It is now possible to enjoy playing in your favourite online casino without leaving the comfort of home. But even up until fairly recently, the only way to experience a great casino was to visit its actual location. And of course that was even more the case in the early days of the casino. At first, Europe’s casinos were the exclusive leisure playgrounds of the rich and powerful in each particular region. It was only later on in the 19th century that the idea of ‘tourists’ or visitors travelling abroad to enjoy different cultures and new experiences became commonplace. So it was from that time on that casinos began to attract the aristocracy and wealthy people from other countries. That, of course, meant casinos became much more popular as people realised that, apart from the thrill of playing casino games, it was also becoming socially desirable to be seen visiting these establishments.
Europe has a fine collection of unique casinos. So here’s a selection of the most glamorous European casinos you will find:
Monte Carlo Casino
This gambling and entertainment complex can be found in the principality of Monaco and is officially known as the Casino de Monte-Carlo. The building, which is an iconic example of Belle Époque architecture, includes not only a casino, but also the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.
Owned and operated by the Société des bains de mer de Monaco, whose major investors are the Monaco government along with the Monaco Royal Family, the casino is just one of a series of sport and leisure facilities owned by this company.
The great French architect, Charles Garnier, designed and built the oldest part of this casino which has been the haunt of the rich and famous ever since. Monte Carlo Casino has welcomed exiled Russian aristocrats, the famous World War I spy Mata Hari and actress Sarah Bernhardt, as well as dignitaries such as King Farouk of Egypt and Prince Aly Khan. In addition, the famous casino has played host to countless stars of the stage and screen, as well as providing the casino environment which soon came to inspire the character and adventures of the fictional espionage hero James Bond.
Visitors will find baccarat (chemin de fer and punto banco) and roulette to be among the most popular Monte Carlo games, and the building’s alfresco terrace is always a great summer attraction. It’s here that casino visitors flock to play roulette and poker on warm evenings overlooking the moonlit Mediterranean sea.
The Kurhaus, Baden-Baden
The actress Marlene Dietrich, who was a regular visitor, pronounced the stunning gilded Kurhaus the most beautiful of all casinos. And during its 190-year history, this building has indeed attracted many other rich and famous people who obviously must have shared her opinion. Among the first to visit Baden-Baden during the 1780s was the Prussian Queen. She came seeking the town’s healing waters to improve her ailing health but, although casino gambling had been established prior to this, it was her presence that offered the kind of exposure which would bring a touch of real fame to this spa resort in the foothills of the Black Forest.
Queen Victoria of England also visited Baden-Baden in 1876, as did the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was later inspired to write a novel entitled ‘The Gambler’ which was inspired by his visit to the Kurhaus. Great statesmen too, such as Germany’s Konrad Adenauer and France’s Charles De Gaulle, have spent leisure time at the Kurhaus, as has England’s Edward VII who was particularly fond of casino life. However, nowadays the most frequent visitors tend to be wealthy Russians who come to play roulette, blackjack and poker.
The Casino Estoril
An elegant building designed in a modernist style, Lisbon’s Casino Estoril first opened its doors back in 1916. Though Portugal remained a neutral country, at this time the First World War was raging throughout the western world. This meant that Lisbon was something of a relatively safe haven – a fact which brought several royal families and rich visitors (as well as a good crop of spies) flocking to the city to escape the deprivations of war.
Much the same occurred during World War II, when the casino was once again reputed to be crawling with spies. But now the Casino Estoril gave fresh inspiration to an English author, Ian Fleming. He is said to have based his own James Bond story, ‘Casino Royale’, on his personal experience of Lisbon’s renowned casino nightspot.
Though Lisbon can boast a total of 1,235 other casinos, no venue can offer the same atmosphere and historic appeal. Today the Casino Estoril is renowned for its poker tournaments, dining facilities and casino-themed bars. Guests can enjoy games such as baccarat, blackjack, roulette and poker amid luxurious surroundings.
Casino Barrière, Biarritz
Biarritz became an international holiday destination once the town and its mild climate and six kilometres of sumptuous beaches were discovered by the Empress Eugenie and Emperor Napoleon III. Enchanted by the location, Princess Eugenie built a fine summer palace on the Grande Plage, which was started in 1855. Soon Biarritz had become a favoured venue for many of Europe’s elite royal families. Queen Victoria of England holidayed there, as did Alfonso XII of Spain, and later, Edward VII (the king who abdicated the British throne). Biarritz remained popular and fashionable even after the end of the First World War I. And by the 1920’s, this coastal town in the Basque region had become so exclusive that it came to be described as the “queen of resorts and the resort of the kings.”
Biarritz’s casino opened on 10 August 1901 to accommodate the leisure interests of the town’s rich and famous visitors. A stunning Art Déco structure which faces the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and occupies a prominent position on the Grande Plage, the casino with its columns and beachside gallery walk is celebrated as one of the region’s most impressive buildings. In keeping with its illustrious past, the Casino Barrière offers not only top-quality gambling and leisure pursuits but also has several elegant terraces and excellent fine-dining facilities in its restaurant.