13 Nov THE OLDEST HOTELS IN THE WORLD
Since ancient times, hotels have provided shelter to travelers seeking for a break on their journeys. Today, most of us look for hotels with luxurious amenities and impeccable service for dream vacations. There are, however, less luxurious hotels in the world, but loaded with history and old stories, which transport guests to other times. Did you know, for example, that the oldest hotel in the world, still open today, is over 1000 years old? We invite you to explore together some of the oldest hotels in the world, true sources of inspiration, including for interior design lovers.
Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan
Recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest hotel in the world, this traditional Japanese hot spring inn has been welcoming guests since 705 AD. Set amidst mountain scenery, the hotel has been run by the same family for 52 generations.
The hotel was designed towards the end of the Asuka period, the architectural style overlapping elements from the Asuka period and the Heian period. Nearby, sculptures dedicated to the sumo wrestler Hitachiyama Taniemon were erected, as well as Japan’s largest Matsuo Basho monument.
During the renovation in 1997, the hotel retained its original appearance designed by the founder Fujiwara Mahito. The traditional washitsu interior design has also been preserved, including traditional tatami flooring, sliding wooden lattice doors called shōji, and a tokonoma that includes hand-crafted historical artwork. The interior rooms have futon mattresses placed on tatami mats for sleeping hours, cushioned seating known as zabuton, and traditional low tables called kotatsu.
Hōshi Ryokan, Japan
Another ancient Japanese inn, Hoshi Ryokan has been opening its doors to guests since 718 AD. Located in Awazu – Ishikawa Prefecture, it offers a serene atmosphere, beautiful gardens and traditional hospitality. Originally opened as a sanatorium, today it is a place of leisure where the benefits of the thermal springs can be appreciated.
As the years have passed, the establishment has gradually become more modern, but has not lost the characteristic charm of traditional Japanese hotels. Hōshi Ryokan has now 70 bedrooms, decorated in the same minimalist Japanese style, with tatami mats, wooden shoji and washi paper sliding doors, futon mattresses and traditional pillows filled with rice grains.
All rooms overlook a beautiful Japanese garden with cedars and pines surrounded by bright green moss. The garden preserves the style of its creator, in the Edo period, who wanted to create the impression of a night spent in the heart of the forest. Here you can also admire the Enmeikaku pavilion, built of cypress wood during the Meiji period (1869-1912), which received members of the imperial family.
Maids Head Hotel, UK
Opened in 1090, this 84-room hotel is said to be the oldest in the UK. This assessment is based on the testimonies left by the first Norman bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losinga, who had his original palace here.
Each hotel room is unique and decorated differently, with over 100-year-old furniture. The hotel bar has Jacobean oak paneling and is said to have been frequented by guests such as Horatio Nelson and Edith Cavell. The legends even speak of a visit by Queen Elizabeth I to the hotel in 1587.
Currently, the hotel also includes modern rooms, decorated in a contemporary style with small vintage accents. Besides, the Maids Head Hotel has had a new owner since 2012 who has embarked on a major refurbishment program to ensure this historic building meets the expectations of 21st century guests.
Zum Roten Bären, Germany
Opened in 1120, Zum Roten Bären is known as one of the oldest hotels in Europe. Moreover, it appears to be even older than the city in which it is located, having been built around 300 years before the city of Freiburg was founded.
It witnessed the great plague epidemic of the 14th century, the witch huntings, peasant revolutions and revolts, the Thirty Years’ War and the two World Wars. At one point, it briefly belonged to the territory of France. 51 owners and dozens of renovations later, the hotel bears the same name as it first appeared in official documents in 1387, and the basement still displays original artwork and architecture.
Archaeological investigations show that there used to be a manor here that once belonged to the court of Count Zähringer. This manor formed the nucleus of the settlement at the foot of the Schloßberg, on which Berthold II built his castle around 1090. Subsequent discoveries prove that Zum Roten Bären was used as an inn as early as the 12th century. Over time, the Romanesque house became an imposing Renaissance building. And after the battles of 1744, when the French blew up Vauban’s fortifications while retreating from Freiburg, the Romanesque-Gothic arched house was demolished and today’s Baroque building was built. On the facade of today’s house, at the base of a renaissance painting in pastel colors, you can still see the seals of the hotel’s hosts from that time.
The Olde Bell, UK
Dating back to 1135 AD, The Olde Bell is located in Hurley, Berkshire. This charming hotel features a mix of historic and contemporary elements, with wooden beams, cozy fireplaces and stylish modern rooms. Its idyllic setting, charming architecture and design as a contemporary interpretation of the traditional inn offers a quintessentially English experience, captivating visitors with a sense of history and nostalgia.
The Olde Bell first opened its doors as a guest house for visitors to the nearby Benedictine Priory. For hundreds of years, the Sanctus bell announced the monks that an important visitor had arrived in the village and would be staying at the monastic house by the River Thames. The Sanctus bell still hangs above the hotel door today, a sign of welcoming to travelers.
In its heyday, the hotel hosted as many royalty as commoners, and served as a meeting place for Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II. The secret tunnel leading from the hotel to the monastery (which can still be seen today) was the place where plans were hatched in the 17th century to overthrow Jacob II.
The Angel & Royal Hotel, UK
Established in 1203 AD, this Lincolnshire hotel has hosted many monarchs throughout history and combines old world charm with modern conveniences. The Angel and Royal Hotel is represented by a series of buildings surrounding an inner courtyard open at both ends to allow the passage of carriages and horses when the hotel still functioned as an inn.
Formerly called the Angel Inn, this popular stopover on the London to Edinburgh route was built as a boarding house for the Knights Templar. Among the guests of the hotel were King John, Richard III, Edward III, Charles I and George IV, but also the heir to the throne Prince of Wales Edward, after whose stay in 1866 the hotel name was was modified to include the word “royal”.
In 2020, the hotel was taken over by a new owner who began an extensive renovation project, which included the installation of a new wooden floor on the ground floor, replacing all beds, carpets and curtains, redecorating every room, as well as refurbishing the bathrooms, fitting an elevator and setting up a bar on the first floor. The new owner hopes to restore the hotel to its former glory and shine.
Visiting one of the oldest hotels in the world can be a truly fascinating experience. These historical gems offer a unique blend of charm, heritage, and captivating stories. Each ancient hotel has its own charm and allure, so it’s worth researching and finding one that aligns with your interests and preferences.