The 2nd October 1910 witnessed the grand opening of The Ritz Madrid, a long awaited event which transformed Madrid from a small provincial town into a European city! The opening ceremony of what was meant to be one of the Europe’s finest hotel, was performed by guests of honour, King Alfonso XIII and his Queen Victoria Eugenia, granddaughter of the English Monarch Queen Victoria.
The young King had been instrumental in this exciting new adventure, the creation of the first genuine luxury hotel in Spain. Travelling widely throughout Europe and experiencing the standards of excellence of numerous new Palace Hotels, he was determined to modernise his own country and lift Madrid up to the same level as other European capitals and this certainly included the building of a real luxury hotel.
During the last years of the 19th century the world had seen an important revolution. Railroads shortened distances and with it brought a change in the type of traveller. It was not only European Aristocracy who was seen travelling any longer, but the continent saw an influx of new wealthy European and American travellers keen to discover the cultural treasures of Europe, and all needing convenient places to stay.
The King now viewed the finished result with pleasure and pride, satisfied that Madrid could finally receive visiting dignitaries in style. He remembered only too well that during his own wedding a few years previously, his royal guests had to be accommodated in private houses, as existing Madrid hotels at that time were simply inadequate.
It had been King Alfonso himself who convinced his aristocratic friends and important financiers to take part in this ambitious project and not only that, he himself became one of the mayor shareholders of the newly created Ritz Development Company.
The Ritz Development Company was soon able to purchase a terrain in the perfect location in the heart of the city, the grounds of the once Tivoli Theatre and Pleasure Gardens. Charles Mewes, the brilliant architect of the Ritz in Paris, was asked to submit plans and the building started under the watchful eye of two Spanish architects, Luis de Landecho and Lorenzo Gallego, who interpreted to perfection the imposing classic design of their French colleague. The elegant structure of the Ritz Hotel was to be the first steel framed building in Spain.
Not only did the Ritz Development Company use the architect of the famous Hotel Ritz in Paris, they also invited Cesar Ritz, “hotelier par excellence” and father of the Ritz Paris, to be involved in the creation of this new hotel which was to carry his name. Cesar Ritz was not only an outstanding hotelier but a showman in modern terms, a brilliant director and producer who set the stage for the star performance of his illustrious clientele.
Although at the time the Ritz Madrid was built, Cesar Ritz already suffered from failing health, he had formed a group of excellent professionals who under his guidance advised the upcoming Ritz Hotel and who assured that the immaculate standards of commodities, decor, service and cuisine associated with his name would be maintained.
What distinguished Cesar Ritz’s hotels from other Palace hotels at the time, was the noble proportions of the architecture, the beauty and exquisite taste of the interior, the staff unfailing personal attention to detail and the often elusive commodity, great style.
It is however unwise to compare one Ritz to another since each one of them, including the Ritz Madrid, is just unique and has acquired throughout time its own identity tainted by history, surroundings and life in general.
More than 100 years later, the unequalled style of hotel management which Cesar Ritz created, is still present at the Ritz Madrid despite the changes of times.