History junkies, right this way.
There’s a reason 14.7 million people visit the pyramids each year, 10 million people journey to St. Peter’s Basilica, and over seven million take in Athens’ Parthenon: aside from the fact that they’re architecturally stunning, these destinations are also old. Very, very, old. There’s a mystical, thrilling quality to stepping foot on the same grounds as individuals who were there centuries before. If you get the goosebumps finding out the doorway you just walked through dates back to the 17th century or the stained glass in the window is circa Gothic period, then the next leg of your journey as a history junkie should be the world’s oldest shops.
Dissimilar to cathedrals and ancient temples, it’s arduous to track down shops that have been in continuous operation for centuries. Fires, earthquakes, world wars, financial instability, and just about every other issue that business owners encounter make staying open for several lifetimes a huge feat. Thankfully, some have managed to do it and they offer a diverse smattering of objects ranging from the traditional book shop to the odd (but wonderful) pickle stand. Here are 20 of the world’s oldest shops from around the world.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Salzburg, Austria, 12th Century
Stiftsbäckerei St. Peter is a tranquil bakery in Salzburg, Austria, that dates back to the 12th Century. For hundreds of years, it has focused on the wood-fire production of black bread with natural sourdough and prides itself on allowing patrons to watch the baking process. Don’t miss the old water mill wheel near the entrance as well as the St. Peter Monastery it’s affiliated with.
WHERE: Florence, Italy, 1221
Tucked away on Via della Scala in Florence, Italy lays Santa Maria Novella, a pharmacy that Dominican friars founded in 1221. Monks began selling rose water on the property toward the end of the 14th century, which was formulated to combat plagues such as the black death. They even supplied the Medici family. The pharmacy is well-known for its apothecary shop that offers its Antisterica water and other compelling concoctions.
Oldest Pickle Shop
WHERE: Bejing, China,1530
If chomping down on a pickle with a history that dates back to 1530 sounds appealing, then book your next flight to Bejing. Lubiju Pickle and Sauce Shop in Quianmen offers non-brined pickles that have been cured in myriad tasty seasonings. It’s a destination that should be added to every foodie’s bucket list.
Oldest Liquor Store
WHERE: Charleston, South Carolina, 1686
The city of Charleston was established in 1670. A mere sixteen years later, a liquor store was founded on the corner of East Bay and Exchange Street—and it never left. The Tavern is a popular tourist destination and is conveniently located next door to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Go here to take a photo outside the petite structure and head inside for their monthly tastings or bottle of local spirits.
Oldest Tea Shop
WHERE: Uji, Japan, 1672
Tsuen Tea was founded in Uji, Japan (near Kyoto) back in 1160 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Their current tea shop was built in 1672 and is on the same grounds as the 12th-century tea shop and tea room. The historic property is situated on the east side of the Uji Bridge, which is a popular destination for travelers. While in the neighborhood, take a cruise down the Uji River and visit the Tale of Genji Museum to learn about the bridge’s storied past.
Oldest Wine Shop
WHERE: London, England, 1698
There’s nothing quite like supplying the royal family with wine to cement your status as a bonafide merchant. Berry Bros and Rudd was established in 1698 in London and has operated throughout the times of King George II, Napoleon III, both world wars, and the RMS Titanic’s sinking (they had 69 cases of wine aboard the ship). Fun fact: The shop was started by a woman, known only by her last name of “Bourne.” She was both a widow and a mother, and had at least two daughters—but this is all that is known about her.
Oldest Coffee Shop
WHERE: Oxford, England, 1654
On the corner of Queen’s Lane and High Street in Oxford, England there’s a quaint coffee shop called Queen’s Lane. It was established in 1654, which they’ll be sure to remind you was well before the naming of New York, the Great Plague, and even the Fire of London. There are no bells and whistles to be found here, just a decent cup of coffee with a very old story to go with it.
Oldest Cigar Shop
WHERE: Paris, France, 1716
Parisian cigar shop A La Civette was founded in 1716. Though the store has remained on the same corner for over 300 years, its current location goes back to 1854. The company counts Casanova, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Winston Churchill as customers and offers cigars from all over the world, including Cuba.
Oldest Book Shop
WHERE: Lisbon, Portugal, 1732
Livraria Bertrand holds the Guinness record for the world’s oldest operating bookshop. Peter Faure opened its doors in Lisbon in 1732. The Bertrand brothers took over the shop decades after its opening and went on to secure their own printing press and develop their own signature font (used for the signage of the store). Bookworms, don’t sleep on this one.
Oldest Chocolate Shop
WHERE: Paris, France, 1761
À la Mère de Famille has been serving sweet treats (chocolate, to be precise) since 1761. The Parisian chocolatier existed through some of the city’s most glittering periods, including La Belle Epoque, and is located in the Montmartre neighborhood, famed for its artistic residents including Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Toulouse. Its storefront is listed as a historical monument.
Oldest Hat Shop
WHERE: London, England, 1765
In 1765, hat-maker James Lock opened Lock & Co. Hatters on St James’s Street in London. He designed hats for English aristocracy and military leaders and the brand even created the now-iconic bowler hat. Other notable patrons include Oscar Wilde, Theodore Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, and Charlie Chaplin. They still offer private appointments in their 17th-century townhouse at No. 6 St. James’s Street for those in search of the perfect topper.
Oldest General Store
WHERE: Adamsville, Rhode Island, 1788
Gray’s General Store opened its doors in 1788 in Adamsville, Rhode Island, the year before America’s first president would be elected. It featured a stunning old-fashioned marble soda fountain (photographs of it still hang inside) as well as assorted goods of the time. After 225 years, the store closed but was swiftly revived in 2013 and remains open to the public, selling antiques and other household items like books, dishware, and furniture.
Oldest Candle Shop
WHERE: Lisbon, Portugal, 1789
Caza das Vellas Loreto, the candle shop located in Lisbon, Portugal that’s been around since 1789, is a magical sight to behold. The store was founded on the same day the French Revolution began and walking through the wood-paneled rooms feels like a step back in time (or a walk around the set of a Harry Potter movie).
Oldest Tobacco Shop
WHERE: Cape Town, South Africa, 1793
In Cape Town’s cobblestone Greenmarket Square one of the oldest surviving shops remains open: Sturk’s Tobacconist. It’s been in operation since 1793 and faint whispers of its past can be spotted inside, including their scale that’s over 200 years old. Though attention has been called to the fact that business has decreased due to health restrictions for smoking, it’s still worth paying a visit if you’re in the neighborhood, if only to check out the cool pipes.
Oldest Cheese Shop
WHERE: London, England, 1797
Winston Churchill once mused that “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield.” Britain’s self-proclaimed “leading cheesemonger” has been around since 1797 and has served Londoners mouthwatering cheddar, gruyere, manchego, and beyond for over 200 years.
Oldest Butcher Shop
WHERE: Chianti, Italy, 1806
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the Chianti region of Italy, make a pit stop at Antica Macelleria Falorni, a butcher that’s been in business since 1806 thanks to the Falorni family. The store maintains an “ancient bottega atmosphere” with white marble counters and wooden shelves and serves up high-quality cold cuts using traditional practices and recipes.
Oldest Tamale Shop
WHERE: Bogotá, Colombia, 1816
La Puerta Falsa is a humble tamale shop in Bogotá, Colombia that’s been a locals’ favorite since its inception in 1816. Small in size, the two-floor building mirrors the Barrio La Candelaria colonial architecture that gives the neighborhood its signature charm. If you’re in town, it would be a sin not to stop by.
Oldest Stationery Shop
WHERE: Venice, Italy, 1851
A short stroll from Venice’s iconic Peggy Guggenheim museum, you’ll find the city’s oldest paper shop, Legatoria Piazzesi. Since 1851, this neighborhood gem has supplied residents with artisanal paper products and even offers onsite book-binding and hand-printing.
Oldest Trading Post Shop
WHERE: Northland, New Zealand, 1836
The Stone Store’s origins as a trading post date back to 1836 in Northland, New Zealand. It’s been said that “you could buy anything from a needle to an anchor” at the Stone Store and they continue to offer a diverse range of goods, including items that are reminiscent of the 19th century (when it was founded).
Oldest Art Supplies Shop
WHERE: Paris, France, 1887
During the 19th century, Paris’s Left Bank was a hub for creatives. Just before the turn of the century (in 1887), Gustave Sennelier founded his eponymous art supplies shop. In his store, he produced paints for local artists including Cezanne, Soutine, and Picasso. The next time you’re visiting The City of Lights, pay a visit to Sennelier to survey the vast range of vibrant palettes created by this master of color.