When planning a vacation, many travelers seek comfort, luxury, and a touch of history and culture. For those who wish to walk in the footsteps of history, staying in some of the world’s oldest hotels can be a captivating experience. These establishments have witnessed centuries of events, hosted countless notable guests, and maintained their charm through the ages. Here, we explore the world’s five oldest hotels, each with a unique story to tell, along with the benefits of staying at these venerable institutions, the activities available nearby, and the type of guest each one typically attracts.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan

Open air bath at the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan

Founded in 705 AD, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest hotel in the world. Nestled in the Akaishi Mountains of Japan, this ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) has been run by the same family for over 50 generations. Originally established to offer rest and relaxation to samurai and feudal lords, the hotel has maintained its traditional Japanese hospitality and charm.

Guests can enjoy natural hot spring baths known for their therapeutic properties. The serene environment offers a peaceful retreat, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation. The ryokan provides traditional Japanese cuisine, with meals made from locally sourced ingredients, enhancing the authentic experience.

Nearby Activities: The nearby Akaishi Mountains offer hiking and nature walks, providing breathtaking landscape views. Guests can also visit the ancient shrines and temples scattered throughout the region.

Type of Guest: Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan attracts those seeking tranquility, history enthusiasts, and travelers interested in experiencing authentic Japanese culture and hospitality.

Hōshi Ryokan, Japan

Restful garden at Hoshi Ryokan

Established in 718 AD, Hōshi Ryokan is another ancient Japanese inn in the Ishikawa Prefecture and the world’s second oldest hotel. Legend has it that the ryokan was founded by a disciple of the great Buddhist teacher Taicho Daishi, following a divine vision. The same family has managed Hōshi for 46 generations.

Hōshi Ryokan offers a unique blend of traditional and modern amenities, including exquisite gardens, hot spring baths, and traditional Japanese rooms. The ryokan’s hospitality focuses on mindfulness and relaxation, ensuring guests have a peaceful and refreshing stay.

Nearby Activities: Guests can explore the nearby Hakusan National Park, visit the beautiful Kakusenkei Gorge, or participate in traditional tea ceremonies. The region is also known for its cultural festivals and local crafts.

Type of Guest: This ryokan appeals to those interested in spiritual retreats, nature lovers, and individuals seeking a blend of historical ambiance and modern comfort.

Maids Head Hotel, England

Maids Head Hotel in Norwich

Dating back to the 13th century, the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich, England, boasts a rich history intertwined with the city’s medieval past. Originally an inn for travelers, it has hosted many notable guests, including Queen Elizabeth I in 1587.

The Maids Head Hotel combines historic charm with contemporary amenities. Guests can enjoy elegant rooms, fine dining, and a landmark bar. The hotel’s medieval architecture and antique furnishings create an immersive historical experience.

Nearby Activities: Norwich offers a variety of activities, including tours of the stunning Norwich Cathedral, visits to the medieval Norwich Castle, and exploring the quaint streets of the city’s historic center. The Norfolk Broads, a network of rivers and lakes, are also nearby for boating and nature walks.

Type of Guest: This hotel is ideal for history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and those looking to explore Norwich’s rich heritage and surroundings.

Zum Roten Bären, Germany

The colorful Zum Roten Bären

Located in the heart of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, Zum Roten Bären claims to be the oldest hotel in Germany. Its origins date back to 1120 AD. The hotel has seen the city grow from a small settlement to a bustling cultural hub.

Zum Roten Bären offers a cozy and historic atmosphere with rooms that reflect the charm of medieval Germany. The hotel’s restaurant serves regional cuisine, giving guests a taste of local flavors.

Nearby Activities: Freiburg is known for its beautiful medieval architecture, including the Freiburg Minster. Guests can explore the Black Forest, known for its hiking trails and scenic beauty. The city’s vibrant cultural scene includes museums, galleries, and theaters.

Type of Guest: This hotel attracts those interested in medieval history, foodies, eager to try regional dishes, and outdoor enthusiasts who wish to explore the Black Forest.

The Olde Bell, England


Consider a stay at The Olde Bell when visiting Windsor

The Olde Bell in Hurley, England, was established in 1135 AD as a guesthouse for visitors to a nearby Benedictine monastery. Over the centuries, it has served as a meeting place for monks, a coaching inn, and a historic pub.

The Olde Bell uniquely blends historic charm and modern comfort. The stylish rooms retain elements of the inn’s medieval past. The hotel’s restaurant focuses on farm-to-table dining, with ingredients sourced from local producers.

Nearby Activities: Guests can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Thames Path, explore the historic town of Marlow, or visit nearby Windsor Castle. The surrounding countryside offers numerous walking and cycling trails.

Type of Guest: The Olde Bell appeals to those who appreciate the rustic charm, gourmet dining, and the tranquility of the English countryside.

Staying at one of the world’s oldest hotels offers more than just a place to rest; it provides an immersive journey into history and culture. These hotels have withstood the test of time, offering a unique blend of traditional charm and modern amenities. Whether you’re seeking tranquility in the Japanese mountains, exploring medieval cities in Europe, or enjoying the English countryside, these historic hotels offer a timeless experience that caters to various tastes and interests. For the discerning traveler, staying at one of these venerable establishments promises a night’s sleep and a memorable chapter in their travel story.

Are you ready to plan your next trip and perhaps include a stay at one of these unique properties?  Let me know and I can make sure you have the trip of a lifetime!

Happy Travels!



Looking for more travel inspiration?  Check out these articles:

A Room With a View: 10 World-Class Hotels and Resorts with Unforgettable Views

10 Tourist Traps Worth Visiting

Timeless Elegance: 8 Stays in Historic Castles and Palaces Across Europe