The Principality of Monaco has a long and illustrious history, much of which is reflected in its historic buildings.
These historic buildings often boast exquisite Belle Epoque architecture that sits in harmony alongside some of Monaco’s most refined contemporary buildings, such as the towering La Tour Odeon, La Stella, with its ribbon-like facade, and the soon-to-be-completed Mareterra Monaco, a new eco-district boasting design by award-winning architectural firms.
From the elegant Cafe de Paris Monte Carlo to the Casino Monte Carlo and the Prince’s Palace, here we explore the history of some of Monaco’s most recognisable buildings.
The history of Monaco’s buildings
Cafe de Paris, Monte Carlo
The elegant Cafe de Paris is regarded as the place to see and be seen. Located in the heart of Monte Carlo’s Casino Square, it was founded in 1868. Originally the brasserie was called Cafe Divan. Throughout its lifetime, the building has undergone several transformations. In 1988 it was completely renovated in the Belle Epoque style, to make it reminiscent of old Parisian style bistros. Today, its exquisite interior is the ideal spot to enjoy an intimate breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends, family, or your significant other, either on the brasserie’s voluminous outdoor terrace or amidst its elegant, light-filled interior. The chic Cafe de Paris offers a selection of delicious menus throughout the day, with the cuisine overseen by the esteemed chef Franck Lafon.
Casino de Monte Carlo
There can be no question that the Monte Carlo casino is one of Monaco’s most famed buildings. This exquisite Belle Epoque building was designed by Charles Garnier in the late 1800s, the architect behind the famed Paris Opera House. It was Princess Caroline, in the late 1840s, who had the idea to revive Monaco’s economy by opening a luxury gambling business in the heart of the principality. Today, the casino attracts high-rollers from across the world, as well as VIPs, celebrities, and royalty who come to enjoy Monaco’s legendary luxury lifestyle. Its beautiful exterior is breathtaking, yet it is equally as spectacular inside, boasting allegorical paintings, sculptures, striking onyx columns, marble and gold. Today, the Monte Carlo Casino is operated by the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, a group that operates and manages some of the principality’s finest hotels and destination experiences.
Opera de Monte-Carlo
The Opera de Monte-Carlo, also known as the Salle Garnier, is an opera house that is part of the Monte Carlo Casino. It was opened in 1879 by the then ruling Prince of Monaco, Charles III, who sought to diversify the principality’s cultural life. Initially, it served as the prince’s private theatre, and its main entrance was reserved for the royal family. The interior is spectacularly ornate with drapes of red velvet, lots of gold leaf, bronzes, friezes and crystals. Today the Opera de Monte Carlo presents five to six operas during a season, offering a spectacular setting for opera enthusiasts.
Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo
The Hotel de Paris is one of the most iconic buildings in Monaco. It was designed by the French architect Gobineau de la Bretonnerie and opened in 1863 as part of the development of Monaco by the Société des Bains de Mer. Shortly after its opening, in 1865, it was expanded, and in 1908 the public rooms were redesigned. Like the Monte Carlo Casino, its stunning facade is in the Belle Epoque style, while its interior is equally spectacular, laced with marble and gold. It recently underwent a $280 million renovation, reopening in 2019. Today, it is one of Monaco’s most luxurious destinations, offering opulent guest rooms, the sumptuous Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo spa, and two award-winning restaurants, the Louis XV – Alain Ducasse a l’Hotel de Paris and Le Grill.
The Prince’s Palace
Situated in Monaco’s elevated old town known as The Rock, the Prince’s Palace is where the royal family resides. The Grimaldi family has reigned over the principality for more than 700 years, making them one of the world’s oldest reigning families. The current palace was adapted from the original Genoise fortress that stood atop this advantageous headland since the 1200s. The Grimaldi family is unique because they have occupied the same residence for more than seven centuries. As such, their fortunes and politics are reflected in the palace’s architecture. Over the years, much of the original palace has been re-built with new wings and towers added, and as such, it is a blend of architectural styles. However, its medieval fortification remains intact, offering a glimpse into Monaco’s historical past.
There is no question that Monaco has a fascinating history, which is reflected in some of its most iconic buildings.