adorned with sculptures, while mouldings and glazed tiles embellished the roof.
In 1900, the clock returned to its central position as in 1870 and the Casino continued to receive embellishments, reflecting the splendour of the Principality.
The Casino was now ready to face the 20th century, during which it would only undergo minor renovations. This is not the case for the Hôtel de Paris and the Place du Casino, which would be transformed.
In 1909, the Hôtel de Paris underwent a radical change. The hitherto Haussmannian style was replaced by a Belle Epoque style, more in keeping with the Casino. A rotunda was also built with the aim of increasing Monaco’s accommodation capacity.
In the second half of the 20th century, the place du Casino’s appearance changed several times.
The place du Casino looks completely different since 2020. Inaugurated by the Princely Family two years ago, the square is now pedestrianised, and cars can no longer drive in front of the Casino.
The Café de Paris is due to follow on in 2023, with a total transformation.
Monaco went through many changes over the 19th and 20th centuries, as witnessed by the Casino and its surroundings. The rest of the town was not overlooked, and if you want to find out more, a group of enthusiasts, administered by Jean-Paul Bascoul, has come together on Facebook to share their old photos of the Principality: Monaco4Ever.