Top 10 Historic Restaurants and Inns Around the World

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Food… a fundamental element of life, one of the more enjoyable aspects of humanity and reason enough to travel the world.

Different smells and flavours, the heat of the kitchens, the sound of clinking glasses and people’s conversations and white table cloths – the establishment of restaurants has brought this all to life and turned eating into a ritual.

So when a staggering 60 per cent of restaurants do not make it past their first year, it is a testament to their success that some have had a steady stream of customers for centuries.

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Restaurant Botin, Madrid, Spain

2015 marks the 290th anniversary of the world’s oldest restaurant – Restaurant Botin, which opened in Madrid in 1725 and holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. To mark the occasion (and to have an excuse to daydream about food!) we embarked on a journey to find nine other historic restaurants and inns from around the world.

Some of them are much older than the record holder, but cannot claim the title due to their undocumented and sometimes turbulent past.

Restaurante Botin
Restaurant Botin in Madrid. Image Restaurante Botin
Restaurante Botin
Image Restaurante Botin

St. Peter Stiftskeller, Salzburg, Austria

St. Peter Stiftskeller’s history can be traced back to 803 when it served as a meeting place for bishops and merchants but even though its patrons, interior, owners and menu have changed throughout centuries, it is still operating and is considered Central Europe’s oldest inn.

Stiftskeller’s acquired the right to brew beer in 1803 and started serving it alongside their own wine. Today, the restaurant has a state of the art kitchen, offers a contemporary take on old recipes, boasts an intimate interior garden and prides itself on ‘A feast for all the senses’.

St Peter Stiftskeller
The inner courtyard. Image by St. Peter Stiftskeller
St Peter
The exterior. Image by St. Peter Stiftskeller

The Gables, Russell, New Zealand

New Zealand’s oldest operating restaurant, The Gables, was built in 1847 and originally served whalers and traders. Today, the restaurant is famous for seafood and NZ lamb as well as its waterfront location.

The interior has been renovated but it incorporates the original wooden floors and panelling to preserve the traditional cosy feel of the space.

The restaurant’s surroundings are an attraction in themselves and many choose to spend long summer days here enjoying an exquisite meal accompanied by a glass of New Zealand’s finest wine.

The Gables
The 1847 building. Image by The Gables
This view! Image by The Gables
This view! Image by The Gables

L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel, Montreal, Canada

Built in 1688, Auberge Saint-Gabriel was the first inn (or ‘auberge’) in North America to receive a liquor licence in 1754. The building hasn’t always been a restaurant, having temporarily served as a townhouse in the 19th century, but returned to its origins in the early 20th century.

The modern era Auberge Saint-Gabriel serves high-end fare and boasts contemporary décor which tells the history of the restaurant as well as the entire continent.

The main restaurant. Photo by L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel
The main restaurant. Photo by L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel
Sabrevois Hall. Photo by L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel

The Griswold Inn, Essex, Connecticut, USA

The oldest restaurant in Connecticut, the Griswold Inn was established in 1776 and has gone through the hands of six different families. It is one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the USA and apart from serving food in historic dining rooms, it also offers accommodation and live music.

The décor of the ‘Gris’ is maritime; filled with various brass bells and other memorabilia. Sea shanty evenings complete the inn’s nautical charm and keep the traditions alive.

The Griswold Inn
Benson Exterior. Photo by The Griswold Inn
The Griswold Inn
Covered Bridge room. Photo by The Griswold Inn

Criterion Restaurant, London, UK

Established in 1873, Criterion is one of London’s older restaurants and certainly one of the grandest. The neo-Byzantine interior bathed in gold and marble with high ceilings and heavy curtains have witnessed some important historic events including the negotiations of Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. It is also where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a patron of the restaurant, chose as the setting for Sherlock Holmes’ first encounter with Dr Watson.

In recent times Criterion has featured in many film and TV productions and is famed for its exquisite cuisine and memorable charm.

Criterion Restaurant
Criterion Front. Image by Criterion Restaurant
Criterion Terrace. Image by Criterion Restaurant
Criterion Terrace. Image by Criterion Restaurant

Wierzynek Restaurant, Krakow, Poland

The origins of this legendary restaurant go as far back as 1364 when it became famous for hosting the 20-day feast to celebrate the wedding of the granddaughter of King Casimir the Great. The reception, attended by many European dignitaries, was so grand and lavish that it wrote itself into the history books and to this day is an example of splendid Polish hospitality.

Wierzynek today is one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, taking guests on a culinary journey throughout the centuries and serving the best of Polish cuisine.

Column Room. Photo by Restauracja Wierzynek
Column Room. Photo by Restauracja Wierzynek
Pompeian Rooms. Photo by Restauracja Wierzynek
Pompeian Rooms. Photo by Restauracja Wierzynek

The Pig and Whistle Inn, Bathurst, South Africa

The oldest continuously licensed pub in South Africa, The Pig and Whistle, has been in operation since 1832 providing hospitality to travellers and locals alike.

This cosy pub with a wooden bar and 10 traditional bedrooms is located close to the seaside town of Port Alfred in Eastern Cape and fills up with visitors during the peak and off season.

The Historic Pig and Whistle. Image by The Pig and Whistle Inn
The Historic Pig and Whistle. Image by The Pig and Whistle Inn

La Tour d’Argent in Paris, France

According to their own account, La Tour d’Argent was built as an inn around 1582 during the reign of Henry III, who apparently frequented the restaurant after returning from his hunting trips.

Today, the restaurant’s cuisine still focuses on the highest quality of seasonal produce and maintains its stately standards.

The restaurant hall. Photo by La Tour d'Argent
The restaurant hall. Photo by La Tour d’Argent

Cuckoo Restaurant, Melbourne, Australia

The youngest on the list is this Australian establishment located in the Dandenong Ranges overlooking the city of Melbourne. Starting off as a refreshment stop for travellers in 1918, today’s Cuckoo Restaurant is a 450-seat family business.

The name, apparently inspired by the owner hearing a cuckoo calling in the middle of the night, is an apt description of the quirky and slightly wacky interior.

The German-inspired Bavarian style chalet is famed for its smorgasbord offering and lively entertainment.

The Bavarian-style restaurant. Photo by Cuckoo Restaurant
The Bavarian-style restaurant. Photo by Cuckoo Restaurant

Featured image by The Gables

Top 10 Historic Restaurants and Inns Around the World was last modified: April 27th, 2016 by Marta Safin
Author: Marta Safin (74 posts)

Marta loves coffee, travels and motorbikes. Coincidentally, the three go very well together so she writes about them on her blog, My Daily Grind.