These days, businesses seem to open and close in the blink of an eye. In some areas, it’s rare to see a store that’s been open for more than a few years—let alone a few decades. But despite the instability of running a business, some stores have managed to stick around for a seriously long time. In some places, shoppers buy books or bicycles from the same store their grandparents and great-grandparents frequented—or eat at restaurants that once fed ancient soldiers and explorers. These stores are some of the oldest continuously operating stores in the world—all have broken some kind of record for longevity, whether they’re the oldest store of their kind in the world or their country, and all are still in their original locations.
1. Moravian Book Shop // The Oldest Bookstore in America
Founded in 1745, the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the oldest continuously operating bookstore in America (the Bertrand Bookstore in Portugal opened 13 years earlier, and is generally considered the oldest in the world). While the Moravian started out as a place to buy and print religious texts, it changed with the times, and now sells every book under the sun out of its (significantly expanded) 15,000 square foot shop. Bookstore employees say the shop sometimes feels haunted by its lengthy past—literally. Rumor has it, a friendly ghost haunts the shop, occasionally reminding employees to turn off appliances they’ve left running.
2. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller // The Oldest Restaurant in Austria
St. Peter’s Stiftskeller claims to have been mentioned in a document published all the way back in 803 CE. If that’s true, it’s the oldest restaurant in Austria—and may even be the oldest restaurant in the world. Located within the walls of St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, the restaurant and inn hosted French troops during the Napoleonic wars and is rumored to have served everyone from Christopher Columbus and Charlemagne to Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood.
3. Pearson Cycles // The Oldest Bike Shop in the World
Located in Sutton, London, UK, Pearson Cycles was established in 1860 and has been in the Pearson family for five generations. Founded by Thomas Pearson—who originally opened a blacksmiths, but quickly switched to selling bicycles—the shop is now run by Pearson’s great-great-grandsons Will and Guy Pearson. In 2011, when the historic bike shop opened its second location, Will Pearson told The Telegraph, “We have a slow roll-out program; one store every 150 years.” The shop holds the Guinness World Record for oldest bicycle shop in the world.
4. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan // The Oldest Hotel in the World
Founded in 705 CE in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been run by the same family for 52 generations. The hot spring inn, which is located at the foot of the South Japanese Alps, has served everyone from ancient samurai to modern vacationers for more than a millennium. Known for its luxurious rooms and warm mountain streams, the hotel holds the Guinness World Record for world’s oldest hotel.
5. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba // The Oldest Pizzeria in the World
Originally founded as a food stall in 1738, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba opened its Naples, Italy, restaurant in 1830. Widely credited as the oldest pizzeria in the world, the historic restaurant used lava rocks from Mount Vesuvius to line its ovens. Though Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba by no means invented the pizza, its founders helped transform the cheap street food into a fine dining experience.
6. Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy // The Oldest Pharmacy in the World
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy was established by Dominican monks in 1221, which means it has been providing the city of Florence, Italy, with homemade medicines, soaps, and colognes for more than 800 years—and it’s still situated in its original building The pharmacy features vast painted ceilings, a museum, and of course, plenty of products to sample and purchase. One of its most famous products, according to Atlas Obscura, is a smelling salt called Aceto dei Sette Ladri (Seven Thieves Vinegar), which was, according to legend, used by grave robbers to protect themselves from infection during the plague.
7. and 8. Carl’s Drug and C.O. Bigelow // The Oldest Pharmacies in America
There are two stores that claim the title of oldest pharmacy still operating in the United States: Carl’s Drug in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and C.O. Bigelow in New York City. Carl’s Drug claims to have opened its doors in 1825, and, despite a few ownership and location changes along the way, it still sells to the people of Greencastle. The other contender, C.O. Bigelow, has sold medicines and salves from its storefront in New York City’s Greenwich village since 1838. Though it’s not nearly as old as Santa Maria Novella, its nearly 200 years in the heart of the bustling Big Apple mean that plenty of important people have passed through its doors: Over the years, the shop has served the likes of Thomas Edison (who allegedly nursed an injured finger there), Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), filmmaker John Waters, and the glam rocking New York Dolls.
9. R J Balson & Son // The Oldest Butcher Shop in the UK
The Balson family of Bridport, England, has been in the meat business since 1515, when John Balson started selling meat at a local market. The family set up their permanent location in 1880, and is still selling meats and specialty sausages from the same shop. According to its website, “The family joke is that we’ve just never made enough money to be able to retire.” The shop was featured on a 2014 BBC program on Britain’s oldest family businesses (above).
10. The Oldest Sweet Shop // The Oldest Candy Store in the World
The store that is now appropriately known as the Oldest Sweet Shop was originally called “The Old Sweet Shop.” It was founded in 1827 in the town of Pateley Bridge in England. “To me, sweets are all about the memories,” former bank manager Keith Tordoff, who ran the business for a mere two decades, told The Telegraph in a 2013 interview. “You remember sweets from your childhood just like you remember a song. You remember the sweets your grandparents gave you, or giving a packet of Lovehearts to a girl you liked. We had a 97-year-old woman come in to the shop and say the last time she was here she was 5 years old. She said apart from the position of the counter, it hasn’t changed.”
Tordoff sold the shop to customer Ben Howie in 2021. “This business since my childhood has always been a fascination,” Howie told BBC News. “The history and heritage inside this shop is so interesting, everything from the floorboards upwards has history to it.”
11. Le Bon Marché // The Oldest Department Store in the World
If you’ve ever bought a piece of clothing and returned it to get a refund, or enjoyed perusing through products in a mail catalog, you have Le Bon Marché to thank: According to CNN, the Paris-based retailer lays claim to those firsts—as well as the title of the world’s oldest department store. Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut became owners of the shop—then a novelty store located at rue du Bac and rue de Sèvres—in 1852, but they had much grander designs: They wanted to create a “cathedral of modern commerce.” The store moved to its current location at rue de Sèvres and rue Velpeau in 1869, and today, Le Bon Marché is owned by LVMH Group.
A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.