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10 Tourist-Friendly Businesses Open 275 Years Or Longer
While it can be comforting to grab a pumpkin spice latte a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, there are richer travel experiences to be had if you opt for authenticity, and few things are more authentic than long traditions. Sipping cappuccino at the world’s oldest café in Venice (pictured) or tucking into some roast suckling pig in Madrid like a character in a Hemingway novel, you realize that history isn’t always a thing of the past. Here we focus on some establishments around the world that have been trading for at least 275 years—or even as long as a millennium.
La Maison Stohrer, Paris
There may be more famous pastry shops in Paris and certainly those that are trendier, but none that are older than Stohrer. The maison’s roots go back to royalty: Stohrer was the personal pastry chef of Marie Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV. Stohrer moved to Versailles in 1725, then five years later opened his own pastry shop in its current location in the foodie haven of rue Montorgueil. The place retains a classic French ambience—fussy but irresistible—and you could almost imagine Balzac dropping in for a rhum baba (a cake saturated with liquor), which was invented here. One of the house specialties is the religieuse, a fancy élcair affair filled with either alternating vanilla and strawberry or coffee and chocolate. Everything is delicious, from the homemade chocolate croissants to Stohrer’s own range of fine chocolates.
By 69joehawkins (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bertrand bookstore, Lisbon
There wasn’t a whole lot that made it through the terrible 1755 Lisbon earthquake unscathed, but this special place, the world’s oldest known bookstore, miraculously did. Located in the center of the city’s well-heeled Chiado neighborhood, Bertrand first opened its doors in 1732 and emerged from a renovation in 2015 as brimming with books as ever. If you don’t speak Portuguese, don’t worry: There’s a fine selection of English-language books too, including translations of works by noted Portuguese scribes such as poet Fernando Pessoa and Nobel laureate José Saramago. The Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto is more famous on account of its intricate Art Nouveau décor, but Bertrand is far older.
Ichimonjiya Wasuke, Kyoto, Japan
So you thought your corner donut shop has been around for a while, and maybe it has, but this specialist Japanese confectionary in Kyoto has been dishing up savory aburi mochi since the year 1000 and is in its 25th generation of family ownership. The main event is a mini sticky rice cake, roasted and warm and said to fend off sickness and evil spirits. We don't know if that's true, but they're definitely less sweet and less fattening than doughnuts. A competitor across the lane, Kazariya, is the upstart on the block—it’s only been serving aburi mochi since 1656.
Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Most of the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s fragrance and cosmetic products make use of local Tuscan ingredients, a tradition going back to the Middle Ages when monks cultivated herbs for medicinal purposes. In fact, the Acqua di Rose toner sold today traces its roots to a rosewater antiseptic the monks made to help disinfect Florentine homes during the mid-14th-century plague. While there are now outposts of the store overseas, this one in Florence is the original. It was in 1612 that monks of the Santa Maria Novella monastery created the eponymous apothecary in the cloister next door. (The delicate walnut wood paneling dates to the 1700s.) These enterprising monks operated under the patronage of Catherine de Medici, for whom they even created a wedding scent. Today you can let your nose be your guide as you browse, or ask knowledgeable shop staff for product recommendations.
Spielwaren-Carl Loebner, Torgau, Germany
Admit it—you always wanted a German teddy bear, didn’t you? Well, you could do worse than to get yourself one from Carl Loebner, Germany’s oldest toy store, founded in 1685 in Munich. Historically the shop was noted for its custom-made dolls (many of which, along with the world’s smallest wooden mannequin, can be seen in the Torgau Museum in Torgau, Germany). The family, which moved operations to the present gingerbread-style building in Backerstrasse in 1780, now oversees an emporium featuring their own range of wooden toys as well as leading international toy brands.
Caffè Florian, Venice
Order a humble caffe espresso (for a humble three euro), a fancier Frozen Florian (cold coffee crème with whipped cream for six euro), or a Cioccolata Casanova (hot chocolate with mint cream and chocolate shavings, also six euro)—whatever you choose to imbibe at Florian, the atmosphere’s going to come for free. And there’s lots of it. Floriano Francesconi opened what is said to be the oldest café in Europe in December 1720, making it almost as iconic as the magical location on the south side of Venice's Piazza San Marco. With its sumptuous salons and gourmet café menu, this is always a great place for an elegant time-out from the frenzy of Venice sightseeing. Fun fact: When it opened, Florian was the only public meeting place in Venice where women were served. Consequently Casanova made it his preferred Venetian prowling ground. Florian also sells a small range of its own coffees, teas, and even a signature dark chocolate hot cocoa mix so you can take some of the yum home with you.
Wynand Fockink, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city that can easily be described by stereotypes—the trifecta of pot, prostitutes, and moody art come to mind—but this atmospheric, lost-in-time place seems designed to break with that. It’s a proper Proeflokaal, which is Dutch for a hybrid distillery and tasting tavern. Since 1679, Wynand Fockink has been the go-to spot to sample the best jenever, the Dutch national liquor, made of juniper berry (consider it the first branch on the evolutionary libation tree that ended up in gin). There are some noteworthy liqueurs to try too, such as Bruidstranen (Bride’s Tears) and Volmaakt Geluk (Perfect Bliss). According to tradition, you should bow as you take your first sip.
Twinings Tea Flagship Store, London
Twinings’ tea store in the heart of London at 216 Strand (just east of Westminster) has been trading for over 300 years. Founded in 1706 when Thomas Twining bought Tom’s Coffee House, it’s the oldest shop in the City of Westminster. At a time when coffee swilling still held sway, Twining helped make it fashionable for Londoners to take tea instead. Today, customers can select from hundreds of teas and brewing paraphernalia, savor the full range of leaf choices at a loose tea bar, and steep in the history of the brand in a museum. Take it to the next level by registering for a master class with one of the store's “expert tea ambassadors.”
Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres
Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, France
When we’re all living in the unofficial but pervasive age of IKEA, isn’t it nice to know some places are still making dinnerware the old-fashioned way? That’s certainly the case in little Sèvres, on the western edge of Paris, where a factory has crafted fine porcelain continuously since 1740 (making it slightly older than the more well-known Limoges porcelain). Today it’s been rebranded as the “Cité de la céramique” complex. The site encompasses a museum and boutique where you can peruse and purchase elegant porcelain plates and other ceramic objects—some very contemporary in style—to your heart’s content. The signature Sèvres color is a rich regal blue, which comes from a locally available cobalt oxide that’s mixed into the ceramic glaze.