Let’s be honest: The Ritz probably isn’t the place to stay if you’re on a budget. Rooms start at around £300 and escalate to more than £1,000, if you want one of the really swanky suites. But it is of course no ordinary hotel: this is a London institution that’s been setting the bar for luxury ever since it opened in 1906, so doing things on a budget isn’t really the point. The name alone evokes a sense of opulence and class. The building is full of sparkling chandeliers, marble plinths, mirrored walls, plush carpets and neatly upholstered furniture. Frankly, it feels totally palatial – there’s even an inhouse gilder who goes around making sure all of the gold leaf keeps on gleaming, just as it did when the Louis XVI decor was first unveiled more than a century ago.
Of course, this is entirely appropriate for a building that sits a stone’s throw away from classy haunts like Fortnum & Mason and The Wolseley, not to mention Buckingham Palace, though it’s unlikely you’ll want to leave your room to check out the neighbourhood. For a start the beds are super cosy, and you’ll find it difficult to resist diving straight into one of the thick dressing gowns embossed with The Ritz’s regal logo. And the bathrooms – oh, the bathrooms! – are just sublime: think gold taps, lots of marble and baths deep enough to go swimming in.
If you’re splashing out, you’ll also want to pack some fancy clothes and book yourself a table for afternoon tea in the Palm Court. It’s an unforgettable experience, and the unlimited supply of sandwiches means it’s easy to get your money’s worth. Or, if you really want to go all out, get yourself a seat in the restaurant, which was recently awarded a Michelin star, and order the sumptuous crêpes suzette: they’ll wheel a trolley over to your table and prepare the dessert in a sizzling pan right in front of you.
In truth, all this grandeur can feel a little overwhelming at times. And, if you’re more bothered about hotels with gadgets and gizmos, you might see all this as a bit old-fashioned. But, then again, you don’t come to The Ritz for the modern touches, you come for the heritage, the excellence and the sense of occasion. And when it comes to this, The Ritz is as close to perfection as you’re ever likely to get.
Time Out tip: You’re right in the centre of London, so there are plenty of top-drawer things to do nearby – the Royal Academy and National Gallery are a must for art lovers, while the West End is within spitting distance for fans of the theatre. But if you really want to make the most of the area, head to Mr Fogg’s for a cocktail with character, or Hawksmoor for one of the best steaks on the planet.