Coco Chanel famously made the Ritz Paris her home for 34 years, but the grandest hotels need a little brightening once in a while. The Ritz, which originally opened on Place Vendôme in 1898, reopened in 2016 after a four-year, $450 million renovation. Starchitect Thierry Despont wisely retained iconic features like the red entry carpet and the hotel’s signature amber scent, but he incorporated brighter fabrics to the public rooms, subtle touches like a heightened lobby ceiling and the addition of peaceful landscaped gardens, and bold statements such as a retractable glass roof on the patio. Overall, too, the number of guest rooms was reduced to 142, and the number of staff was raised to 630. Guest rooms are light and airy, with cream walls, Empire furniture, swags of floral silk fabrics, and marble fireplaces with gilt details. Some rooms have balconies, perfect for morning coffee. Down in the Ritz Club, the pool, serenely set in a columned art deco room, is long enough for laps. The Chanel au Ritz Paris is the brand’s first freestanding spa, with treatment rooms featuring (of course) Chanel skin care and beauty products.

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A luxurious institution

This luxurious institution on the Place Vendôme is the stuff of romance and urban legends. A line forms every night at the no-reservations Bar Hemingway, named for the larger-than-life author who claimed to have “liberated” it from German occupation. (In 1944, the hotel doubled as a Nazi headquarters, and Hemingway was among the soldiers who helped to reclaim it.). A no-expenses-spared restoration unveiled in 2016 restored the grande dame’s luster: The 142 guest rooms are decked out with Empire furniture, floral silk fabrics, and marble fireplaces.

The fashion crowd vie to bed down in Coco Chanel’s former apartment, now a dedicated suite still housing the designer’s art collection, velvet banquettes, and Chinese lacquered screens. Culinary enthusiasts learn recipes at the Ritz Escoffier School, an homage to the culinary maestro who pioneered a new kind of hotel experience with César Ritz, aka “King of Hoteliers, and Hotelier to Kings.” (He was such a legend, he bequeathed the word “ritzy” to the dictionary.) And pastry fans reserve the Salon Proust for afternoon tea featuring fresh madeleines by pâtissier extraordinaire François Perret.

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