Take A Trip To The World's Oldest Restaurant Ever In This Stunning Town

Crammed among a maze of rustic pubs and cerveza joints on Calle de Cuchilleros is an old Spanish tavern with a history as intriguing as its cuisine. What started out as a small dream planted on the streets of Madrid has flourished into four floors of archaic dining rooms and kitchen space. According to Food & Wine Magazine, Sobrino de Botín holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest restaurant in the world. The history of this eating house dates back nearly 300 years, to the 18th century when the term "restaurant" was reserved only for exclusive establishments that mimicked traditional Parisian bistros. Recognized by some of the world's most respectable writers and journalists, Botín even received an honorable mention by Forbes as one of the world's top classic restaurants.

Embracing its French and Spanish heritage, Botín encompasses everything that a traditional Spanish tavern should be, retaining its original style and charm that pays homage to the long line of chefs who have kept the oven flames flickering for centuries without rest. Warm wooden vintage doors give way to a traditional Spanish-style interior, marked by checkered tile floors and worn white tablecloths. Pockets of light flood the dining room from a collection of antique chandeliers floating from the ceiling's exposed wooden beams. While nicknamed a "tourist trap" by some, Botín's food speaks for itself with a long line of hungry visitors each night, eager to snatch a free table at this enduring and iconic restaurant.

A restaurant with a tale as old as time

It's not just Botín's prime location in the heart of Madrid that keeps a steady flow of traffic angling for its tables. Rather, it's the generations of family members who have kept the tavern afloat since opening day in 1725. Following King Philip II's commission to move the royal court to Madrid in the 16th century, a French cook who went by the name of Jean Botín arrived in the streets of Madrid with a dream of opening his own casita. In 1725, Botín's nephew refurbished the ground floor of the inn and opened the doors to the newly renovated 18th-century tavern under the moniker Casa Botín. 

Over the centuries, Botín has flourished as a dining space that spoils guests with its cuisine, even beckoning iconic figures such as Francisco de Goya and Ernest Hemingway to its tables. The polychrome frieze and coal-burning oven that still stand today are the same instruments that saw Hemingway draft "The Old Man and the Sea" and watched Goya scrub dishes while waiting for his pending acceptance to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The owners of Botín grew so fond of Hemingway that they permanently reserved a second-floor table for the writer himself. Hemingway's love for the tavern was evident, so much so that his novel "The Sun Also Rises" is set within the walls of his beloved workspace. It wasn't until the 20th century that this small, family-owned tavern fell into the hands of the Gonzales family, the current owners of Botín Restaurant.

Impeccable cuisine

You'll be far-fetched to find another restaurant whose oven flames haven't been extinguished for nearly 300 years. In one interview with Botín's deputy manager, Luis Javier Sanchez, the manager went as far as calling the wood-burning oven the "crown jewel" of the establishment. Nearly all of Botín's best and brightest signature dishes are baked to perfection in the flickering flames. With an emphasis on Castilian-Leonese cuisine, the restaurant draws heavily from stews and asados, reinventing the classics with their own flair and style. Their signature dishes include roasted lamb and suckling pig, served alongside a crispy side of roasted potatoes — but given the juicy tenderness of its show-stealing entreés, its side dishes are more of an afterthought.

With a history stretching as far back as this antique eatery, Botín keeps its recipes tucked away safely in the minds and memories of its chefs, in an effort to preserve its treasured past. Many of its dishes start from scratch with traditional staples, like croquettes (a prevalent dish throughout Spain) and black sausage, and elevate them to new levels. Garlic soup is said to be a fan favorite, a cozy bowl of boiled herbs to warm your hands on chilly winter days. Of course, don't let the food distract you from the hard-working hands that personally prepare and service each dish to the table. Presentation comes second only to quality at this restaurant. The combination of world-class cuisine and five-star customer service is a testament to what's marked Botín as one of the world's most glorified foodie hot spots.