The History of The Ritz Paris Hotel and its Renovation
The Ritz Hotel in Paris is probably the most well known and recognised luxury 5 star hotel that has been around for well over 100 years, but after a four year total restoration and renovation, this iconic hotel has reopened to present the grandeur and refinements of glitz and glamour that everyone thinks of and expects.
History of the Ritz Hotel
It was back in the late 1800s that the Swiss hotelier, Cesar Ritz, purchased the former palace style mansion on the Place Vendome, which had originally been designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart, the royal architect for King Louix XIV and construction was started in 1705.
Having worked at The Savoy in London alongside the incredible French Chef, Auguste Escoffier, the hotel became an incredible success for wealthy clientele, yet Cesar Ritz had a vision to open the most luxurious hotel in the world fit for a prince, with his chosen destination being Paris.
So when the Ritz Hotel opened its doors in 1898 every room had its own bathroom, which was totally unheard of at that time, and decorated with top of the range fabrics, tapestries, gilding, etc, it was like an 18th century gem attracting high society from the word go.
With its reputation for glitz, glamour, opulence and fine dining, many prominent names became regulars at The Ritz including Ernest Hemingway, Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Coco Chanel who made it her home for over 30 years, along with playing host to royalty from many countries, and these people along with others are recognised by areas or suites named after them.
In fact, one story is where the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII got stuck in the bath of his suite with his lover where he had to be prised out by valets, which meant all bath tubs were replaced with oversized ones, plus another story is where the Marquise Casati kept two cheetah’s in her suite along with a drugged python that she wore round her neck.
However, when Paris was under occupation during World War II, The Ritz was taken over by the Luftwaffe who made it their headquarters, with Chief Hermann Goring staying within the Imperial Suite and this suite is classed as an historical monument in its own right.
The staff still continued to run the hotel as it always had, being neutral like Switzerland and turning a blind eye to the war to maintain the way The Ritz had always been run, but unfortunately much of its finest wines and champagnes ended up being drunk by the Nazi’s who also enjoyed the fine cuisine like Fois Gras, which was at a time when food in general was also in short supply.
Then in 1979 Mohammed Al Fayed purchased the hotel from the Ritz family and done some renovations, which included adding a pool and spa, another major novelty for hotels in Paris at that time, however, over the years, The Ritz was starting to show its age, becoming worn and outdated with lack of technologies that many newer luxury hotels had.
Unfortunately, it was also the place where his son Dodi Al Fayed and Princess Diana had their last meal within the Imperial suite before their fatal car crash later that evening.
But in 2011, Mohammed Al Fayed announced his plans for the complete renovation of the hotel and decided to close the doors on The Ritz Paris Hotel for the first time in its history, in order to conduct a complete restoration of the famous 5 star hotel and bring it back to its former glory, so the history of the Ritz does not stop there.
The Renovations and Restoration of The Ritz Hotel in Paris
Mohammed Al Fayed employed Thierry Despont, the French born designer and architect based in New York, to completely revamp the luxury hotel stating that he wanted the Ritz to be recognised again as the best hotel in the world.
Thierry Despont is recognised as one of the most respected designers and architects in the world for his restorations of important landmarks and historical buildings, becoming famous after being the associate architect on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, which then led to numerous other commissions such as the Getty Center, the renovation of Claridge’s and designing buildings for many rich clients.
The Ritz Hotel closed its doors in 2012 for the major renovation project, many people claiming that this was sparked by the new category France has added to hotels with a few being classed as a Palace Hotel, which is one step above a 5 star hotel, yet The Ritz Paris was not included, although of course, this is only speculation and has not been confirmed.
Thierry Despont wanted to preserve the natural elegance of the iconic hotel with its 18th century interior design, so the exterior and the grand scale of the place would be respected, although he also wished for it be a place where people could feel comfortable, rather than somewhere such as Versailles.
There were well over 600 people employed to work on the renovation and restoration project, even finding original decor from when the hotel first opened its doors under Cesar Ritz and a few surprises were found along the way, such as a space formerly for maids that led to the roof, which has now become a suite with its own terrace named the Mansart Suite, after the architect who designed the building originally.
Taking over four years of renovation and restoration, there were the typical things that needed updating for the comfort of all its guests, such as the heating, cooling and air conditioning systems, along with lighting, plumbing and its decor, much of it still utilising the traditional Ritz theme of blue and gold gilding along with wood panelling.
Dormer windows were restored and the entire security system was completely updated including the addition of bullet proof windows on the first floor where you will find the Chopin, Windsor and Imperial Suites, which can also be combined to provide the guests with one extremely vast and luxurious apartment.
An area beneath The Ritz hotel was excavated in order to add a luxurious ballroom, plus a passage was added from the parking garage directly to the hotel so that VIP guests could arrive in utter privacy, without being seen by the public entering or leaving this prestigious location.
As you can no doubt understand, technology has come leaps and bounds over the past few decades, so with this in mind, the entire hotel has been revamped with the latest technologies available including high speed broadband, WiFi and even equipment such as TVs that you would not even realise are there, as they are discreetly positioned or even hidden acting as mirrors, etc.
The pool and spa area was completely revamped with Art Deco feel and includes the world first Chanel Spa area, a fitness room and David Mallet salon plus Thierry Despont designed a beautiful garden for the Hotel Ritz, that reminds him of the Palais Royal, which was designed for the former interior courtyard in a formal French style with linden trees, white roses and seating set into alcoves, ideal for a romantic meal or a private meeting.
Although the lobby area stayed with the same floor plan, there was once a mezzanine that had an apartment, but this was removed to allow additional height and light to the elegant space and a sitting area that had been open is now home to a panelled library room called the Salon Proust, which is where you can enjoy Afternoon Tea at The Ritz.
The Ritz Bar Bistro has had a revamp in an Art Deco style and the gallery that goes between the two buildings connecting the hotel together has also been redone, which the wife of the original owner Cesar Ritz would no doubt have approved of and is called the Temptation Walk, showcasing luxury and unusual items that you can purchase.
The architect, Thierry Despont, also had orders from Mohammed Al Fayed to reuse everything possible, which included period furniture and antiques, some of these dating from the reigns of King Louis XV, King Louis XIV and the Empire when Napoleon I was Emperor.
However, many items had to be restored or new reproductions were ordered with custom made Pierre Frey fabrics, which has made every single room and suite of the hotel completely unique, all with luxurious furnishings complete with the gold plated swan taps within the marble bathrooms. And talking of rooms at The Ritz, originally there were 159, yet this has been reduced to 142, with 71 of these now being suites.
There has also been a cooking school at The Ritz for several years, which was named after Chef Escoffier who was the first chef at this luxurious hotel when it was opened by Cesar Ritz, whom he had worked with previously, and The Ecole Ritz Escoffier has had a third kitchen added to it for professional chef training and consulting, along with classes for budding chefs, etc.
So even though many of the changes seem subtle when you first enter the iconic and historical hotel, this is because the Ritz Hotel Paris has managed to retain its character and much of the 18th century style that many wanted preserved in respect of the original owner Cesar Ritz.
And reopened in 2016, this is still classed as one of the top luxury hotels in the world, even with the name Ritz being added to dictionaries with an explanation of glitz and glamour, which has been associated with this hotel for decades.