Philadelphia has much to offer — this hip city recently hosted the Democratic National Convention and delivers big-city amenities with an impressively small-town feel. Not to mention its historic significance. But there’s so much more to love than just the Liberty Bell and a delicious array of cheesesteak options.
There’s no better place to start your exploration of the city’s magic than at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, which just finished a grand, yearlong renovation that has brought this iconic property, housed in a former bank on the Avenue of the Arts, back to its former glory. Allow us to share four things we absolutely adore about the City of Brotherly Love’s freshly updated institution.
Originally designed as a reproduction of the Pantheon, the iconic building was opened in 1908 as the Girard Trust Company. Over the years, the bank added on space, including the tower that, today, houses the hotel rooms. The Club Lounge was once the executive boardroom of the trust and still bears the original light fixtures and carved wood paneling made from now-extinct French walnut.
One of our favorite features of the building is the former vault area, now the hotel’s grand ballroom. The stairs, made of marble, are warped on one side. Why, you ask? They were built for the society ladies of Philadelphia who, each week, decked in their finest, made the trip down to the vault to borrow their best jewels for weekend events, returning the jewels each Monday. As there was a handrail on only one side of the stairs, the marble wore down. The stairs still bear the spots as a tribute to the hotel’s once-grand place in Philadelphia society.
Another fascinating area of this luxury hotel doesn’t even require you to be a guest to appreciate it. Just enter the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, and you’ll see what makes this address one of the city’s most coveted. The entrance is an impressively open space constructed entirely of marble, capped by a massive dome that soars 101 feet overhead. This rotunda is made of more than 9,000 tons of Georgia marble (much of it sourced from the same Carrera quarry as Michelangelo’s David). The dome was once the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Today, the lobby is flanked by two large crystal walls that fill the space with a glitz reminiscent of an earlier time. The original oculus, which used to host the bank tellers as they would pull money directly from the vault, is still there; only now, instead of asking for your money, you’ll cozy up to the new high-top bar at Aqimero and order a craft cocktail.
The newly redesigned guest rooms feature a contemporary color palette with pops of green, blue, bronze and nickel (evoking the hotel’s currency-laden past). Spacious units offer impressive views of downtown Philadelphia. Ask for a room with a City Hall peek on one of the higher floors to see an up-close look at one of the country’s unique and extravagant city halls, which is topped with a 27-ton statue of William Penn that looms large over the city.
We also love the Club Level rooms, which provide access to the private Club Lounge. The VIP space offers food service throughout the day, as well as cocktails, beer and wine.
For the ultimate experience, though, book the 31st-floor Ritz-Carlton Suite, which boasts a personal elevator, two large bedrooms, a kitchen, living and dining areas, and enviable vistas of City Hall from an oversized master bath.
The food and drinks
Located just off the mesmerizing lobby is the city’s newest dining destination, Aqimero. Celebrity chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flair and mastery of grilled steaks and seafood are welcome additions to the Philadelphia hotel. The eatery focuses on sustainable cuisine that’s been simply prepared — think grilled catch of the day or meats (everything from skirt steak to jidori chicken), served without much fuss. Don’t miss the spicy crab guacamole to start or the caramelized plantains as a side dish.
If you’d prefer something more casual, cozy up to the raw bar to try some of the city’s best array of mussels, oysters, shrimp, sushi and ceviche.
On the cocktail list, mezcal-focused drinks, bold flavors and unique pairings rule. Case in point: the Vibrant Visions, featuring El Silencio Espadin mezcal, carrot juice, sake, ginger and apple.