In honor of its four-year, $450-million , we've compiled a list of 10 things you didn't know about the favorite hotel of luminaries like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin and of course, Ernest Hemingway.
While now the hotel is seen as a bastion of old-world luxury — rooms feature quaint touches like maid and valet cords — it was remarkably futuristic when it debuted in 1898. The Ritz was the world's first hotel with a telephone, electricity and a bathtub in each room.
A gun-toting Ernest Hemingway personally "liberated" the hotel bar during WWII. He reportedly arrived at the hotel in a Jeep (ahead of General Leclerc, commander of the Allied troops), leading a group of military men into the Ritz bar, proclaiming it liberated, and ordering champagne for all. It's no wonder that the hotel's bar — the Bar Hemingway — is named for Papa, featuring personal memorabilia as well as framed photos and magazine covers. He wrote, "When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz."
Mohamed al-Fayed bought the hotel in 1979. Al-Fayed also famously owned Harrods, but is probably best known for being the father of Dodi al-Fayed, Princess Diana's last boyfriend. The ill-fated duo had their final meal at the Ritz Paris, in the legendary Imperial Suite.
Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz for 34 years (in a three-room suite now known as the Coco Chanel Suite). During renovations, a priceless masterpiece by French artist Charles Le Brun called "The Sacrifice of Polyxena" was discovered in her suite. The painting was ultimately sold at Christie's for $1.88 million and now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Overlooking Place Vendôme and available from 28,000 euros per night, (about $29,396), the Imperial Suite is registered as a Historic Monument. The 2,660-square-foot room features 20-foot ceilings and a bedroom designed to replicate Marie Antoinette's at Versailles. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld once held a Chanel couture show in the suite, to observe the 25th anniversary of Coco Chanel's death.
The designer and architect responsible for the renovation, Thierry W. Despont, is the go-to guy for landmark five-star hotel remodels. He's worked on the Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Claridge's in London, the Carlyle and the Palm Court at the Plaza in New York and Principe di Savoia in Milan, as well as L.A.'s Getty Center, London's Polo Ralph Lauren flagship, the Cartier boutique on Fifth Avenue and even the Statue of Liberty. Other clients have included Bill and Melinda Gates, the Shah of Iran, Lakshmi Mittal and Calvin Klein.
One of the hotel's cognac-based cocktail creations, the Ritz Sidecar, was once in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the cocktail in the world (it goes for 1,500 euros today, which is about $1,575).
The hotel features a prestigious gastronomy school: the École Ritz Escoffier, founded in 1988 in honor of Auguste Escoffier, the first executive chef of the Ritz. Studies include French haute cuisine, pastry training and a comprehensive French Gastronomy Master training, with individual classes offered such as a four-hour macaron course or a class devoted entirely to lobster. Can't fly to Paris? Learn from their new cookbook — — instead.
Marcel Proust wrote parts of "Remembrance of Things Past" at the hotel, and was one of its more devoted clients. (According to legend, Proust requested a bottle of cold beer from the Ritz on his deathbed.)
Although it's one of the most famous, luxurious and beloved hotels in the world, it still isn't considered a "Palace." In 2010, the French Ministry of Tourism created the that demonstrate — among many criteria — exceptional beauty, history and gastronomic excellence. Currently, there are 23 Palaces in France and 10 in Paris — but the honor has so far eluded the Ritz Paris. After its recent $450 million face lift, perhaps the beautiful hotel will finally receive the recognition.