Thankfully, some things never change. In the case of Madrid’s Hotel Ritz, opened 12 years after the Paris branch in 1910, luxury still abounds: this place is as close to perfect as you can get. The upholstery is plush, the staff make you feel like royalty and the whole place just stinks of exquisitely good taste, from the silver teapots at breakfast to the jazz pianist in the cocktail bar.
One thing that has changed, however, is the price. When it first opened, this five star grand luxe hotel cost just 7 pesetas per night, 20 for full board (that is to say, pennies). In contrast, the hotel cost 5.6 million to build, and quickly became the place to be seen among the chattering classes of Madrid and many famous guests have passed through the famous doors on Plaza de la Lealtad.
The discoverer of penicillin, Dr Alexander Fleming, was a regular visitor and reported fan of the Ritz’s callos (tripe). Old Hollywood was familiar with the hotel too: Cary Grant, James Stewart and Ava Gardner all stayed here while visiting Spain.
The Ritz has also seen some of the darker times of Madrid’s history. Mata Hari was here during the First World War just a few weeks before her death, and the anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti died here while the hotel was being used as a military hospital during the siege of Madrid. Later, the notorious head of the Nazi SS, Heinrich Himmler, also paid a visit.
Walking through the hotel’s corridors is like stepping back in time to a more elegant age: gilded mirrors, antique telephones and understated artworks line even the most inconspicuous of hallways. Rooms are plush, with exquisite details including gilded bathtaps, crisp newspapers waiting outside your door and a turndown service at 8.30pm (although this is a bit of an anticlimax if you have already had a nap and jumped up and down on the bed like an excited toddler. Just saying. Excellent bed though.). We also loved the touch of a fresh, home-made almond cake and handwritten note welcoming us to our room. Breakfast is an elegant affair with loose-leaf teas served in fine bone china, razor-sharp waiters and chandeliers from another era.
Even checking out has its perks: one of the Ritz Madrid’s fine old traditions is to give little boxes of violet sweets to departing guests, a tradition begun by a previous royal patron. For similar goodies, check out nearby La Violeta on Plaza Canalejas.
Last March, the hotel was sold for 312 million Euros to the Mandarin Oriental group, who are planning on spending a further 50 million to refurbish the Ritz. We hope that the new owners manage to keep the spirit of the Ritz alive.
- Address: Hotel Ritz Madrid, Plaza de la Lealtad, 5, Madrid 28014
- Tel: +34 91 701 67 67
- Website: http://www.mandarinoriental.com/ritzmadrid/