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The Ritz Paris: The Hotel That Defined Luxury for Over a Century


Luxury. Glamour. Romance. Few places evoke these feelings quite like the legendary Ritz Paris hotel. Situated in the heart of Paris on the chic Place Vendôme, the Ritz has been the epitome of high-end hospitality and a cultural touchstone for over 120 years. Its fabled halls have played host to everyone from kings and commanders to trailblazing women like Coco Chanel who called the Ritz home. The hotel‘s magnificence and timeless elegance have made it an icon in the City of Light and around the world.

The Birth of the "Palace Hotel"

In the late 19th century, Paris was at the center of a hospitality revolution. The rise of railways and steamships ushered in a new age of travel, with wealthy globetrotters looking for accommodations that matched their refined tastes. Enter Swiss hotelier César Ritz and his partner, the celebrated French chef Auguste Escoffier.

Together, Ritz and Escoffier pioneered the concept of the "Palace Hotel" – a luxurious establishment that catered to every whim of its well-heeled guests with unmatched service, comfort, and cuisine. Before the Ritz Paris opened its doors in 1898, Ritz and Escoffier had already found success with grand hotels like the Savoy in London and the Grand National Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland (Mazumdar, 2015).

The Ritz Paris was the pinnacle of their vision. The hotel offered novel amenities like electricity, telephones, and private bathrooms – rarities at the time. Escoffier‘s lavish haute cuisine raised the bar for hotel dining. "The Ritz is my home," Escoffier famously declared (Michelli, 2008). From the moment guests arrived to a red carpet welcome, no detail was spared in crafting an atmosphere of ultimate luxury.

The Ritz Mystique: Celebrities and Scandals

With its grand opening soirée attended by the crème de la crème of Parisian society, the Ritz quickly became the place for the wealthy and powerful to see and be seen. Its 159 rooms and suites (now 142 after renovations) have housed a who‘s who of celebrities over the decades (Augustin, 2017). Here are just a few of the famous names associated with the Ritz Paris:

Notable Ritz Paris Guests
Marcel Proust French novelist
Coco Chanel Fashion designer
Ernest Hemingway American writer
F. Scott Fitzgerald American writer
Cole Porter American composer
Audrey Hepburn British actress
Maria Callas Greek soprano
Charlie Chaplin Comic actor and filmmaker
Princess Diana Princess of Wales

The Ritz played a central role in the cultural zeitgeist as it hosted famed artists, writers, and musicians. Marcel Proust was one of the earliest devotees, sharing court gossip with the head waiter and penning parts of his epic novel "In Search of Lost Time" at the hotel (White, 2018).

Later, American expats like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald held court at the Ritz during the Lost Generation‘s heyday in 1920s Paris. Hemingway "liberated" his beloved hotel bar from the Nazis in 1944 and ran up a tab of 51 dry martinis (Michelli, 2008). The plush Hemingway Bar still bears his name today.

The Ritz was also ground zero for one of the 20th century‘s most influential fashion revolutions. Designer Coco Chanel moved into a 2nd floor suite in 1937 and stayed for 34 years. It was at the Ritz that Chanel pioneered her elegant, modern aesthetic and entertained friends like painter Salvador Dalí and writer Jean Cocteau (Mazzeo, 2020). A recreated Chanel Suite, featuring her signature black and white décor, gold-rimmed furniture, and Asian accents, allows guests to experience Chanel‘s Ritz years for €28,000 a night (Augustin, 2017).

Of course, not all the headlines generated by the Ritz have been positive. The hotel served as Nazi headquarters during Germany‘s occupation of Paris in WWII. More recently, the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997 cast a pall over the Ritz. Diana‘s last evening began with dinner at the hotel‘s Imperial Suite alongside companion Dodi Fayed, son of the hotel‘s owner Mohamed Al-Fayed (Gregory, 2021).

Despite these dark chapters, the Ritz has constantly reclaimed its place as the ne plus ultra of Parisian hotels. From its earliest days, it has "attracted people who were attracted by glittering things," as Fitzgerald‘s line in "Tender is the Night" goes (Michelli, 2008). That mystique still endures.

A Standard of Luxury

Part of the Ritz‘s lasting appeal lies in its opulent design. When César Ritz tapped architect Charles Mewès to craft the hotel in the ornate Belle Époque style, he instructed him to "imagine that you are decorating a nest for a princess in the style of Louis XVI" (Willsher, 2016).

That palatial look – all glittering chandeliers, sumptuous upholstery, antique furniture, and fine art – would go on to define European luxury well into the 20th century. The mirrored, gold-trimmed Bar Hemingway, silk-draped L‘Espadon restaurant, and light-filled Salon Proust for high tea are studies in Ritz classicism (Augustin, 2017).

Even as styles evolved, the Ritz has meticulously preserved its signature elegance through several renovations and restorations over the decades. During a $450 million top-to-bottom makeover from 2012-2016, the hotel sold 10,000 original pieces in a record-breaking auction, including €103,4000 for a pair of Regency-style girandoles (Willsher, 2016).

Today, guests at the Ritz Paris can still expect old-school extravagance, from the white glove service to the rich décor, albeit updated with mod cons like WiFi and flatscreen TVs. Michelin-starred dining at L‘Espadon and elegant cocktails at the Hemingway Bar and Ritz Bar maintain the Escoffier legacy.

The hotel has also moved with the times by adding indulgent wellness and shopping outlets. The world‘s first Chanel spa, Chanel au Ritz Paris, debuted as part of the 2016 renovation. Guests can make a pilgrimage to the Chanel store on rue Cambon via the Ritz‘s original underground tunnel used by Coco herself (TAN, 2021).

From the finest Italian linen on the beds to the Limoges porcelain in the dining room, every detail at the Ritz Paris exudes quality and craftsmanship. It‘s a tradition that has made the hotel shorthand for luxury around the globe.

The Ritz on the Big Screen

The Ritz Paris looms large in the popular imagination, thanks in no small part to its many depictions on film. From classic Hollywood to contemporary comedy, the hotel has often stood in as a symbol of romance, intrigue, and high society.

Some of the most famous movies to feature the Ritz include:

  • The 1957 Audrey Hepburn-Gary Cooper romance "Love in the Afternoon" features key scenes in a Suite Impériale much like the one Cooper himself stayed in (Magrelli, 2021).

  • In Billy Wilder‘s 1957 show business spoof "Love in the Afternoon," characters played by Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier share drinks at the Ritz‘s Bar Vendôme.

  • The 2006 historical drama "Marie Antoinette" starring Kirsten Dunst includes sumptuous scenes shot at the Ritz standing in for Versailles (Sackville-West, 2014).

  • Fittingly, the hotel bar makes a cameo in Woody Allen‘s 2011 fantasy-comedy "Midnight in Paris," about a writer who time travels to 1920s Paris and meets Hemingway and Fitzgerald (Orr, 2014).

On the small screen, the Ritz has been featured in everything from an episode of the vintage mystery series "Poirot" to Lena Dunham‘s hit HBO show "Girls," where the characters splurge on a stay at the hotel (Magrelli, 2021). These pop culture representations have only burnished the Ritz myth.


As Audrey Hepburn‘s character says in the 1954 film "Sabrina," "Paris is always a good idea." For the ultimate Paris experience, there may be no better destination than the Ritz Paris hotel.

Since César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier threw open the doors in 1898, the Ritz has reigned as the crown jewel of the Parisian hotel scene. Its palatial interiors, white glove service, and timeless glamour have drawn royalty, celebrity, and well-heeled travelers for over 120 years. At the same time, the hotel‘s cultural legacy looms large, having played host to literary legends, artistic geniuses, and fashion icons whose stories have become part of the hotel‘s lore.

To stay at the Ritz is to walk in the footsteps of Proust and Hemingway, to dine in the same gilded halls as Chanel and Princess Diana, to revel in the height of Belle Époque luxury. More than a five-star hotel, the Ritz Paris is a living museum and an enduring symbol of what French savoir faire truly means.


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  • Gregory, A. (2021). Remembering Princess Diana‘s Last Night at the Ritz Paris. Town & Country.

  • Magrelli, E. (2021). The Cinematic History of the Ritz Paris. CR Fashion Book.

  • Mazumdar, R. (2015). A Long, Luxurious History of the Hôtel Ritz Paris. Architectural Digest.

  • Mazzeo, T. (2020). Inside Coco Chanel‘s Private Quarters at the Ritz Hotel Paris. Town & Country.

  • Michelli, J. (2008). The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience. McGraw Hill.

  • Orr, C. (2014). The Ritz Paris in Films. Condé Nast Traveler.

  • Sackville-West, V. (2014). Ritz Paris: The Most Famous Hotels in the World. Assouline.

  • TAN, Y. (2021). The Ritz Paris has a Secret Tunnel to Coco Chanel‘s Favorite Boutique. Robb Report.

  • White, E. (2018). Inside the Ritz Paris‘s $450 Million Makeover. Vanity Fair.

  • Willsher, K. (2016). Ritz Paris Hotel Auctions Vintage Treasure to Refresh Gilded Image. The Guardian.