A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official London residence, sits another breathtaking building where any monarch would surely feel at home. Historic and grand, The Ritz is a legendary hotel that dominates fashionable Piccadilly and overlooks Green Park, one of the city’s royal parks. Designed to reflect the opulence of the 18th-century French court, it never fails to impress. You could say The Ritz is a palace in all but name.
Pass through The Ritz’s famous revolving doors and you’ll enter a world of unabashed extravagance. The hotel is decorated with classical-style sculptures, glorious frescoes, silk damask wallpaper and sparkling chandeliers. 24-carat gold leaf adorns almost every surface – the perfect finishing touch – and expert gilders are on hand to maintain its stunning appearance. (How marvellous to realise that all that glitters really is gold at The Ritz!)
A Grand Hotel Favoured by Members of Elite Society
If you have a taste for luxury and VIP treatment, you’ll want to visit The Ritz (and will probably return again and again). You could easily find yourself rubbing shoulders with the privileged, titled elite. For example, Dame Anna Wintour, the hugely influential editor-in-chief of US Vogue magazine, loves to stay at The Ritz on trips back to her birthplace because of its incredible service and the employees’ talent for remembering guests’ preferences.
Interviewed for an ITV documentary, Inside The Ritz Hotel, Dame Anna expressed her admiration for this Great British institution: ‘The Ritz actually revels in the fact that it is a very traditional, elegant hotel.’ She added that the landmark is ‘rightly proud of its heritage’.
The Ritz’s Namesake Was a Legendary International Hotelier
The Ritz owes its existence to César Ritz, who’s often referred to as ‘the king of hoteliers and hotelier to kings’ and had a gift for anticipating his guests’ needs. The hotel opened in 1906, at the height of the Edwardian era, and brought Parisian style to the heart of the Capital.
Between 1889 and 1897, Ritz had managed The Savoy, Britain’s first luxury hotel, on behalf of its owner, the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte. The hotelier left his position under a cloud due to allegations of fraud, though no legal action was taken against him.
After parting company with D’Oyly Carte and The Savoy, Ritz didn’t look back. With the support of the gold and diamond magnate Alfred Beit, who was regarded as the world’s richest man, the hotelier opened the Hôtel Ritz in Paris followed by its similarly glamorous London counterpart. The Ritz was clearly intended to be a rival for its neighbour, The Savoy.
Edwardian guests at The Ritz were treated to such novelties as en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning. The hotel’s glass-ceilinged Palm Court (where afternoon tea has long been served to great acclaim), restaurant and private dining rooms were designed to be charming, respectable places in which to socialise. That meant Duchesses, Countesses, Baronesses and other aristocratic ladies could take tea there without requiring a male chaperone; hence The Ritz became the feminine equivalent of London’s gentlemen’s clubs.
The Perfect Setting for a Memorable Celebration
The success of The Ritz and its founder’s other luxury hotels has given rise to the term ‘ritzy’, which dates back to 1920 and is used to describe something impressively stylish.
It’s no surprise that the palatial Ritz is a first-class entertainment venue. Last year, when former England cricket captain Sir Alastair Cook wanted to celebrate being knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, The Ritz hosted a party in his honour. The monarch herself selected the hotel as the venue for her private 80th birthday celebrations, to which her relatives, friends and courtiers were invited in 2006.
The Ritz is certainly an ideal place to stay – and celebrate in style – when you’re in London.
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