The Ritz Hotel in Paris has stood the test of time, and remains essential for luxury travelers. Here’s why.
When most people think of the Ritz, they don’t simply imagine a luxurious, palace-style hotel like any other. They imagine a place where some of the 20th century’s most-memorable and extraordinary people passed their time and left an enduring legacy, whether in times of war or peace.
First and foremost, the Ritz is associated with Gabrielle Chanel, the fashion designer and style icon who took a suite at the hotel from 1937, and stayed for 43 years. The designer’s suite has been left remarkably intact and VIP guests can stay in it. The timeless style and spirit of Chanel is well and alive in the suite overlooking Place Vendôme, with its Asian lacquer, gilded mirrors and strong use of black with white. Intimate personal portraits, sketches and photos from the designer’s personal collection also hang in the opulent yet modern suite.
Of course, Gabrielle Chanel has been heavily criticised for being a bit too friendly and welcoming with the Nazi officers who partly took over the Ritz during World War II and the French Occupation.
Another famous patron, the American writer Ernest Hemingway, is rumored to have helped aggressively expel the Gestapo officers after the war ended, following a bout of heavy drinking. A suite and bar at the hotel is named after the celebrated novelist, who frequently stayed there to write and escape an unhappy marriage, accompanied by his friend and fellow writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The hotel is referenced in Hemingway’ novel The Sun Also Rises and Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.
Other legendary artists, musicians and writers to have forever marked the hotel include French writer Marcel Proust, who frequently wrote from his bed in one of the suites and has an onsite tearoom named after him; American jazz musician Cole Porter and actor Gary Cooper, and Princess Diana of Wales, who dined in the opulent Imperial suite shortly before her tragic death in 1997.
In short, a stay at the Ritz means walking in the path of luminaries and artists, style icons and historic figures– including a few villains.
If the Ritz has always been an emblem of royal-level luxury in the French capital, its recent overhaul worth $450 million has made it a destination more than worthy of Palace status. Despite a fire breaking out in 2014 that interrupted intensive renovation efforts, the hotel would see the light of day again and re-open its doors again in 2016. A triumphant return that required the round-the-clock toil of some 800 stonemasons, gilders, woodworkers and other craftsmen. It was, needless to say, a feat– one led by designer Thierry Dupont and commissioned by current owner Mohamed Al Fayed.
A brand-new, exclusive Chanel spa complete with luxury treatments from the brand, renovated art-deco pool, retractable glass room connecting the Bar Vendome and the gastronomic L’Espadon restaurant, a ballroom, and a vast, Versailles-style garden measuring 21,500 square feet are among the more dramatic additions to the hotel. A little-used seating area has been transformed into the Salon Proust, a space dedicated to luxury afternoon tea and named after the famous writer and former hotel patron. And a new Ritz-themed concept store sells a variety of luxurious items and potential gift, from jewelery to clothing and memorabilia from the hotel.
Meanwhile, the rooms and suites have been thoughtfully revamped, to more subtle effect. There are now 142 rooms (down from 159), and the Ritz upped its number of suites to place more emphasis on high-luxury at the hotel. Several suites are named after famous residents, from Chanel to Charlie Chaplin and Frederic Chopin.
Among the most opulent of the suites are the Mansart Suite, an enormous, 900-square foot space boasting a terrace with panoramic views over the French capital. The Imperial, Chopin and Windsor suites can be combined for VIP guests, creating a penthouse-style space.
Any high-end trip to Paris will include unforgettable meals at some of the city’s most-sought-after tables– and the Ritz’s certainly fit the bill. Choose from among a Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant, a chic Art-Deco style bistro, a light-filled garden dining area for the warmer months, a novel-worthy tearoom perfect for high tea with champagne, and bars that practically invented stylish cocktails.
At L’Espadon, the 2-Michelin-star restaurant helmed by celebrated chef Nicolas Sale, the atmosphere is refined and the dishes are at once delicious and inventive. The gastronomic table features fresh seasonal produce and French classics re-invented for a global age. At Les Jardins de l’Espadon, itself carrying one Michelin star, you can enjoy gourmet breakfast, lunch or dinner under the elegant atrium or in the garden.
You can also have lunch or dinner at the opulent Art-Deco-style bistro known simply as the Ritz Bar. While the format here is a bit more casual, centered around shared platters of tapas, lobster rolls or gourmet French cheeses, the ambience is timelessly elegant, recalling the roaring 1920s when the term “Ritzy” was first coined in reference to the iconic hotel. At this time, the bar was called “Le Café Parisien” and was reserved for men only, frequented by the likes of Hemingway and jazz icon Cole Porter. Of course, this is an excellent spot to unwind with a glass of wine, champagne or signature cocktail.
The adjoining Hemingway Bar is as legendary as the writer it’s named after, and exudes a timeless masculine elegance with its deep green and earthy tones, leather seating and signature cocktails from head barman Colin Peter Field. Perhaps after browsing the prestigious boutiques on Place Vendome or before taking your table for dinner at L’Espadon, why not enjoy a cocktail at this legendary bar, watched over by portraits of Hemingway and his fellow American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald?
During the summer and warmer months, an elegant al-fresco lunch at the Ritz Bar’s Grand Jardin can be truly idyllic. The 17,000 square foot garden area lined with flowers and shaded with enormous parasols offers the perfect way to relax, whether you’re enjoying fresh market-driven cuisine from Nicolas Sale, tasting pastries and homemade ice-cream from renowned pastry chef Francois Perret or sipping floral aperitif cocktails. In the evenings, play a game of Pétanque, and on weekends you can even enjoy a gourmet barbecue.
Going during the winter, or simply love a traditional tea? High tea at the Ritz in the Salon Marcel Proust is a luxurious afternoon activity like few others. Amid a beautifully dressed table, enjoy homemade scones, pastries, cakes and sandwiches accompanied with gourmet tea and champagne.
For private occasions such as destination French weddings, anniversary parties or corporate events, the Ritz also offers the possibility for private dining and events. Our dedicated events planners can help you create an extradordinary event in the historic dining rooms at the Ritz– don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
One part of urban travel we don’t especially love? The stress, noise, pollution and overcrowding can make even the most luxurious getaway feel a bit harried at times. Luckily, the Ritz has one of the most impressive spas, sports and wellness centers in the city at the Ritz Club Paris, a private club reserved exclusively for members and hotel guests.
Plunge in the azure waters of the large, mosaic-lined indoor swimming pool and swim a few laps before enjoying a signature cocktail on a chaise-longue. Enjoy à la carte fitness training sessions with your own personal coach or take a morning yoga class before feasting on a gourmet breakfast pool-side.
And if it’s a high-end treatment you’re after, you won’t find any better than at the Ritz. Signature Chanel treatments using the House’s products will help you de-stress. From massages to facials, there are so many ways to unwind in total luxury. The Ritz Club also offers guests its own signature treatments and massages, using its exclusive line of products. There’s a package for couples that would be an ideal activity on a French honeymoon.
Finally, if you’re in need of a fresh look, celebrity French stylist David Mallett offers hairstyling and beauty services at the Ritz Club.
Last but certainly not least, the hotel is one of the finest places in the capital to try your hand at gourmet French cooking classes, with the onsite Ritz Escoffier School offering programmes with prestigious chefs. It is named after Auguste Escoffier, the French chef who co-founded the Ritz with hotel developer César Ritz in 1898.
Not to worry: Even if you simply aspire to impress friends and family with some newfound techniques and elegant recipes, there’s something for everyone at the Ritz Escoffier. Choose from among a variety of exciting programmes: Introductory, Advanced and Superior courses in French cuisine, pastry and desserts classes, and special gourmet ateliers on themes such as cocktail-making.
Short-term programmes are available for visitors who aren’t able to attend longer courses. So even if your luxury getaway to Paris only lasts a week, why not stretch your cultural and gourmet muscles with an immersive three-day training course at one of the world’s finest schools?
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