Museums are all well and good, but to survey the soul of Monaco you need a credit card, a suntan, and a late-morning wake-up call. Early-evening glamour revolves around the bars that surround the historic port. Here, locally based luxury yacht agencies like Y.CO (www.y.co; tel. 93-50-12-12) charter 50m-long (262 ft.-) sailing craft for around $200,000 per week.
Casinos — François Blanc developed the Casino de Monte-Carlo, place du Casino (tel. 377-98-06-21-21), into the most famous in the world, attracting the exiled aristocracy of Russia, Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, King Farouk, and Aly Khan. The architect of Paris's Opéra Garnier, Charles Garnier, built the oldest part of the casino, and it remains an example of the 19th century's most opulent architecture. The building encompasses the casino and other areas for different kinds of entertainment, including a theater (Opéra de Monte-Carlo) presenting opera and ballet. Baccarat (chemin de fer and punto banco) and roulette are the most popular games, though you can play craps, blackjack, and thirty and forty as well.
The casino’s marble-floored Atrium is open to all (for 10€ plus the presentation of a valid passport) from 2pm. Gamers can shoot slots or play blackjack in the hallowed Salle des Amériques or try their luck at roulette in the Salle Europe. For roulette, trente et quarante, and Texas Hold’em visit the private areas of rococo Salon Touzet and Salon Médecin. Entrance to Les Salons Supers Privés is by invitation only (heh, they’ve got our number!) and requires smart dress and nerves of steel. Another great summer addition is the Casino de Monte-Carlo alfresco terrace. Here visitors may play roulette and poker overlooking the moonlit Mediterranean. Now that’s glamorous. To enter the casino, you must show a passport or other photo ID, and be at least 18. After 8pm, the staff will insist that men wear jackets and neckties for entrance to the private rooms.
The brightly lit Sun Casino, in the Fairmont Monte Carlo, 12 av. des Spélugues (tel. 377-98-06-12-12), feels more Vegas than Monte Carlo. As well as poker, it also features blackjack, craps, American roulette, and war game (based on the kids game Battleship). Slot machines operate daily noon to 4am, and gaming tables are open daily 5pm to 4am. Admission is free.
The Opéra de Monte-Carlo is headquartered in the lavish, Belle Époque Salle Garnier of the casino. Tickets to the operas start at 40€. Tickets to events within the Salle Garnier are available from a kiosk in the Atrium du Casino (tel. 377-98-06-28-28; www.opera.mc), located within the casino; tickets can be purchased Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5:30pm.
At the Grimaldi Forum, 10 av. Princesse-Grace (tel. 377-99-99-30-00 for tickets and information; www.grimaldiforum.com), you can see classical and pop concerts. If tickets are hard to come by, ask your hotel concierge for assistance.
Bars & Clubs — At sundown the action moves uphill to place du Casino, where Buddha Bar (tel. 98-06-19-19) is bedecked with chinoiserie, Asian statues, and a raised DJ booth. For sheer class, the Crystal Bar (tel. 98-06-98-99) inside the Hôtel Hermitage pulls out all the stops. Patrons may sip 22€ glasses of Perrier-Jouët Champagne until 2am. Le Bar Américain (tel. 98-06-38-38), in the Hôtel de Paris, is far more raucous, with chillingly expensive cocktails and nightly jazz. Near Plage du Larvotto, the timeless superclub Jimmy’z (tel. 98-06-36-36), open nightly 11:30pm until dawn, has attracted stars from Farrah Fawcett to George Clooney.
Other hotel bars that are popular with a chic Monégasque crowd include the übertrendy NiBar (tel. 377-97-97-51-51; www.nihotel-nibar.com) at 1 bis rue Grimaldi and the Columbus bar (tel. 377-92-05-90-00; www.columbushotels.com) in Fontvieille. A more informal place to unwind is La Rascasse (tel. 377-98-06-16-16; www.larascassemontecarlo.com), overlooking Port Hercule. In the day it's a place for coffee and Wi-Fi, but at night it transforms into a bar (after 5pm) and later into a nightclub (after 11pm). A relaxed Anglophone crowd can be found drinking beer at McCarthy's Irish pub (tel. 377-93-25-87-67) on rue Portier.
If you'd like a late-night, postdinner boogie squeezed between and even on tables, then you'll like restaurant-cum-piano bar Le Sass Café, 11 av. Princesse-Grace (tel. 377-93-25-52-00). With its deep-red brothel-like decor, it's always packed to the gills with Monaco partygoers. Drinks start at around 15€. A cooler contemporary decor and younger vibe can be found across the street at Zelos in the Grimaldi Forum, 10 av. Princesse-Grace (tel. 377-99-99-25-50). In summertime, ask for a reservation on the outdoor terrace with its sea views.
Grooving at the miniature-size Le Living Room, 7 av. des Spélugues near place du Casino (tel. 377-93-50-80-31), feels like dancing in your own living room. With its retro mirrored decor, it's more sedate than other Monégasque night clubs, but its central location attracts a steady stream of patrons over 35. There's no cover and it's open every night from 10:30pm until dawn.
Black Legend, quai Albert 1er (tel. 377-93-30-09-09), is sprawling, ultracontemporary, and bigger than any nightlife venue ever before seen in Monte Carlo. From daytime portside restaurant, the venue is transformed into a nightclub that pays tribute to the Motown era, R&B, and funk. It's open Monday to Saturday year-round until 5am.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.