Inside The Ritz London: 10 facts you might not know about the capital’s most famous hotel

30 Jul 2020 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Mhairi Mann

Inside The Ritz offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of César Ritz's magnum opus and celebrates the longstanding characters who inhabit the hotel, with commentary from Richard E. Grant, Anna Wintour and, er, Liverpool FC's

César Ritz, who is widely credited as having invented the modern luxury hotel, opened his groundbreaking Picadilly palace in 1906. He abhorred large hotel lobbies and instead demanded a lavish arched gallery to run the length of the building, thus providing a splendid promenade for guests to see and be seen in – an aesthetic feature that has since been replicated the world over. César sadly didn’t see his grand masterpiece in all its glory. After suffering from several nervous breakdowns, he retired in 1907 and lived out his final days in a sanatorium for mental illness in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Today, the hotel continues to honour Ritz’s legacy and remains an unabashedly extravagant, gilded ode to a bygone era, where liveried waiters pour Champagne amid lashings of gold leaf and Louis XVI furnishings. The hotel underwent a £40 million restoration during the 1990s, when it was purchased by the billionaire Barclay brothers. This year, it acquired a new proprietor: Qatari tycoon Abdulhadi Mana Al-Hajri.

As a new docuseries on The Ritz airs on ITV, here are 10 lesser-known facts about one of the world’s most famous hotels.

The Palm Court, which serves afternoon tea daily

1) The Ritz is the only hotel in the world to have its name in the Oxford English Dictionary, which it entered in 1925. The informal term, ritzy, derives from the hotel, meaning fashionable, glamorous and expensive.

2) César Ritz was very passionate about detail and elegance. The width of each corridor was designed to enable two ladies to walk comfortably in crinolines petticoats, side by side, while the lighting in the Rococo-style restaurant was chosen to be the right shade for a woman to look her most beautiful.

3) During World War II, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Dwight D. Eisenhower met for summit meetings in the Marie Antoinette Suite. This private meeting space still retains its original Louis XVI furnishings, based on a salon in the Palace of Versailles.

4) The Queen danced the conga through The Ritz hotel in 1945 on VE Day with her sister, Margaret, after slipping incognito into the crowds that were celebrating in central London.

5) The Ritz was the first hotel in the world to allow women to come unaccompanied by a male chaperone for Afternoon Tea. Today, on average, 400 people visit the Palm Court every day to enjoy the quintessentially English tradition.

Tallulah Bankhead, 1951

6) The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz is where American actress Tallulah Bankhead famously sipped Champagne from her slipper during a press conference in 1951.

7) The Ritz was the first, and is the only, hotel in the world to hold a Royal Warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales. It was awarded to the hotel in 2002 for services to catering and banqueting.

The Mary Antoinette Suite at The Ritz

8) The Ritz Restaurant was awarded a Michelin star for the first time in the 2016 guide.

9) Ritz porters pride themselves on being able to fulfill any request, so long as its legal. An American ambassador once asked for a helicopter to be purchased on his behalf, while another guest requested a battleship.

10) The Ritz has its own brand of Champagne, which is made for the hotel by Barons de Rothschild.

The Ritz London

Inside The Ritz airs at 9pm on ITV on 30 July and 6 August 2020