Seekers of discount lodging in Europe, we bring you glad tidings. The answer to your prayers may lie in pulling a reverse Sound of Music—that is, ditching the civilian digs and staying at a monastery or convent instead.
Numerous religious orders on the continent open their doors to overnighters, often charging some of the lowest rates in town for beds in historic, peaceful, and immaculately clean quarters.
As the nuns in the beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein musical might have sung,
Here are some core tenets of a monastery stay—organized in catechism style, of course.
(Rila Monastery in Bulgaria | Credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock)
Where do I search for monastery stays?
Your best bet is to go to MonasteryStays.com, which has been compiling lodging options in convents and religious guesthouses since 2005. You can browse listings by dates of availability and location, look at photos, read user reviews, and book stays. Accommodations that appear in the aggregator's listings have private bathrooms and the nightly rate usually includes breakfast.
Some parishes use third-party operators for their guesthouses, while other monasteries and convents are fully nun- or monk-run. Prices well under €100 per night are the norm. But there are some convent caveats we'll get to in a second.
Why do most monastery and convent options appear to be in Italy?
'Cause that's the place that put the Rome in Roman Catholic.
By the way, St. Patrick's Catholic American Parish in Rome maintains an online directory of convent accommodations in that city and other places throughout Italy, though you'll need to make your own arrangements with the religious institutions using the contact info listed (you can't book a stay directly through St. Patrick's website).
(Casa Santo Nome di Gesù in Florence, Italy | Credit: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock)
How can I find monasteries outside Italy?
You can search for convents and monasteries among Spain's paradores (hotels housed in historic structures) and in other countries with long histories of putting up churchy buildings. At Monasteries.com, for instance, you'll find pages for France and Belgium, while Monastery Stays has an Austria section. We regret to inform you it does not include Salzburg's Nonnberg Abbey of The Sound of Music fame.
You might find offerings from individual churches and religious orders by doing an internet search for your destination + "monastery stays," and then going to the website of the religious order or its third-party operator. Exercise all the usual caution when booking accommodations over the internet.
And be sure to make reservations far in advance of your trip since space for outsiders is limited.
Do I have to be a believer to say at a monastery or convent?
Nope—all are welcome. You will, however, need to abide by stricter rules than what you're used to at hotels and other types of lodgings.
What kind of rules?
The most common is a curfew, typically around 11–11:30pm. Once the doors are locked, don't count on prayer or pleading to get you inside.
Additionally, you might be asked to put away your electronic devices while you're on the premises. Despite the presence of paying guests, an air of quiet contemplation is supposed to reign. You're at a convent, after all.
An unmarried couple isn't supposed to stay in the same room, either—though there's really only space for one person per twin bed anyway.
Sorry, did you say twin bed?
You bet I did. The accommodations are likely to be as bare-bones as the word "monastic" should suggest. Don't expect a TV in your room or sheets with sky-high thread counts.
Facilities usually have a mix of single rooms as well as doubles and triples for families and groups traveling together. Children are allowed. You might have to share a bathroom with other guests.
Throughout, the lodging's cleanliness will almost certainly be on par with its godliness.
(Assisi, Italy | Credit: leoks / Shutterstock)
Are there any benefits beyond the price?
Several. For starters, the location is likely to be in the thick of the historic district. In Assisi, for example, St. Anthony's Guest House, run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, sits within the city walls on a prime spot overlooking the Basilica of Santa Chiara and the Umbrian valley beyond.
The building itself is liable to have historical or architectural significance, too, as at Casa Santo Nome di Gesù near the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. Surrounded by tranquil gardens, the 15th-century Franciscan B&B has large shuttered windows and impressive frescoed ceilings.
Then there's the chance to immerse yourself in the rich and unique atmosphere of the order, which may host communal meals or specialize in making certain culinary or artisanal products. While staying at the imposing Trinitarian convent of El Toboso east of Toledo, Spain, you might get to see some of the famous gold embroidery crafted onsite.
What about breakfast—is that included?
A lot of the time, but not necessarily by default. Keep an eye out for mention of a morning meal included in the rate when booking.
Breads, pastries, fruit, jams, coffee, and tea are customary.
Do you have other religion-adjacent travel content I can read?
Ask and ye shall receive:
A Photo Pilgrimage to the Planet's Most Spiritual Places
How to Do the Camino de Santiago in Less Than a Month
Eat and Drink at Monasteries Around the World
Peace be with you.
And also with you.