Which Are the Oldest Operating Hotels?

For centuries, mankind has sought the comfort and convenience of hotels for shelter, dining, and a pause from the rigors of travel. From the bustling caravanserais of the Silk Road to the grand inns of medieval Europe, these establishments have been silent witnesses to the unfolding of history, serving as meeting points for people from all walks of life. 

While many such places have faded into the annals of history, a select few continue to open their doors, offering a living bridge to the past. These are the oldest operating hotels in the world, each with a story etched into its walls and a legacy that has withstood the test of time. Unlike their forgotten counterparts, these historic gems have managed to preserve their essence, adapting to the changing tides while holding firm to their roots.

Let’s get into the tales of these remarkable survivors, uncovering the secrets of their endurance and the timeless appeal that still draws guests from around the globe.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan – Established in 705

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a hot spring hotel located in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest hotel in the world. Founded in 705 AD by Fujiwara Mahito, it has been operated by 52 generations of the same family. Nestled in the lush valleys of the Akaishi Mountains, Keiunkan has become synonymous with the very essence of Japanese hospitality and the deep cultural value placed on continuity and preservation.

The hotel’s hot springs are fed by four natural mineral-rich sources, renowned for their healing properties. Guests have been soaking in these therapeutic waters for over 1,300 years, drawn by the promise of rejuvenation and relaxation. The hot spring baths, both public and private, offer serene views of the surrounding natural beauty, creating a timeless connection with nature.

Keiunkan’s architecture and interiors reflect a careful balance between tradition and comfort, blending seamlessly with the natural landscape. The hotel has maintained its historical charm while incorporating modern amenities to cater to the needs of contemporary travelers.

Hoshi Ryokan, Japan – Established in 718

Hoshi Ryokan, in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, stands as a testament to enduring hospitality, having welcomed guests since 718 AD. This remarkable inn, second only to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in age, has been operated by the Hoshi family for 46 generations. It’s a place where tradition meets tranquility, nestled in the heart of the hot spring village of Awazu.

The ryokan’s hot springs are famed for their healing waters, offering a serene retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation. Each room at Hoshi Ryokan exudes a classic Japanese aesthetic, with tatami floors, sliding fusuma doors, and elegant decor that whispers stories of centuries past. Guests are invited to wear yukata robes, enhancing the immersive cultural experience.

Dining at Hoshi Ryokan is a culinary journey, with meals that feature seasonal, local ingredients prepared in the kaiseki tradition. The ryokan’s communal baths, segregated by gender, allow guests to soak in the rich mineral waters while contemplating the beauty of the Japanese garden.

Maids Head Hotel, England – Established in the mid-1090s

The Maids Head Hotel, located in Norwich, Norfolk, England, is reputed to be one of the oldest hotels in the United Kingdom. With a history that dates back over 800 years, the hotel is said to have been established in the 12th century, around 1090s, making it a site of significant historical and architectural interest.

Situated in the heart of Norwich, close to the Norman Cathedral, the Maids Head Hotel has played host to many notable figures throughout its long history, including, it is said, Queen Elizabeth I in 1587. The hotel’s architecture is a blend of historical elements, with parts of the building showcasing features from the 15th, 16th, and 18th centuries, reflecting the various stages of its development over the centuries.

The Maids Head Hotel has undergone numerous renovations and refurbishments to offer modern comforts and amenities while preserving its historical charm and character. It boasts a range of guest rooms and suites, each uniquely decorated to reflect the hotel’s rich heritage. The hotel also features a restaurant and bar, offering guests the chance to experience local cuisine and hospitality. The Maids Head Hotel remains a beloved landmark in Norwich, offering a unique window into the past combined with the luxuries and conveniences of contemporary hospitality.

Zum Roten Bären, Germany – Established around 1120

Zum Roten Bären is the oldest inn in Germany, located in the heart of Freiburg im Breisgau, a city known for its medieval history and vibrant culture. Founded in 1120, this historic establishment has been serving guests for over 900 years, offering a unique glimpse into the past while providing modern hospitality services. Situated at the foot of the Schlossberg, near the city’s famous Freiburg Minster, Zum Roten Bären is a testament to the enduring tradition of German innkeeping.

Throughout its long history, Zum Roten Bären has witnessed many significant events and has hosted a diverse array of guests, from nobility to travelers seeking the charm of Freiburg. The inn’s architecture and interior design reflect its rich heritage, with features that date back to various periods, showcasing the evolution of European building styles.

Zum Roten Bären’s guests can enjoy traditional German cuisine in its restaurant, where dishes are prepared with local ingredients and served in a setting filled with historical ambiance. The inn also offers comfortable guest rooms that blend historic charm with contemporary amenities, ensuring a pleasant stay for modern travelers.

The Olde Bell, England – Established in 1135

The Olde Bell in Hurley, Berkshire, England, is a historic coaching inn that dates back to 1135, making it one of the oldest inns in the world. This charming establishment has a storied history, having served as a resting place for travelers, pilgrims, and even royalty over the centuries. Situated in the picturesque Thames Valley, The Olde Bell offers a mix of traditional English charm and contemporary comfort.

The inn’s architecture reflects its long history, with features that span several centuries, including timber framing, inglenook fireplaces, and original stone walls. Despite its age, The Olde Bell has been thoughtfully updated to provide guests with modern amenities while preserving its historic character. Accommodation at The Olde Bell ranges from rooms in the main inn to separate cottages and modernized barns, catering to a variety of preferences and needs. Each room is uniquely decorated, blending rustic elements with contemporary style.

Dining at The Olde Bell is a highlight, with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The menu offers a modern take on British classics, served in a cozy, atmospheric setting. The inn also features beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces where guests can relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

The Angel and Royal Hotel, England – Established in 1203

The Angel and Royal Hotel, located in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, is steeped in history and often cited as one of the oldest inns in England. Its origins can be traced back to the 12th century, around 1203, when it was originally established as a hostel by the Knights Templar. Over the centuries, it has evolved from a medieval inn into a sophisticated hotel, while preserving its historical character and charm.

The hotel’s façade and structure bear the marks of various architectural periods, with significant renovations and additions made over the centuries. Despite these changes, The Angel and Royal has retained its historical essence, offering guests a unique window into England’s past.

The Angel and Royal Hotel has hosted an array of distinguished guests throughout its history, including several kings of England, earning it a regal reputation. The hotel’s interior décor reflects its rich heritage, with antique furnishings, wood paneling, and period features that transport guests back in time.

Orso Grigio, Italy – Established around 1303

The Orso Grigio, which translates to “Grey Bear” in English, is a renowned hotel with a rich history located in Italy. While there are several establishments named Orso Grigio in different parts of Italy, one of the most notable is in San Candido (Innichen), South Tyrol region. This particular Orso Grigio has a history that dates back several centuries, making it one of the oldest hotels in the area and a significant part of the local heritage.

The Orso Grigio in San Candido is celebrated for its combination of historical charm and modern luxury. The hotel’s origins trace back to the 14th century, and over the years, it has been a favorite among travelers seeking both the beauty of the Alps and a taste of the region’s rich history and culture. The establishment has been meticulously maintained and updated over the centuries to offer guests high-quality accommodations and services while preserving its unique historical character.

Guests at the Orso Grigio can expect to find rooms and suites that tastefully blend traditional Alpine decor with contemporary comforts, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The hotel’s restaurant is another highlight, serving a variety of local and international dishes prepared with fresh, regional ingredients.

Pilgrimhaus, Germany – Established in 1304

Pilgrimhaus, situated in the historic town of Soest, Germany, is renowned for being one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in the country, with its origins dating back to 1304. This venerable establishment has been offering hospitality to travelers, pilgrims, and guests for over 700 years, making it a remarkable testament to the enduring tradition of German innkeeping.

Located in the heart of Soest, Pilgrimhaus is steeped in medieval charm, with its timber-framed architecture and period features providing a direct link to the past. The hotel is a focal point of the town’s rich history, standing near important historic sites and within walking distance of Soest’s beautiful churches, museums, and the old town walls. Despite its age, Pilgrimhaus has been meticulously maintained and updated to offer modern conveniences while preserving its historic character. The rooms are individually decorated, blending traditional elements with contemporary comfort to ensure a pleasant stay for guests.

Dining at Pilgrimhaus is an experience in itself, with the restaurant serving regional specialties and traditional German cuisine in a cozy, atmospheric setting. The emphasis is on local ingredients and time-honored recipes, allowing guests to savor the culinary heritage of the region.

Gastagwirt, Austria – Established in 1380

The Gastagwirt, located in the picturesque region of Eugendorf near Salzburg, Austria, is a historic inn that has been welcoming guests since 1380. This family-run establishment boasts a rich heritage, seamlessly blending traditional Austrian hospitality with the comforts of modern living. Its deep-rooted history and commitment to preserving the cultural and architectural integrity of the region make it a unique destination for travelers seeking an authentic Austrian experience.

Nestled amid the stunning landscapes of the Salzburg countryside, the Gastagwirt serves as an ideal base for exploring the natural beauty and historical sites of the area. The inn itself is a testament to the enduring charm of Austrian architecture, with its characteristic façade, cozy interiors, and warm, welcoming atmosphere.

The accommodations at the Gastagwirt are designed to provide comfort and tranquility, with rooms that combine rustic elegance with contemporary amenities. Guests can enjoy the serene views of the surrounding countryside, ensuring a restful and rejuvenating stay.

Conclusion

These enduring establishments not only offer us a place to rest but also a unique opportunity to touch history, to sleep within walls that have stories spanning centuries. They remind us that, though the world is ever-changing, the essence of hospitality and the human desire for exploration and connection remain constant. These historic hotels stand as living museums, proud custodians of heritage and culture, offering us more than just a stay—they invite us to be a part of a legacy that has thrived through the ages. As we move forward, carrying with us the tales of our travels, let’s cherish the memories made in these timeless havens.

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