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Hotel Ritz Madrid *****
The history of the luxury five-star hotel

Article added on August 7, 2003

The Hotel Ritz Madrid was built in 1910 following the plans of Charles Mewes, the architect who created the architectural and ornamental style favored by the legendary Swiss hotelier Cäsar or César Ritz (1850-1918). The belle époque landmark building was designed as a sister property to the existing Ritz hotels in Paris and London.

At the origin of the Hotel Ritz Madrid stands none other than the young Spanish King Alfonso XIII (1886-1941). Inspired by his travels around Europe, he wanted for his capital a hotel that could rival with the Ritz in Paris. One that could satisfy the tastes of the most distinguished and discerning new traveler of the dawning age of tourism. He remembered that for his wedding to Victoria Eugenia of Battemberg in 1906, he could not offer such accommodation to his guests.

It was Alfonso XIII who had the houses on the narrow streets north of the Puerta del Sol demolished in order to open up the city; the construction of the Gran Vía began under his impulse. He wanted Madrid to enter the modern era; however, in 1923, he encouraged General Primo de Rivera to establish a dictatorship in Spain. In 1930, he removed his support for the general. A year later, after the proclamation of the Republic, Alfonso XIII abdicated in favor of his son Juan and went into exile.

Let's return to the history of Ritz: unfortunately, a depression that affected César Ritz since 1902 and finally contributed to his death in 1918 hindered the Swiss hotelier from managing the hotel in Madrid bearing his name. For the construction and the management of the hotel in the Spanish capital, the Ritz Development Company was officially registered on July 27, 1908.

The architects of the Ritz were Charles Mewes of Paris, who designed the first Ritz hotel, the one inaugurated on Place Vendôme in the French capital in 1898, and Luis de Landecho of Madrid. The modern-day comfort included a telephone cabin next to the lift on all floors as well as four to five bathrooms on each floor; the rest of the rooms were equipped with wash-basins as well as jugs and glasses in vogue at the time. The formal opening of the Hotel Ritz Madrid, in presence of the King Alfonso XIII, his wife Victoria Eugenia of Battemberg and other members of the royal family, took place on October 2, 1910.

Georges Marquet, founder of the Palace Hotels in Brussels and Madrid, joined the Board of Directors of the Hotel Ritz Madrid in 1926. In 1932, he became its chairman and since then, assisted by his son Georges Marquet Delina, exercised complete control over the hotel for decades.

Georges Marquet exercised a strict regime at the Ritz. An aristocratic etiquette was demanded from the employees as well as from the guests. For the Ritz, Marquet only wanted the most select clientele. Customers who did not meet his demands, classified as "NRT" (Not Ritz Type), were sent to the Palace, also owned by Marquet. One of the strict rules prohibited smoking in the dining room. Neither bullfighters nor artists were accepted at the Ritz, since Marquet considered they were usually accompanied by reporters, photographers and noisy fans. He could not tolerate any disturbances at this hotel. However, there were some exceptions under Marquet's rule. The actor Leslie Howard arrived in Spain with a diplomatic mission and dressed up as an old man before entering the hotel. Other exceptions included Richard Burton and Henry Fonda, who spoke perfectly Spanish and was a true gentleman.
Until 1975, ladies in pants were not allowed at the Ritz. Once a maître d'hôtel told two British ladies that it was impossible for them to stay in the hall dressed in pants. They reacted calmly, went to the ladies room and came back without their pants, wearing the raincoats they were previously carrying on their arms.
However, if a guest broke the Ritz rules, whether a famous artist or not, he or she could not expect any indulgence from Marquet. There are numerous anecdotes regarding the obligation to wear a tie in the hotel. When the famous conductor Herbert von Karajan took lunch in a turtleneck sweater, which the British Lord Snowdon had made fashionable all over Europe, and refused to wear a tie, the rules where strictly applied. The next day, he was moved to another hotel with the usual reasoning that it was one "where Mr. von Karajan can stay without wearing a tie." Today, the rules are less strict and in summer, a tie is not obligatory anymore. Later, as in the years before, Herbert von Karajan came back to the Ritz, always wearing a tie. He even gave the first maître d'hôtel, who had sent him away, an autographed album of concerts he had conducted. Needless to say that the now-retired maître d'hôtel treasures the record as if it was gold.
During Spain's Civil War in the 1930s, the Ritz Hotel was seized by the republican government of Madrid and transformed into a field hospital for the wounded of the Confederate Militia of Catalonia, which was part of the anarchist-inclined National Union of Labor. In the wake of war, many Spanish aristocrats were left without residences or had to rebuild them. Therefore, for many years after the war, the Ritz became the residence for many aristocrats. The Cold War partly ended Spain's isolation. Foreign ambassadors who arrived in Madrid often set up their residence at the hotel until their embassies were ready.

After the era of Marquet father and son and after some brief interludes, the Trusthouse Forte Company acquired the Ritz in 1982. Thereby, it joined an international hotel group which later merged with the Meridien global franchise. Since April 25, 2003, the Hotel Ritz Madrid has been a member of the Orient-Express group, which owns the Orient-Express trains and the famous Reid's Hotel in Madeira.

The Hotel Ritz Madrid is a five-star luxury hotel with 137 guest rooms and 30 suites and distinguishes itself through a personal service with attention to detail. The employees often work for decades or even their entire life for the Ritz, and many clients keep coming back over the same period. The personal knows the habits and preferences of its regular guests, who have their initials woven in their Ritz dressing gowns. All rooms are decorated individually. The bathrooms are finished in marble. All suites and rooms have at least one antique piece of furniture or an old lamp. The beds are covered with embroidered linens. Hand-woven Spanish rugs and carpets by the Real Fábrica de Tapices are in all floors and rooms. On the mezzanine floor, a fitness and beauty center is open to the clients of the Ritz. Refined Spanish cuisine is offered at the Goya Restaurant.
The location of the Ritz is perfect. The Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía Modern Arts Center are next door. The Zarzuela Theatre, the Buen Retiro Park and the Botanical Gardens are within walking distance. In short, the Ritz, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is the best place to begin to explore Madrid.

The Suite Real. Photograph copyright: Hotel Ritz Madrid.

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- Madrid sightseeing guide

The Lobby. Photograph copyright: Hotel Ritz Madrid.
Terrace and Garden of the Hotel Ritz Madrid. The Goya Restaurant is on the ground floor as well as on the upper terrace. Photograph copyright: Hotel Ritz Madrid.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.