Monte-Carlo's most prestigious palatial hotel: the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
The Plateau des Spélugues was just an arid patch of land in Monaco planted with sparse olive and citrus trees when it was decided to build from scratch a casino and a prestigious neighbourhood destined to accommodate a well-heeled international clientele: Monaco.
Such an ambitious project could not be conceived without a palatial hotel on a par with the site’s ambitions. This was to become the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. François Blanc, who presided over the future of the Société des Bains de Mer, was very clear in issuing what we would today call specifications: “A hotel that surpasses anything that has been built so far, even the Hôtel du Louvre or the Grand Hôtel in Paris. I want people to rave about the Hôtel de Monaco so that it becomes a powerful advertising medium.”
The hotel was inaugurated in 1864 and named the Hôtel de Paris as a tribute to its prestigious rivals as well as its deliberately Haussmann-style architecture. Two months after its inauguration, the hotel was full, and additions were soon required. Since 1864, the hotel has been extended no less than seven times.
With the arrival of the railway in Monaco in 1868, the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo became the essential gathering place of what would later be called the ‘jet-set’. Visitors included former US President General Grant, Grand Duke Serge of Russia, Jules Verne, Offenbach, Verdi and Alexandre Dumas.
In the 1880s, a society column writer thus described the extravagant quantities of foodstuffs required for the preparation of the dishes served at one of the world’s most prestigious tables: “Every day, 700 kilos of beef, 200 chickens, 150 game, 14 sheep, 150 dozen oysters and 1,400 bottles of wine were needed by the 127 cooks aiming to satisfy the most demanding guests.” Extravagance was the norm. Elisabeth “Sissi” of Russia was a frequent guest at the hotel. Beams were installed on the ceiling of her room to satisfy her immoderate taste for an unusual sport: the trapeze! As for one grand duke, he never came to the hotel without his 50 gardeners, employed to gratify an early morning whim: that of opening his window to admire a different garden every morning.
The Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo in the 20th century
At the end of the First World War, great names from the worlds of culture, the arts and politics began to meet at the hotel once again, including Diaghilev, Lifar and the King of Sweden, Gustave V, all frequent guests at the hotel. During the Second World War, the hotel became a haven for some refugees fleeing the madness of the war. In the late 1940s, one of the hotel’s most historic moments occurred when members of the British Royal Family met with one of His Majesty’s most illustrious subjects: Sir Winston Churchill. In 1952, the whole of Hollywood turned up at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo to celebrate the very memorable wedding of Eroll Flynn. In 1987, the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo was proud to welcome one of the most prestigious and talented representatives of French gastronomy, Alain Ducasse, at the helm of the Louis XV restaurant. Even today, having a drink at the Bar Américain is one of the surest ways of meeting someone famous.