Philadelphia's Ritz-Carlton: Luxury And Glamour In Center City

Ask anyone who lives in Philadelphia to list off a few of the city's top hotels, and the Ritz-Carlton is sure to come up. You can tell just by looking at it that it's got to be luxurious: Its centerpiece is a Pantheon-inspired bank building constructed of gleaming marble, it's located smack dab in the center of the city adjacent to City Hall, and — oh, yeah — it's the Ritz-Carlton! We recently had the opportunity to stay there for a couple nights at the invitation of the hotel, and we can tell you from experience that it is indeed a very nice place to stay.

The Ritz-Carlton has been here since 2000, but the domed Neoclassical building and adjacent tower that comprise it date back to 1908 and 1931, respectively. Constructed by McKim, Mead, and White as the headquarters of the Girard Trust Company, today the domed rotunda — which was constructed with 9,000 tons of marble from the Carrera quarry in Italy and was at the time the largest dome in the Western Hemisphere — houses the lobby and the Richard Sandoval restaurant Aqimero, and the adjoining tower has 301 recently-renovated guest rooms and suites. What used to be the bank's vault, one level below Aqimero, is today the hotel's Grand Ballroom.

There are two entrances to the hotel, one on Broad Street and the other facing Penn Square; we suggest you enter through the rotunda on Broad in order to get the full experience. (We made the mistake of entering through the tower entrance, so no doorman was stationed there to assist with bags, and it took us a while to track down the front desk.) The rotunda is also simply gorgeous. It's 140 feet from floor to oculus, chock-full of Ionic columns and Neoclassical ostentation, and it's the type of space in which you'll catch yourself looking around slack-jawed. We imagine it was a very upscale place to deposit your money back in the day; today, it's a breathtaking spot for a meal as well as an ideal first impression of the hotel.

After checking in, we headed up to our room, which was right up there with what we've come to expect from Ritz-Carlton. High ceilings with crown moldings, a soft king bed with high-end linens and a Chesterfield-style headboard, a 49-inch flatscreen TV with built-in Netflix access, a full-size desk, plenty of plugs, a Nespresso machine and well-stocked mini-bar, two comfortable chairs, and a pleasing charcoal color scheme. The bathroom was full of Georgia marble, had both a bathtub and a large shower with a rainforest shower head, and Asprey bath products. We were booked into a City Hall Guest Room, so the curtains opened to reveal a stunning view of the legendary City Hall building next-door, easily one of the most incredible views in town.

We strongly suggest you ask for one of these City Hall rooms when making your reservation, and while you're at it make sure to ask for Club Level access as well. The Club Lounge is a Ritz-Carlton hallmark, and this one is a jewel in the crown.

Located on the 30th floor, the Club Lounge was originally the Girard Trust's Executive Board Room, and it retains much of its original decorative flourishes, including a brass clock, lighting fixtures, and luxurious French Walnut wood paneling. It's a great place to relax and unwind, and sideboards offer snacks and light bites that rotate throughout the day, from breakfast at 7 a.m. to chocolates at 8 (when we visited, rotating offerings included cheese and crackers, pork buns, chicken lemongrass dumplings, mixed greens with salad, gazpacho, roast beef sandwiches, brie on brioche with apricot jam, shrimp ceviche, and fried halloumi with baba ghanoush). Cookies and other desserts were also always available. Wine is served throughout the day, but cocktails are unfortunately only available from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

When you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, there are certain things you've come to expect: a great location, a beautiful lobby, elegantly-appointed rooms and suites with high-end fixtures and furnishings, a luxurious Club Lounge, helpful and friendly staff, and an overall air of elegance and sophistication. The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia certainly checks off all those boxes. If you're visiting Philly and looking for a luxurious place to stay, the Ritz-Carlton is definitely worth considering.

The hotel stay that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.