César Ritz – as his nickname says – was the “king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings”. He was a Swiss hotelier, born in 1850 and the founder of many famous hotels. Maybe one of the crown jewels of his empire is the Hôtel Ritz Paris.
After almost four years of refurbishment and a devastating fire earlier this January, Hôtel Ritz Paris was reopened on 6 June, 2016. We admired the magnificent building with such a provenance at the occasion of Maison Chanel’s high jewellery presentation at the Paris Fashion week – you can find the article here.
“I dream of a house that I will be proud to carry my name” – César Ritz
César Ritz founded the Hôtel Ritz Paris in 1898 together with Georges Auguste Escoffier, the French chef who is recognized as the father of modern French cuisine.
Ritz updated the original architecture of the palace from 1705. His innovative mind and high standards demanded a bathroom for every suite, that made it the first hotel in Europe with such facilities. The rooms had the maximum possible amount of sunlight with a nice view onto the elegant Place Vendôme or to the hotel’s garden.
In the early 20th century the Hôtel Ritz Paris became the epitome of luxury, lavishness, fine dining and excellent services to the extent that it established the adjective “ritzy” as the synonym of elegant and opulent. Its outstanding history is marked by many famous and infamous faces. The local and international elite and jet-set society have chosen it as their preferred haunt. Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, King Edward VII and other prominent royal heads were among the guests and devotees of the Ritz.
Just before the end of the WWI César Ritz died, and was succeeded by his son, Charles Ritz.
In the thirties Coco Chanel travelled to Hollywood twice a year and designed costumes for stars such as Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich. But she was not really satisfied with the taste and lifestyle in Hollywood so she returned to Paris. And as she did, she moved into the Ritz in 1937. First she had a suite with a view onto Place Vendôme (the one we had the jewellery presentation in), and later an apartment overlooking Rue Cambon. She made the Ritz her home for more than thirty years until her death in 1971.
During WWII the hotel served as the headquarters of the air force of Nazi Germany, the Luftwaffe with their chief Hermann Göring. The exact role and her relationship with German officers is still unclear in many aspects (but serves as a great topic for books and stories such as Sleeping with the Enemy – Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan).
The interesting stories about the Ritz from Aaron Edward “A.E.” Hotchner, American editor, novelist, friend and biography writer of Ernest Hemingway (who – according to some stories – liberated the bar of the Ritz from the Nazis) are a must read.
The Ritz in Paris saw hard times in the 70’s, but Egyptian business magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed purchased the hotel and renovated it.
On August 1, 2012, the Ritz closed its doors for the first time in its operation for an extensive renovation.
“Le Ritz, c’est le Ritz”
With a delay (due to a fire in January) the Ritz reopened on 6 June 2016, with 71 rooms and 71 suites. The Hemingway Bar has also been refurbished whilst conserving its atmosphere of “ritziness”.
Guests can enjoy an afternoon tea and breathe in the scent of the freshly baked madeleines in the Salon Proust and perhaps recall the memories of past events, just like Proust himself in his novel “In search of lost time”.
New additions include the world’s first Chanel Spa, offering treatments with the products of the Chanel Skincare line.
Photo credits: Ritz Paris – ©The Ritz Hotel Limited, Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, ©Roger Schall, Loupiosity.com.
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