Here's How Many 3-Star Michelin Restaurants There Are Worldwide

As of 2023, only 138 restaurants in the whole world have three Michelin stars. Earning three stars is no easy feat — and since the guide is updated every year, a restaurant can lose a star just as quickly as it gains one, depending on the dining experience of anonymous Michelin Guide inspectors

When the Michelin Guide was first created at the turn of the 20th century, it was hardly the marker of international fine dining it is today. Rather, it was a modest guidebook put out by French-industrialist siblings André and Édouard Michelin, who hoped it would inspire drivers to travel through France in the tires they made at their company (and, in turn, boost automobile sales). The guide featured restaurant recommendations, maps, and even handy tips for how to change a tire. 

By the mid-1920s, the brothers added a key element to their clever marketing scheme: A rating system that awarded a single star to the finest French restaurants. A decade later, they expanded the system to three stars, which is still the highest number on the scale. A one-star rating means "a very good restaurant," a two-star rating signifies "excellent cooking that is worth a detour," and a coveted three-star rating honors "exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey." Here's what it takes to get to the top. 

139 restaurants have three Michelin stars

According to the Michelin Guide, it reserves its three-star rating for "the superlative cooking of chefs at the peak of their profession; their cooking is elevated to an art form and some of their dishes are destined to become classics." The guide stresses that once a restaurant earns three stars, nothing has to change for the winning chef other than "maintaining the same standard of cooking that won them the star in the first place." Of course, acclaimed restaurants can certainly expect busier dining rooms. 

The oldest three-star eatery in the world is Restaurant Paul Bocuse, also known as L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, a haute French restaurant named after its late founding chef. Here's how iconic the restaurant is: the French dish loup en croûte, which consists of a whole sea bass stuffed with a vegetable and dairy-based filling and wrapped in a fish-shaped puff pastry, was created by Bocuse. 

Today, not all three-star restaurants are outrageously expensive, and they're certainly not all located in France. Here are some contemporary spots at the top of the list.

Most three-star restaurants are located outside the U.S.

The most remarkable newly minted three-star restaurant might be chef Jan Hartwig's JAN in Munich, Germany, solely based on the fact that it went from zero to three stars in 2023. "Herwig has an enviable gift," wrote Michelin, adding that "his curriculum vitae reads like the brochure of a gourmet summit." Seven glowing reports from Michelin Inspectors, including one who called his meal "a moment of bliss," left the guide director with no choice but to launch the restaurant among the highest stars. 

Of the 139 three-star restaurants in the world, only a dozen or so are located in the U.S. New York City plays host to five of them, including Masa, an omakase experience curated by Chef Masa Takayama. There are also several in California, including some new Michelin additions like the Oceanside Mexican restaurant Valle and the sustainable Long Beach farm-to-table restaurant Heritage. Chicago's Alinea, whose meals Michelin bills as "an olfactory experience by dint of scented vapors," is also up there with the best of the best.