Caesar Ritz managed and bought hotels in Nice, Monaco, Lugano and Lucerne before deciding to create one himself from the ground up with the help of the culinary legend chef Auguste Escoffier, his business partner. Opening in 1898, the Ritz Paris changed the hospitality industry forever. It earned Ritz the nicknames “king of hoteliers” and “hotelier to kings,” and spawned the expressions “ritzy” and “putting on the Ritz.”
For more than a century, the Ritz Paris, in the 1st Arrondissement, was the original “palace hotel,” the standard against which other luxury lodging worldwide was judged. It was the frequent abode of not only royalty, but billionaires, celebrities and VIPs of every stripe. Coco Chanel stayed for 30 years, while Gary Cooper and F. Scott Fitzgerald were regulars. Ernest Hemingway drank there so frequently that they named the hotel bar after him. It is now decorated with his personal memorabilia.
Yet the world’s most famous hotel was ready for more than a facelift, and the current owners undertook a $450 million, four-plus year renovation under the watchful eye of renowned designer architect, Thierry Despont. In mid-2016 it reopened.
The Ritz is still very much the Ritz—only better. The goal was to completely but invisibly update the property without losing an ounce of its classic charm. The number of rooms was reduced to 142, while increasing their size (half are now suites). The bathrooms are fantastically upgraded, sporting vast walk-in showers, separate sunken tubs and heated floors. Flat-screens are framed like museum canvases, and behind the walls, the hotel’s guts have been rebuilt for superior water pressure and high-speed Internet. Beloved general manager Christian Boyens and bartending legend Colin Field both stayed. Field used the down time to perfect his new masterpiece, the “Clean & Dirty Martini,” a version of Hemingway’s Dirty Martini, using frozen olive juice to tidy it up.
The two-story spa and health club was completely rebuilt and now includes the world’s first Chanel-branded beauty facility. The lobby houses five new luxury retail boutiques. The former Ritz Club nightclub became an elegant bar and brasserie serving classic French comfort foods. A retractable glass atrium allows patio dining all year round. Elaborate gardens create an escape in the beating heart of the city. A refined salon was added to serve afternoon tea. The Michelin-starred gastronomic eatery, L’Espadon, was redone, and the Ritz got a new executive chef, Nicolas Sale, who previously earned two stars at both of his Courchevel restaurants.
The many improvements here each seem subtle but quickly add up to real substance, and while the ambience of a bygone time has been preserved, the Ritz Paris has caught up to its newer ultra-luxury competitors, physically as well as in price, with the least expensive room starting at 1,000 euros ($1,170). As Hemingway, the hotel’s biggest fan, famously remarked, “When in Paris the only reason not to stay at the Ritz is if you can’t afford it.”
The Ritz Paris
15 place Vendôme
75001 Paris, France