The Ritz Carlton brand began in Europe with The Ritz and The Carlton hotels in Paris and London, respectively, in the 1890’s later expanding into North America by the 1910’s. After many historical years and properties, the brand was fully purchased by Marriott International in 1998 and have since expanded to include over 100 properties in 30 countries.
The Ritz Carlton Guangzhou opened 2008 in the central business district of Guangzhou, China, and underwent a major renovation in 2018 for its 10th anniversary. The skyscraper housing the hotel and residences is across from the new IFC tower and faces the Zhujiang River with the absolutely stunning Canton Tower across the water. The Hotel is conveniently placed near many of the city’s modern attractions like the opera house, various museums, and is a short walk from the nearest station of the very expansive metro, making it easy to reach all destinations in the city from the hotel.
Guangzhou itself is the 5th most populous city in China and capital of the Guangdong region, with a metro population of over 50 million it is part of one of the largest urban agglomerations on earth. The city has a long history as a trading port having been a major stop for the silk road, add in its proximity to Hong Kong and Macau and it has grown into one of the largest trade capitals in the world, home to the second largest trade fair every spring and fall; The Canton Fair.
For this stay, we booked directly with the hotel at www.marriott.com reserving a Deluxe Room at a rate of $197 + Taxes and fees earning us 2,858 Marriott Bonvoy points. This also counted towards our Bank of America Travel Rewards card $1,000 minimum spend sign-up bonus to receive a 25,000 point reward.
Booking was truly where the Ritz experience truly began. I booked this trip a few months in advance and did my research on what I was planning to do in Guangzhou; however, many things were difficult to book from the US. Thus I decided to email the concierge about my plans in the city to see if they could help me booking things, one being tickets to the Guangzhou opera who had a show in their acclaimed Zaha Hadid designed venue, which as an architect I had to go to. I also requested help with dinner reservations at their Michelin starred restaurant Lai Heen, and cab directions among other things on my birthday trip around the Pearl River. The staff was nothing but helpful, they purchased the opera tickets, received my train ticket to Macau in the mail, and prepared me for my visit. I cannot stress enough how exceptional the staff was from the moment I booked.
Arrival, Check In & Lobby
I arrived in Guangzhou on rail from Hong Kong, the high speed train runs multiple times a day from Hong Kong’s Kowloon station to Guangzhou’s massive South Station, the 50 minute train ride costs about $30 and is comfortable and convenient. Once there I took a 20 minute cab ride over to the hotel, the hotel can also be reached via the city’s expansive metro network. Upon arrival I was greeted with nothing but smiles, my bag was walked with me up to the reception desk and I was offered a cup of tea by the wonderful front door staff, who after learning my name introduced me to the front desk staff. The front desk pulled up my reservation from the introduction and checked me in, wished me a happy birthday and informed me they upgraded me to a Premium River View room on a high floor while discussing my travels with me. I was guided to the concierge where I reviewed my dinner reservation, collected my tickets and paid for what I needed to, then the entry staff walked me to the elevator and pressed my floor for me and wished me a pleasant stay.
The marble clad lobby itself isn’t huge or overwhelming, but it didn’t need to be, it was the people in the space that made it unforgettable. Upon entering you are greeted with a large marble fountain and a plethora of fresh flowers throughout the space, which nicely juxtapose the ultra urban environment we were in. To the left of the entrance is a small check-in area with freshly brewed tea for guests, behind the fountain you find the gold mirrored elevators and to the right a calming lounge.
Guestroom / Suite
My river view room was located on the upper floors of the hotel portion of the skyscraper, a simple swipe of the keycard on the dark hardwood door gives access to the room’s entry corridor. Lined with dark hardwood and a recessed lighting fixture, a mirror with wall sconces decorate one side, and doors to the bathroom and closet the other.
The bathroom was expansive and marble filled, double sinks on a darkwood vanity and massive full wall mirrors greet you across the door with a tv and cosmetic mirror on either side. A separate toilet room is on one side and a very large soaking tub and shower on the other. The tub comes with a pillow designed for the edge to use while soaking (which was wonderful with the bath salts found in a ceramic bowl nearby) and the shower with a mirror that doesn’t fog around face height. Two branded bathrobes hung by the door and the bathroom was stocked with all the toiletries one may need - from Asprey London which smelled and felt luxurious. Next to the bathroom was the closet, though not massive, it was convenient as well as equipped with an umbrella, shoe shine products, and other basic needs.
At the end of the corridor you enter the bedroom, and the view was breathtaking, large floor to ceiling windows frame incredible vistas of the expansive Guangzhou urban landscape and impossibly tall Canton Tower. Under the recessed ceiling and large golden chandelier sits a very large and comfortable bed facing the windows, across the bed a small loveseat and chair sitting area took up one corner, and a desk/work area in the other towards the windows. A dresser with mini bar and full set of glassware sits below the TV on one side of the room tying together a very classically decorated, but well equipped room. All curtains and lights could be controlled from bed with a tastefully hidden set of buttons and universal plug inside the two nightstands. Here is also where the service of the Ritz continued to shine, as I had mentioned they knew it was my birthday, and waiting for me on the coffee table of the room was a two tiered cake made out of bath towels with rose petals decorating it.
Now while I am a very rigidly scheduled traveler, the room was so comfortable I blew my first two hours of the day to stay in the room, taking a great shower and laying in the incredibly comfortable bed, giving me the energy to really tackle the rest of the day.
Amenities & Features
This property boasts a highly rated 11 room on site spa, featuring a variety of services which include the very tempting Pearl River stone massage, a full multilingual spa menu can be downloaded here. There is also a well equipped 24 hour fitness center featuring Technogym equipment, on the side there is also a yoga studio and lockers with steam rooms. However much like Jeremy I’m allergic to working out, so I did not partake in this amenity!
Food & Beverage
Let me tell you I ate WELL at the Ritz. Food plays a large role in the amenities of this property featuring two restaurants, a buffet, room service, a full bar and lounge.
I had dinner at the Michelin starred Lei Heen restaurant which received its star on the inaugural Guangzhou guide in 2018. The space is stunning, and upon entering you are met with a musician on a hardwood island surrounded by slowly trickling fountains and sculptural walls. The hostess gracefully greets you and brings you to your table, offering you a complimentary tea and Chinese newspaper in various languages. A newspaper is not something I have ever gotten at a restaurant but it was a great addition to read while looking out at the view of the city. The wait staff was incredibly attentive, the menu was expansive with everything from seafood to pigeon and it all sounded incredible, my waitress was great at helping me sort through the menu and helping choose dishes that would best fit my dietary restrictions (no dairy for this guy!) while also giving me a great taste of classic Cantonese cuisine. The food was brought out in courses with a great selection of sauces on the side. The meal was exquisite and very well priced, I cannot stress this enough, TRY THE MANGO PUDDING. Once the meal was over, the restaurant manager walked me to the front, conversing with me and giving me her business card incase I had any comments, from there one of the hostesses walked me to the elevator to go up to my room.
Perhaps what really blew me away was that when I came back from dinner and the opera there was a full sized chocolate birthday cake, candle, birthday card, and 3 oranges waiting for me in my room. The number 3 in Chinese numerology means life or to live, and oranges are a symbol of good luck. I was far away from home and alone this birthday but this was enough to bring a tear to my eye, I was able to facetime my family and celebrate around this cake, which was absolutely delicious may I add.
In the morning I tried out the room service breakfast, delivered at the time of my choosing I went for a western option breakfast. At a great cost, I had a large spread delivered, including an omelette, bacon, veggies, fruits, yogurt, and a basket of some of the best croissants I've had. Eating this large flavorful spread in a bathrobe watching Netflix (thanks free wifi) with the windows open and an incredible view of Guangzhou, it doesn’t get better.
The Ritz Carlton hotels are classically appointed luxury properties, and their Guangzhou location is no different. Luxury nowadays is seen more as minimalistic sleek finishes and artisanal products, and while this Ritz delivers a high end product, it does more so in an older luxury aesthetic and it’s not a bad thing! It creates an incredible calming contrast with the vibrant illuminated city beyond which can feel like a sci-fi movie, and the staff create a calming environment where this talkative solo traveler always had someone to chat with.
There may be no robot butlers, but it doesn’t need them, the warm marble and wood tones make a great background for the ultimate high end element; impeccable personal service. This was my first experience with a Ritz Carlton and I was blown away. I was treated incredibly as a very sweaty young solo traveler, and not once did I feel like I was treated any differently from other hotel guests. The staff did everything they could to make my stay a memorable one and they did it effortlessly, and though I would love more modern renovated rooms, I would book a stay at the Ritz again without thinking twice. I’ll leave you guys with some images of breathtaking Guangzhou.