These hotels have aged like fine wine.
It’s no surprise that hospitality is one of the oldest businesses in the world: As long as people have been traveling, they’ve needed somewhere to stay. Some of the most impressive hotels on this list have been in continuous operation for hundreds of years; others spent their former lives as hospitals, castles, and convents.
What we’ve come to expect from a hotel stay has changed over the centuries, and most of these lodgings have been successfully revamped for maximum comfort and modern expectations. Still, throughout these hotels—in the thoughtful details, the original art and architecture, and the legends passed on to generations of owners—are reminders, everywhere, of their grand pasts, and all the guests that came before.
The Oldest Hotel in Istanbul
WHERE: Istanbul, Turkey
Opened in 1892 to welcome passengers on the Orient Express, the opulent Pera Palace Hotel, whose luxe interior often appears in velvety shades of pink and red, was one of the first buildings in Turkey to offer electricity and hot running water. Later, it was also the first to have an electric elevator, an ornate cast iron cage still on display in the Pera Palace lobby today. The Pera claims Agatha Christie wrote her popular mystery novel Murder on the Orient Express inside these walls. Some of the many famous past guests include European and Asian royalty, Jackie Kennedy, Greta Garbo, and Alfred Hitchcock.
The Oldest Hotel in Paris
WHERE: Paris, France
The first Grand Hôtel du Louvre was built in 1855, when its 700 rooms welcomed French aristocrats and sophisticated travelers with a level of service and amenities not previously offered in Paris. Hôtel du Louvre moved to its current location across the Place du Palais Royal in 1887 (the original building became a luxury shopping center) and today’s hotel is part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. This still-chic hotel’s central location, in the First Arrondissement between the Louvre and Palais Royal, is perhaps the biggest draw for today’s visitors. In the 1880s, this section of town was just coming into its own, and most consider the Grand Hotel du Louvre to be Paris’s first luxury hotel.
The Oldest Hotel in Australia
WHERE: Sydney, Australia
Guests at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel can embrace the age-old tradition of lodging above a pub. In this case, the lodgings have been nicely modernized and the pub serves boutique craft beers. The best historic features of this 1840s hotel perhaps are the walls made of Sydney sandstone. This material is the area’s bedrock, and a durable source for building that was especially prevalent during the city’s founding; walking the Sydney streets, you’ll see many public buildings made out of the same light, smooth rock.
The Oldest Hotel in New York City
WHERE: New York, New York
The Sohotel has hosted travelers in some fashion since 1805, but the somewhat seedy flophouse didn’t always resemble the hip budget-boutique hotel it is today. The neighborhood looked quite different back then, too; no longer home to brothels, tenements, and 19th-century gangsters, the sprawling building takes over a bustling corner of Broome and Bowery and is often filled with fashionable diners and drinkers, as well as guests.
The Oldest Hotel in South Africa
WHERE: Grabouw, South Africa
The Houw Hoek Hotel has hosted travelers outside of Cape Town since 1779, when it was built along a wagon road used by the Dutch East India Company. Significantly expanded upon and modernized over the years, it has remained a hotel of some sort since its founding. Today, it is a chic lodge and resort inside the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, with multiple swimming pools, restaurants, game rooms, and airy public spaces with great views of the reserve and surrounding mountains. At its entrance is a giant, still growing bluegum tree—one of the oldest in the area—planted by a former owner (and German missionary) in 1848.
The Oldest Hotel in the U.S.
WHERE: Rhinebeck, New York
While there are a few colonial-era inns and B&Bs that compete for the oldest one in the fifty states (the Berkshires’ Red Lion Inn, and Kelley House in Martha’s vineyard, among them), Beekman Arms is probably the biggest (and most well-known) continuously-operating inn in the country, and a part of the Hudson Valley’s historic village of Rhinebeck since 1766. Design here is Colonial, with comfortable upgrades, tall ceilings, and a large stone hearth. For more history and quaint Hudson Valley charm, step into the two-story antique market in a converted barn behind the house.
The Oldest Hotel in China
WHERE: Pingyao, China
In the center of an ancient city, this boutique hotel resides within a mansion built by a Qing Dynasty silk merchant in the 1750s. Jing’s Residence offers an intimate experience within a series of pavilions nestled into the walled city, providing an elegant stay and taste of the region’s traditions. Pingyao, in the Shanxi Province between Xi’an and Beijing, dates back to 800 B.C., but it was during the 19th century that it became an important financial center for the Qing Dynasty.
The Oldest Hotel in India
WHERE: Udaipur, India
The whims of young Prince Maharana Jagat Singh, who desired an island palace in the mid-18th century, resulted in one of the most unique and romantic stays in the world today—and the setting of the James Bond movie Octopussy. Lucky guests of Taj Lake Palace arrive by boat to this white marble palace in the middle of a lake for personalized service, access to a floating courtyard garden, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that, history aside, is simply ethereal.
The Oldest Hotel in the Middle East
WHERE: Isfahan, Iran
A true architectural gem, many also call the Abbasi Hotel the region’s most beautiful hotel. It’s great sprawling design, repeating geometric patterns, ornate paintings, and keen color schemes are a result of the Safavid-era splendor of the early 1700s. Since those days, it’s always been a sort of hotel, built first to house merchants traveling the Silk Road. From romantic al fresco dining in the inner garden to the rich, detailed interiors replete with Persian symbols and ornaments, this hotel is truly a work of art.
The Oldest Hotel in the Caribbean
WHERE: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
A sprawling pale yellow building on the edge of Old San Juan, Hotel El Convento was built in 1646 as a Carmelite convent, and is technically the oldest hotel in the Caribbean and the United States—at least as far as buildings go. The original architecture shines at Hotel El Convento, with mahogany-beamed ceilings, generous hallways and inner terraces, and a dramatic main entrance. More layers of antiques and artistic touches added throughout the centuries build up the hotel’s character.
The Oldest Hotel in Mexico
WHERE: Oaxaca, Mexico
A luxury hotel and landmark, Quinta Real is steps away from Oaxaca’s historic center and the building (originally the Convento de Santa Catalina de Siena) has been standing since the mid-sixteenth century. With its lovingly restored frescoes and romantic gardens, the atmosphere here is unparalleled (and the service isn’t shabby, either).
The Oldest Hotel in Spain
WHERE: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
A network of paradors—state-run luxury hotels often converted out of castles, monasteries, and other historic buildings—make up some of the best stays in Spain, especially in rural and mountainous areas offering gorgeous panoramic views. Parador Santiago de Compostela dates back to 1499, when it was founded to house travelers making pilgrimage to the sacred city, which is the burial place of apostle St. James and the concluding destination of the many travelers who journey along Spain’s famed Camino de Santiago.
The Oldest Hotel in France
WHERE: Montussan, France
Similar to the Spanish paradors, a dozen well-preserved historic chateaus dot the French countryside, renovated as relaxing accommodations for lucky travelers making their way through France. Chateau La Moune, just outside of Bordeaux, dates back to the 13th century, when the castle was home to local royalty. The country villa, surrounded by vineyards, woods, and finely manicured gardens is now an intimate bed and breakfast with a swimming pool and spa.
The Oldest Hotel in Rome
WHERE: Rome, Italy
The ancient past is everywhere, of course, in the Eternal City, no more so than at the Pantheon, the well-preserved, sacred Roman temple that has been in continuous use for over 2,000 years. Started as the Ram Inn in 1467, Hotel Albergo del Sole al Pantheon has remained so many centuries later a humble hotel across from the Pantheon, a superb location central to Romans and visitors. Stone plaques on the hotel’s outer walls brag of past guests like 16th-century romantic poet Ludovico Ariosto and 19th-century composer Pietro Mascagni.
The Oldest Hotel in Switzerland
WHERE: Interlaken, Switzerland
Hotel Interlaken has been some iteration of a guest house or meeting place since 1323. In the 21st century, it embraces international tastes and modernity with a global menu, a Japanese garden, and chic guest room decor. Basic rooms go for budget prices, where choice lodgings are named for some of the hotel’s most famous guests such as Lord Byron and Felix Mendelssohn.
The Oldest Hotel in Italy
WHERE: San Candido, Italy
Near the Austrian border in the Italian Dolomites, Orso Grigio has been a boarding house for merchants traveling by wagon since 1303. Since the 1700s, generations of the same family have owned and operated it. Rooms are now surprisingly modern, but all the warmth of a quaint mountain village lodge is still here, with hot chocolate, hearty local breakfasts, and a sauna. You’ll see the little gray bear on the building’s signage throughout the area–legend has it, Saint Corbinian (patron saint of San Candido) met a bear here while on his pilgrimage and coaxed the animal into carrying his bag the rest of the way to Rome.
The Oldest Hotel in Germany
WHERE: Bad Neuenahr - Ahrweiler, Germany
Perhaps the most romantic historic stay is the Sanct Peter Inn in the Ahr German Wine Country, a scenic area full of biking trails and touring vineyards. A 13th-century inn, whose longest owners were local Cologne lords, Sanct Peter is home to a highly lauded restaurant and two guesthouses, owned today by a local family that has been in the region for centuries. The original gasthaus, dating back to 1246, houses the restaurant and wine cellar; nearby, two extensions of the hotel give guests more modern (but still charming) accommodations.
The Oldest Hotel in the U.K.
WHERE: Hurley, England
Early guests at the Olde Belle Hotel were typically on their way to the nearby Berkshire Priory; tradition was that innkeepers would ring the hotel’s Sanctus Bell (still hanging outside its doors) to let the monks know a guest would be on his way to the priory soon. Since 1135, the hotel has collected much more history along the way–its secret passageway was used by exiled Catholic royalty during the 17th century. Today, in a quaint town about an hour outside of London, the English country inn offers loads of tradition and warmth.
The Oldest Hotel in Europe
WHERE: Frieburg, Germany
With a pastel facade reminiscent of a Wes Anderson movie, Zum Roten Baeren (Hotel at the Red Bear) is right in the middle of Frieburg’s Oberlinden district, where townsfolk and travelers have gathered to talk and eat for centuries. The hotel actually predates the town of Frieburg itself. Much of the building’s foundation (still visible in the hotel’s cellar) is from the mid-12th century, and the first documents naming it as an inn date to the 1300s. In seven centuries, the quaint Black Forest locale has had 50 landlords and survived its fair share of wars, disasters, and plagues.
The Guinness Book-Certified Oldest Hotel in the World
WHERE: Hayakawa, Japan
This tranquil hot spring and inn has other hotels beat by a few hundred years; the runner-up being the Hoshi Ryokan in Ishikawa Prefecture, another hot spring inn founded by monks in the 700s. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is also one of the oldest continuous businesses in the world, period, and has welcomed guests to Japan’s southern alpine region since 705 A.D. The water source here is even more ancient and ever-flowing, with healing hot water feeding into six special baths for guests. The inn is home to simple rooms with mountain views and elaborate traditional meals prepared by an award-winning chef.