Monte Carlo’s unique architecture guide, Gambling resort buildings, architecture

Monte Carlo’s unique architecture – five of its most iconic buildings

26 July 2021

Good things come in small packages, they say. If you test the theory on countries, the principality of Monaco should be very good indeed. Just the name, or that of its most famous quarter, Monte Carlo, conjures images of millionaire playboys betting it all on red or reclining on their yachts, and of Grace Kelly, the actress who found her handsome prince and became Princess Grace. Monte Carlo also boasts some of the most stunning architecture you will ever see crammed into 28 hectares (0.1 square miles).

Monte Carlo's unique architecture - Monaco marina

Casino de Monte Carlo

Where else could we possibly start? The most famous casino in the world has appeared in multiple movies and stands central to everything in Monte Carlo. Today, gamblers might prefer the really fast casino withdrawals associated with online alternatives, but no visit to Monte is complete without visiting the casino for a look around, even if you decide to give the gaming tables a miss. The casino was initially constructed in the 1850s, but was substantially rebuilt in the late 1870s by Charles Garnier, the architect behind the Paris Opera House.

Hôtel Hermitage

There’s no shortage of beautiful hotels in Monte Carlo. However, the Hermitage is the greatest of them all. Constructed in the elle epoque style with its classical façade and famous dome on the roof, the hotel’s primary architect was Nicolas Marquet. However, he also invited creative input from a certain Gustave Eiffel.

The Oceanographic Museum

We could as easily call it “the impossible building” – and it must have seemed even more so when it was finally finished in 1910, eleven years after it started. The museum is in the baroque style, but what makes it so incredible is the way it seems to literally cling to the sheer cliff face. During construction, Prince Albert personally selected the 20 oceanographic research vessels whose names are carved into the building’s façade.

The Prince’s Palace

First time visitors are often surprised by the utilitarian appearance of the Royal Palace. While other heads of nations were building vanity projects in the Baroque or Renaissance style, the ruling Grimaldis came to the shrewd solution that a fortress made a more appropriate home given the turbulent political times. The original fortress dates back to the 12th century, and the Grimaldis moved in 200 years later. It has become conventional that in times of peace and prosperity, a new wing or tower is added, so today, the building, which is still the royal residence, is absolutely unique and tells its own story.

Saint Nicholas Cathedral

With its light limestone (sourced from nearby La Turbie) this cathedral dares to be different and is impossible to miss as you stroll through the old town. Once you’ve managed to drag your eyes away from the imposing edifice outside, step in to pay your respects to Princess Grace, whose fairy-tale life ended much too soon, and other members of the royal family who are interred within. Also note the magnificent Carrara marble alter.

Beautiful casino in Monaco

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