Sometimes, beauty is in the eye of the bet holder. Las Vegas is often chided for its vulgarity; a city of copycat clichés: pint-sized Parisian walkways, scale models of the Sphinx, and vertically challenged replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the New York skyline. Inside, the action is more or less identical: Roulette, Blackjack, slots, and more; all competing for ten minutes of your time and the chips in your pocket.
Away from Sin City, there are some truly stunning casinos to discover. Buildings that come with a story of their own; beautiful to look at and well worth a visit in their own right. This is where Bogart, Bacall, and Bond play; strictly black tie, members only, high stakes, high ceilings, and definitely no jeans.
Here is our guide to the five most beautiful casinos in the world.
1. Monte Carlo or Bust
It will come as no surprise that any article about the world’s most beautiful casinos must always include the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco. James Bond is perhaps its best-known fictional visitor but the 170-year-old building has hosted royalty, presidents, and a wealth of both the very famous and the super rich.
The casino was built and developed over a period of years. Construction on its current site began in 1858. The building was extended 20 years later; the gaming rooms were extended and an opera house was added. The Belle Époque architecture uses lavish decoration and both new and traditional materials, including iron, plate glass, and tiles.
Today, the Casino de Monte-Carlo has seven lavishly decorated gaming rooms, offering slots and table games under Bohemian crystal chandeliers. If it all gets too much, you can stroll into the gardens designed by Edouard Andre. Landscaped streams, ponds, and waterfalls give the gardens a tropical feel. This is the epitome of the classy casino. Bring your tuxedo.
2. The Kurhaus
Marlene Dietrich described the Kurhaus, in Baden-Baden, as the ‘most beautiful casino in the world’. Located on the south-western tip of Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden is a spa town famed for its bathing – in German: ‘baden’.
It’s also the home of the Kurhaus; a belle époque beauty and architectural masterpiece. Built in 1824, by architect Friedrich Weinbrenner, the building is nearly 200 years old, with ornately decorated rooms modelled after royal French palaces.
Famous visitors include the Windsors, the Shah of Persia, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann, and Kirk Douglas. It’s Germany’s oldest and most glamorous casino, offering its exclusive clientele a wide range of thrilling casino games, including Roulette, Blackjack, Poker, and slots.
3. Putting on The Ritz
There are one or two contenders in London that could qualify for our top five list of the world’s most beautiful casinos. Not least Les Ambassadeurs Club and the Clermont; both in Mayfair, both exclusive, and both with a rich history. It is the Ritz – however – that takes (appropriately) the biscuit.
The Ritz Club has been a casino for fewer than 20 years but its location has been at the hub of London nightlife since 1906. The famous basement ballroom is renowned for hosting some of the finest private and public balls ever given in London. The room was restored in the 1970s, with more than 6,000 sheets of gold leaf, returning the venue to its original 1906 Louis XVI style.
Today, the club offers its guests and members Roulette, three card Poker, Baccarat, and punto banco 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As well as the principal gaming salon, there are discreet salles privee where the super rich can play away from prying eyes.
4. Casino di Venezia
Arguably the most beautiful casino from our top five is the stunning Casino do Venezia, on Venice’s Grand Canal in Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. One of the world’s oldest trading posts, Venice has had a casino since 1638. Although, it’s been in its current location since only 1946.
You can arrive in style in a gondola. The building once housed the wealthy doges of Venice and was the final home of classical composer Richard Wagner. Scattered amongst the elegance are games of punto banco, Blackjack, chemin de fer, Roulette, and Poker. Dress code is formal and, if you are staying in the hotel, entry is free.
#5. Back to Las Vegas
With so many iconic hotels in Las Vegas, it’s hard to choose one that can be classed as a ‘classic’. One of the best contenders is the El Cortez. Opened in 1941, this downtown Fremont Street hotel holds the record as the longest continually running casino in the city. It was the first large downtown hotel and its stylish Spanish Colonial Revival façade has earned it an entry in the National Register of Historic Places.
The El Cortez is old school. In a city that never stops innovating, this casino is steeped in nostalgia. This is where the Rat Pack partied, when Bugsy Siegel owned the building. It’s a rare Las Vegas vibe that’s increasingly hard to find. Old school, retro, and beautiful.