Wherever you are in the world, you’ll always need a place to sleep. It’s one of the things that binds us across cultures, and it’s somehow reassuring to know that however far you are from home, you can usually track down a historic hotel, where people have been laying the head for hundreds of years, sometimes even longer. This is certainly true in the list of ten venues we’ve selected below, featuring some of the oldest hotels on the planet. All still have rooms to reserve and stories to tell.
Parador Santiago de Compostela, Spain
This venue makes up one side of the vast Praza do Obradoiro town square in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain’s Galicia region. In 1499 it was built as a hospital and lodging combination for pilgrims visiting the city, which is the final stop in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. It’s on this basis that the venue claims to be the oldest continually operating hotel in the world. Whether it is or not, what can’t be disputed is the dramatic beauty of the building itself, both the grand façade and the atmospheric interior, which has retained the historical character.
Hōshi Ryokan, Japan
This peaceful ryokan used to be cited by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest hotel, having been founded in 718 AD. But in 2011 the title was given to another ryokan. Still, Hōshi has plenty of fascinating heritage to delve into, as it’s been around over 1,300 years.
The legend surrounding its creation says that the hot springs weaving around the hotel were a gift from the Hakusan mountain gods to help treat human illnesses, and that Buddhist monk Taicho Daishi built Hōshi Ryokan under the instruction of one of the mountain deities. Those luscious, warming springs can still be enjoyed year-round, and there’s also a verdant green garden to wander through.
LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata, India
This upscale resort claims to be the longest continually operating luxury hotel in Asia, having opened in 1840 under the name Auckland Hotel. Before then, the building was used as a bakery in the 1830s for staff of the East India Company. Since opening as a high-end hospitality hotspot, the Lalit has hosted the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Rudyard Kipling, Queen Elizabeth II, Nikita Khruschev and Mark Twain, who called it the “best hotel east of the Suez.”
Orso Grigio, Italy
The building housing Orso Grigio (‘Grey Bear’) dates back to 1303, when it was used by traders passing through the area. Later, the hotel had to endure the brutal conflicts of the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, before being transformed into a military hospital for Austro-Hungarian troops in World War One. The hotel’s owner, Hedwig Hellenstainer, helped care for the troops and was awarded a Military Merit Medal.
Zum Roten Bären, Germany
The historical credentials of this homely inn, lie in its cellar. Here, the rustic stone arches that form part of the foundations are thought to date back to around the year 1000, significantly before Freiberg was founded in 1120. During its time as a hotel, Zum Roten Bären has chalked up over 50 innkeepers and survived various conflicts, including the Thirty Years’ War, fought around Europe from 1618 to 1648.
Beekman Arms & Delamater Inn, United States
This cosy lodging in forest-strewn Hudson Valley claims to be America’s oldest continually operating hotel. The Beekman Arms sprang into existence in 1766, when it was attached to an existing traveller’s tavern from 1704. Back then, the venue was known as the Bogardus Tavern and was active during the American Revolutionary War, when American troops would practice military drills on the front lawn.
Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan
With a founding date of 705 AD, this Japanese inn was officially recognised as the world’s oldest hotel by Guinness World Records in 2011. It was founded by Fujiwara Mahito in the Keiun era and is still run by the same family, 52 generations later. The site is surrounded by natural hot springs, which have been bathed in since the inn was first used, reputedly by heralded samurai warriors in the hotel’s early days.