After sorting out a handful of Nazi snipers on the rooftops, Ernest Hemingway famously "liberated" The Ritz one August day in 1944. Roaring up with his men, he declared the bar once more open for business. The hotel repaid his devotion, renaming the cosy, low-key little watering hole, today decked out with his old photos and memorabilia, Bar Hemingway. His favourite haunt, all rich wood-panelling and leather armchairs, is still a popular joint; Kate Moss is rumoured to have kicked off her birthday here while staying in the hotel last weekend.
"Low key" is not an expression that could be used to describe the rest of the Ritz. Fittingly, a red carpet leads to the hotel's entrance which, since its opening in 1898, has seen royalty and celebrities swarm through its doors. Coco Chanel loved the hotel so much that she moved in, while other illustrious guests included Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich and Charlie Chaplin. Inside the lobby vast chandeliers hang from the ceilings and oil paintings adorn the walls. The Ritz isn't the place for lovers of pared-back minimalism but, for unadulterated luxury, a hefty helping of history and modern-day glamour, it's hard to beat.
Ritz Paris, 45 Place Vendôme, Paris, France (00 33 1 43 16 45 33; www.ritzparis.com). The Ritz is housed in an 18th-century palace on the elegant Place Vendôme, a smart square dotted with expensive boutiques. The Louvre, the Tuileries gardens and the Place de la Concorde are all nearby, while the fashionable shops of the rue Faubourg St Honoré are just a few minutes' walk from the hotel.
Time from international airport: it's roughly half an hour by taxi from Orly; from Charles de Gaulle, the journey time is around 45 minutes. A taxi to the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord takes between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on traffic, and costs around €10 (£7).
ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?
So comfortably we slept in and almost missed breakfast - fortunately, served until 11am. The Ritz has 162 rooms and 56 suites and claims the highest staff-to-guest ratio in Paris. Our suite had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Place Vendôme. Curtains and fabrics are rich velvets, silks and brocades with medieval-style tapestries decorating the walls. The bathroom is a vision of gleaming gilt and marble, with taps in the shape of swans' heads. Bathrobes and fluffy towels are a rosy apricot shade which César Ritz, the hotel's founder, believed would flatter female guests' complexions.
The Imperial Suite, often used by visiting heads of state, has bullet-proof glass in the windows. One of its bedrooms is an exact replica of Marie Antoinette's bedroom in Versailles, while the adjoining bathroom has a tiny fridge - for make-up - installed at the request of a former guest. Nothing is too much trouble - even the old-fashioned lift has a seat for weary guests to rest on between floors.
Breakfast, when we finally made it, was a feast, served in the Espadon restaurant, a glorious room with a blue sky and clouds trompe l'œil ceiling, red velvet banquets and a profusion of flowers and plants. We did have to repeat our request for toast, though to be fair, the waiter, having seen us polish off the pastries basket, probably thought he'd misheard.
Freebies: headily scented Ritz toiletries, mineral water and a delicious selection of delicate cakes and macaroons.
Keeping in touch: television, DVD players, direct-dial telephones and internet access. A gradual refurbishment is planned throughout the hotel this year, when all rooms will be fitted with plasma-screen televisions and updated.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start from €680 (£485), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Hôtel Bourg Tibourg (00 33 1 42 78 47 39; www.hotelbourgtibourg.com), an opulent townhouse in the Marais designed by the Costes hotelier family, has doubles from €200 (£143), room only.Reuse content