Better with Age: Visiting the World’s Oldest Hotels

If there’s a hotel that’s been around for hundreds of years, you can assume something’s been done right and that you’re in for a good stay. After all, it’s an achievement for businesses to operate successfully for concurrent decades — never mind centuries!

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So with that thought in mind, let’s first take a look at the very oldest of the old:

Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan (Founded 705!!!)

Roughly 175km west of Tokyo, Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan is officially the oldest hotel in the world as verified by Guinness World Records. Nestled within a mountainous region, it’s surrounded by natural hot springs that have helped attract visitors for more than 1,300 years. Although the six different baths at the resort are open for use 24 hours a day, tradition dictates that men and women frequent them at different times. The hotel offers both Japanese and Western-style rooms and despite the age of the venue, all the bathrooms thankfully offer modern amenities.

Since Japan has a bit of a monopoly on ancient hotels (the six oldest are all in the Land of the Rising Sun), we’ll now skip ahead to look at historic properties outside the Pacific island nation:

Zum Roten Bären, Germany (Founded 1120)

The oldest hotel outside Japan is thought to be in Freiburg, Germany’s sunniest city. Zum Roten Bären (The Red Bear) is located within the metropolis’ oldest district, Oberlinden, and is situated next to one of two remaining city gates constructed in 1250. While much of the original structure has changed over the years, some untouched design remains in the basement so be sure to head down to have a look if you end up being lucky enough to stay here.

In addition to Zum Roten Bären, aficionados of ancient buildings should check out the nearby Freiburg Minster (founded in 1200) and the city’s university (founded in 1457). Just outside the city limits, excellent vineyards and the beautiful Black Forest await.

Angel & Royal, England (Founded 1203)

Angel & Royal, England

Grantham, Lincolnshire, may be best known as the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, but it’s also a town that’s hosted various kings throughout their reigns. Since 1213, when King John visited with his royal court, the Angel & Royal has housed the likes of Edward III, Richard III, Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Talk about a regal lineage!

Orso Grigio, Italy (Founded 1300)

Orso Grigio, Italy

While some hotels go through a number of different owners, others, like the Orso Grigio, have even changed countries! This villa in the Dolomites originally called Austria home until the province of Trentino was annexed to Italy following World War I. Visitors here rave about the on-site “Wine Temple” which houses more than 35,000 bottles from hundreds of different wineries.

Hotel Interlaken, Switzerland (Founded 1323)

Hotel Interlaken, Switzerland

A guesthouse founded in the early 14th century, Hotel Interlaken has been a welcome watering hole and muse to artists such as poet Lord Byron and composer Felix Mendelssohn for close to 700 years now. The Interlaken remains an artist’s retreat to this day — after all, where better to find inspiration than among the picturesque hills and lakes of Switzerland?

Gmachl, Austria (Founded 1334)

Pool at Gmachl, Austria

What makes Gmachl stand out from the other hotels on this list is that it’s been owned by the same family throughout its existence. The hotel markets itself as a romantic haven and with its beautiful setting in the Alpine town of Salzburg, it’s not hard to see why. A must-try is a relaxation day in the hotel’s acclaimed spa, where breathtaking views of snowy mountains will help you forget the rest of the world exists.

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