Before the First Millenium
Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan Inn, Japan, is a hot spring hotel that opened in AD 705. It has been run by the same family for 52 generations and is the oldest running hotel in the world. Many of the staff members pass their jobs from family member to family member, and the inn is world famous in the hospitality industry for its unflagging commitment and dedication to protect the business.
Stiftskeller St. Peter, Austria, was established in AD 803 and is the oldest, continually running restaurant in Europe. The restaurant has been host to countless dignitaries over its 1,200-year history, including cardinals, kings and, in more modern times, Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood.
Sean’s Bar, Ireland, opened in AD 900 and is argued to be the oldest bar in Ireland. Sean’s Bar is located in the very heart of the country, on the banks of the River Shannon at its intersection with the Esker Riada — the ancient route carved by glaciers that allowed travellers safe passage across the bog for thousands of years.
The Middle Ages
Weihenstephan Brewery, Germany, started brewing in AD 1040 and has made beer for nearly a thousand years, making it the oldest brewery in the world. Its secret: the brewery makes incredibly delicious beer — the original brew has an incredible 98 percent rating on BeerAdvocate, the site for beer aficionados.
Frapin Cognac, France, started in AD 1270 and makes the epitome of cognac excellence. They do this by not turning to outside growers for grapes, as other producers do, but by growing the grapes themselves. This enables them to apply the most exacting standards of quality control at every level of production, starting with the vines.
The 15th Century and Beyond
The Shore Porters Society, Scotland, have been moving people’s possessions around the world since AD 1498. They were established a few years after Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and missed out on being in the Canterbury Tales by only a hundred years.
Beretta, Italy, has been making firearms since AD 1526 and to this day remains a family owned and operated business. The arms company got its start when the Arsenal of Venice needed 185 barrels for the arquebus, and old hand cannon.
Cambridge University Press, England, has been printing the books we all pretended to read at university since AD 1534. It is the world’s oldest publishing house, working out of the ridiculously prestigious university that bears its name. None other than Henry VIII gave the press the original permission to print ‘all manner of books’.
Since AD 1623, Zildjian, originally from Turkey, has kept rhythm alive through their cymbals. Founded by Avedis Zildjian in Istanbul before his family brought the percussionist company to the U.S., many a famous rock legend has used their equipment including, Ringo Star of the Beatles, Neil Pert of Rush, and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. The company was so instrumental (get it) to the U.S. government that it was granted the manufacturer permission to buy copper during the resource-starved period of World War II.
Royal Delft, Netherlands, is an earthenware company that has been making fine pottery since AD 1653. It is claimed to be the fanciest pottery on the planet and comes from a single earthenware factory in the fairytale town of Delft. The style is so intertwined with the city that it’s called Delftware, and it is the only company with a seal approval from the Dutch Royal Family. The elegant blue-and-white vases, pots and bowls are a part of the Dutch identity.
Finally, how about some tea? Since AD 1706, the Twinings Tea Company, England, has produced the national drink. According to reports, founder Thomas Twining’s Gunpowder Green Tea sold for the equivalent of US$260 (VND5.6 million) per 100 grams back in the 18th century. Twinings has longevity in more than one way — the company has been located at the same London address since it opened in 1706, and it has the oldest corporate logo still in use.