Set within a century-old, Pantheon-inspired former bank building, the Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia raises Center City living to classical heights. When the building opened in 1904, the Girard Trust marble dome was the largest in the country, and its columns and styling matched its inspiration down to its oculus 142 feet from the floor, the exact height as the Roman original. Today, every stay starts in this grandiose rotunda, where staff man the immaculately preserved bank-teller booths. Guest rooms and suites are in the attached 31-story office tower, gutted and transformed into a hotel by Ritz-Carlton in 2000.
All 299 rooms and suites bring classic Ritz-Carlton elegance, with wood furnishings matching gold, sage, and pumpkin hues. High ceilings and picture windows with stunning city views enhance the vibe, while spa-style marble bathrooms have mother-of-pearl vanities and rain showers.
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Adjacent to Philadelphia’s iconic City Hall, the hotel makes an ideal base for enjoying the city’s cultural charms. Extending northeast from City Hall, Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the city’s Champs-Élysées, a mile-long stretch lined with parks, museums, churches, and libraries. Start at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with works like Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal. The Dutch master painted fewer than 40 pictures in his lifetime, and this rendering of a solitary woman glancing outward from her keyboard instrument is believed to be one of his last. Next, it’s on to the Rodin Museum, whose collection of 140 bronzes, marbles, and plasters representing every phase of Auguste Rodin’s career is housed in an intimate Beaux Arts building, with tranquil gardens designed by French architect Paul Cret and French landscape designer Jacques Gréber. After amassing a fortune in the early 20th century by developing a drug to treat gonorrhea, Albert C. Barnes turned his attention to art, collecting more than 800 paintings by Impressionists and Modernist masters. Until 2012, the collection was scurried away in a suburban mansion out of reach of the general public. But in May 2012, the $25 billion collection was moved to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Barnes Foundation, a spectacular modern building where visitors can enjoy paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, and van Gogh, among other masters.
Need to Know
Rooms: 299 rooms and suites. From $339. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Set under the dome, 10 Arts Bistro is one of Philadelphia’s top tables on the strength of chef Eric Ripert’s all-American farm-to-table menu and a buzzy bar and lounge mixing craft cocktails for connected politicos, clean-cut bankers, and city socialites. Spa and gym details: The Bali-inspired Richel D’Ambra Spa & Salon is a perennial favorite on regional and national “best of” lists. It has a phalanx of top-notch therapists and a soothing setting on the hotel’s third floor.
Who’s it for: Luxury-loving travelers with classic taste and a desire to be in the heart of Philadelphia. The hotel courts politicos, business and leisure travelers, conference-goers, families, and couples. Our favorite rooms: It’s hard to go wrong in Ritz-Carlton’s Club Level at any of the chain’s properties, but the Philadelphia hotel’s Club Level takes the cake for its perch in the top four floors of the tower that afford stunning views of City Hall, Center City, and even the Delaware River. Getting around: Leave the car at home. Valet-only parking will set you back a whopping $51 a day, and the best of the city is a quick stroll or cab ride from the hotel.