Inside The World’s 10 Oldest Restaurants
Not all restaurants come and go. Some of the world’s oldest date back centuries—and are still going strong, proud of their vintage, colorful, history-filled status.
In the culinary world, the birth of a world-renowned restaurant can often be followed by relatively short lifespan. El Bulli, for instance, previously named the best restaurant in the world, shuttered its doors after only a few decades. And studies show that—today—ninety percent of restaurants that make it past the five year mark will only operate for a minimum of ten years total, making a 1,200-year-old restaurant seem downright impossible. Still, a handful of centuries-old establishments have survived and housed some pretty phenomenal history.
From an Austrian restaurant founded by monks at the end of the Dark Ages to a tavern that saw the early constructs of the United States government, the Daily Beast has rounded up the 10 oldest restaurants currently operating throughout the world.
1. Stiftskeller St. Peter. Salzburg, Austria. Est. 803
Surprisingly, the world’s oldest restaurant—Stiftskeller—is still housed amongst its original structure in St. Peter’s Abbey. The Austria-based restaurant was first noted by the scholar and monk Albuin, who was a devout follower of Charlemagne.
While the structure has been renovated and expanded numerous times, some of the numerous dining rooms, often decorated in grand baroque style and vintage chandeliers, are still carved into the stone cliffs adjacent to the Abbey’s original structure and has served royals, dignitaries and celebrities, for centuries.
Most recently, Karl Lagerfeld hosted a grand fête celebrating the premier of his film Reincarnation. In addition to the historic landscape, Stiftskeller is also famed for its weekly Mozart-themed dinners in which performers in period costume replay Salzburg’s most famous musician.
2. Bianyifang. Beijing, China. Est. 1416
While Bianyifang no longer operates from its establishing structure—a small workshop which produced duck and chicken food—it still holds its title as the oldest Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing, carrying on the tradition that started during the Ming Dynasty.
3. Zum Franziskaner. Stockholm, Sweden. Est. 1421
Founded by German monks in present-day Old Town Stockholm, Zum Franziskaner has become a legend amongst locals and tourists. While not in its original structure (it has been rebuilt numerous times), the current building dates back to 1906 and still boasts the same brew from the day it opened in 1421. Throughout the years it has also served as a sailor tavern and a high-end restaurant.
4. Honke Owariya. Kyoto, Japan. Est. 1465
What started as a confectionary is now the oldest know restaurant in Japan. Still renowned for their desserts, Honke Owariya has been serving monks, shoguns and emperors its more famous soba dishes for hundreds of years. For those unfamiliar, soba is buckwheat noodle dish—and they proved much more popular amongst the public.
Today, the Imperial family can be found dining at Honke Owariya upon their return from Tokyo. But don’t let that intimidate your visit—locals love the outpost set within a quiet, quintessentially Kyot, street just south of the Imperial palace. Its beautifully aged wooden exterior houses traditional floor seating and beautiful gardens typical of the area.
5. La Tour d’Argent. Paris, France. Est. 1582
Be prepared to dine like Parisian royalty when visiting the Michelin rated La Tour d’Argent, which claims to have once been frequented by King Henri IV. Impeccable views of Notre Dame Cathedral can be enjoyed alongside some quintessential French fare—roasted ducklings (which are raised on their private farm and come with a numbered certificate), pâté, and poisson (fish). The restaurant even inspired the 2007 film Ratatouille.
The wine cellar—one of the best in the world—survived World War II and is guarded around the clock. It houses more than 450,000 bottles of 15,000 elixirs within its collection valued at 25 million euros in 2009.
6. Zur letzten Instanz. Berlin, Germany. Est. 1621
Mention of this East Berlin eatery has been documented as far back as 1561, but it wasn’t developed into a tavern until 1621. Having served everyone from Napoleon and Beethoven to Angela Merkel and international dignitaries in the years since, Zur Letzten Instanz has definitely endured a lot of history.
The building is a block from the historic Berlin Wall, which divided the city’s communist-controlled East and free West and is one of the few remaining houses that adjoined the old town wall, now a crumbling medieval structure. The building had to be rebuilt in 1963 after extensive damage from the Second World War was finally deemed irreparable.
Known as the oldest operating tavern in the United States, Newport’s White Horse Tavern holds all the typical New England charm and history while serving delectable dishes from its current culinary team.
Founded in 1673, it soon became a meeting place for the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council and became billed as the “birthplace of the Businessman’s lunch” when public officials would often charge their meals to the city treasury.
One of its first owners, William Mayes, Jr., was a well-known pirate, which embarrassed the British troops who had taken over Colonial Newport amid the American Revolution. Mayes’ tom-foolery only gave him brief control over the tavern before his sister took over.
For a brief period in the late 19th century, White Horse Tavern became a rooming house before receiving a massive restoration in the mid-1900s thanks to donations from the Van Beuren family. It re-opened as a tavern in 1957 under guidance of the Newport Historical Society and has served traditional American fare to locals and tourists ever since.
8. A la Petite Chaise. Paris, France. Est. 1680
Guarded by its original iron gate, A la Petite Chaise is the second Parisian eatery on our list of historical dining spots and serves textbook-perfect examples of French classics.
Since its establishment in the late seventeenth century by Georges Rameau, a wine merchant, it has been a central meeting spot for political, social and artistic circles, hosting impromptu cabaret acts, heated political discussions—sometimes ending in arrest, and literary readings by prominent writers such as Colette.
9. Botín. Madrid, Spain. Est. 1725
Technically Botín is the oldest operating restaurant, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, but it actually sits towards the end of our list.
Its official status as the grandpa of eateries could be due to its extensive literary documentation—everyone from Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) to Frederick Forsyth (Icon and the Cobra) and James Michener (Iberia) have made mention of the Castilian-style restaurant and its rich history.
Popular dishes include suckling pig, roast lamb and baby eels, often cooked within the restaurant’s original wood-fired oven. According to some rumors, Goya was once on staff before his fame as a Spanish painter.
10. Fraunces Tavern. New York, NY. 1762
In terms of American history, New York City’s Fraunces Tavern has played a pretty prominent role in shaping the future landscape of the United States.
First named the Queen’s Head by Samuel Fraunces, who purchased the former mansion from New York City Mayor Stephanus van Cortlandt’s son-in-law, the Georgian-style building was an early meeting place for the Sons of Liberty—a secret society who fought to protect the rights of colonists.
By the time the American Revolution had fully reared its head, General George Washington had taken residency in the building, making it his formal headquarters and eventually using the facility to negotiate peace with the British as well as form the early constructs of the United States’ government.
Today, Fraunces Tavern operates as a whiskey bar and restaurant, serving traditional American fare from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport.