Restaurants have faced steep hurdles in the past few years, amid a global pandemic, inflation, and staffing shortages. But the industry has always been a challenging one, making the fact that some have lasted decades, centuries, and, in at least one known case, over a millennium all the more impressive.
These historic restaurants have not only welcomed and fed diners, but also acted as community hubs and cultural touchstones. They’ve been a kind of evolving time capsule, preserving and passing down recipes and chronicling history. From a 16th-generation, family-run soba shop in Japan to a former Benedictine monastery in Austria that’s been serving food for over 1,200 years, these historic restaurants are among the world’s oldest.
St. Peter Stiftskulinarium (Salzburg, Austria)
Opened: 803 AD
Located inside Salzburg’s St. Peter’s Abbey — a Benedictine monastery founded in the 7th century — St. Peter Stiftskulinarium is said to be the oldest restaurant in Europe, and one of the oldest in the world. (A scholar who worked for Charlemagne wrote about it in 803.) Christopher Columbus and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were supposedly patrons, and in 2003, the restaurant celebrated its 1,200th anniversary. Today, guests can book a table in one of St. Peter Stiftskulinarium’s 11 dining rooms for wiener schnitzel and bottles of wine from the well-stocked cellar. stpeter.at
Wurstkuchl (Regensburg, Germany)
Wurstkuchl, or sausage kitchen, has been in business since the Middle Ages. The kitchen first opened — reportedly making boiled meat — when construction was finished on a stone bridge that crossed the Danube River. The bridge is still in use now, and the restaurant sells thousands of house-made pork sausages cooked over a charcoal grill, alongside sauerkraut from their on-site fermentation cellar and mustard made with a longstanding proprietary recipe. wurstkuchl.de
The Old House 1147 (Maesteg, Wales)
First opened as a pub in the 12th-century, the Old House once served patrons traditional pies with peas and potatoes. In more recent years, the charming stone building has hosted luminaries like Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and David Bowie. After a multi-year renovation, the Old House 1147 reopened in 2019 as a wedding venue and restaurant, with more varied dishes like Welsh rarebit mac and cheese and Massaman curry alongside classic pies filled with beef, lamb, and chicken. theoldhouse1147.co.uk
Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House (Kaifeng, China)
Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House is said to have opened in the Jin Dynasty, with origins of selling roasted chickens at a market. In 2007, the business was named an intangible cultural heritage of Henan Province by UNESCO.
Honke Owariya (Kyoto, Japan)
Located inside an unadorned wooden building in Kyoto, Honke Owariya is not only one of the best places for a bowl of soba, it’s also one of the oldest restaurants in Japan. First opened in 1465 as a confectionery shop, the now-16th-generation, family-run shop sells its signature soba mochi (created by the 13th generation) and other specialties like cold soba with shiitake mushrooms, shredded omelet, shrimp tempura, nori, and Japanese leeks, swimming in broth made from fresh Kyoto spring water. honke-owariya.co.jp
Zur Letzten Instanz (Berlin, Germany)
Berlin’s oldest restaurant has roots as a brandy tavern dating back to 1621 and has hosted Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlie Chaplin, and, more recently, Jake Gyllenhaal. The charming spot has wooden booths, a brick floor and 200-year-old tiled stove, and an outdoor beer garden surrounded by ancient trees. urletzteninstanz-com.translate.goog
Union Oyster House (Boston, Mass.)
Boston is home to a long list of American historical sites, including Union Oyster House. Part of the Freedom Trail just a stone’s throw from Faneuil Hall, the red brick restaurant specializes in oysters, of course, but also clam chowder, lobster rolls, and fish and chips. In the restaurant’s upstairs dining room, the dark wooden “Kennedy Booth” commemorates J.F.K.’s favorite table. unionoysterhouse.com
White Horse Tavern (Newport, Rhode Island)
Newport’s White Horse Tavern has the distinction of being the oldest operating restaurant in the U.S., and was named a national historic landmark. The building itself has changed little over the years, though it was restored in the 1950s to preserve its Colonial-era architecture. The menu looks a little different these days, though, with plates of halloumi and crispy pork belly on offer alongside local seafood specialties and beef Wellington. whitehorsenewport.com
Restaurante Botín (Madrid, Spain)
Like many other starving artists who came before and after, Francisco de Goya waited tables before he got accepted to art school — for the 19th-century painter, it was at Madrid’s Restaurante Botín. Ernest Hemingway wrote about the restaurant’s famed suckling pig and Rioja in his novel The Sun Also Rises, and legendary Mexican author Alfonso Reyes mentions the dish, and the age-old clay pots where they cooked, in his book Minutes, Memories of Kitchen and Cellar. It’s still on the menu today, with tapas and seafood dishes. botin.es
Rules Restaurant (London, England)
In a city filled with historic restaurants, Rules is London’s oldest. The Eduardian-era establishment was once frequented by Charles Dickens, HG Wells, and Laurence Olivier and has been featured in the works of writers Graham Greene and Dorothy Sayers. Today, visitors can get a taste of classic London cuisine with steak and kidney pie, smoked eel, and plenty of game-centric dishes like braised venison and whole roasted grouse. rules.co.uk