The world’s most romantic hotel has rediscovered its charm after a multimillion-dollar makeover. We think its most famous guests would approve.
It was the afternoon of August 25, 1944. World War II had drawn to a close in Europe and German forces were surrendering in Paris. A cavalcade of Allied troops was marching down the Avenue de la Grande Armée, ostensibly “liberating” the French capital. And everyone in the city, it seemed, was heading there to enjoy the celebration – everyone except an American war correspondent called Ernest Hemingway.
Dressed in khaki and armed with a gun, Hemingway was instead on his way to his favourite address in the city: the Ritz Paris. He sped his jeep under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Élysées, screeching to a halt outside the Ritz. He then strode into the hotel’s lobby with its grand pink columns and mirrored panels, and reportedly bellowed: “I’m the one who is going to occupy the Ritz. We’re Americans. We’re going to live just like in the good old days.”
Hemingway then made his way to the bar, where he routinely hung out with novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald in the ’20s, declared it liberated and ordered Champagne for all.
That watering hole – now called Bar Hemingway – and the rest of the Ritz will reopen this month after nearly four years of renovations. Although the hotel has been updated with cutting-edge technology, including a retractable roof that will transform its courtyard into a year-round patio and a tunnel under the Place Vendôme (ideal for discreetly whisking high-profile guests from the car park to their rooms), devoted clientele will be delighted to know that the Ritz remains the same esteemed establishment where French fashion designer Coco Chanel resided from 1934 until her death in 1971.
Chanel’s two-bedroom lair is, in fact, among the hotel’s 15 most prestigious suites – each with vintage furniture and antique paintings and named after the illustrious guests who stayed there, from Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Proust to the Duke of Windsor.
There are many ways to soak up the glamour, even without staying here. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner at the hotel’s L’Espadon restaurant, which may have compelled Sophia Loren to declare the Ritz “the most romantic hotel in the world, because a woman really feels a man loves her if he takes her there”.
Or make your way to the all-new Ritz Bar, which is ideal for an informal meal on a balmy night. It’s the kind of setting that inspired Hemingway to write: “When
I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.” ￼
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