The ultimate in female-friendly accommodation, you don’t even have to be religious to stay at a convent guest wing or hotel. Rachel Hand finds out where you can have breakfast with the nuns.
Arriving at my destination I was greeted by a woman in a smart uniform wearing a veil-like headdress. I had entered the convent, but I didn’t have to get up early to pray every morning or take any vows; I was staying at a convent hotel as a guest.
What is a convent hotel?
Many convents around the world have a history of working to give something back to the community; hence there are convent-run schools, hospitals, and care homes for the elderly. As well as being nuns, the women who run these establishments work as teachers and nurses, and actively engage with the world outside the convent. This is a far cry from the stereotypical image of a nun in long robes, who has taken the vow of silence.
As well as schools and hospitals some convents operate guest wings or hotels. These are staffed by novices (trainee nuns) and nuns, and offer clean, well-kept rooms with a friendly, peaceful atmosphere. Many are open to male as well as female guests, and room rates are usually very reasonable. While some convents may have rules for guests, such as a curfew, others are more flexible. Some convents are set in historic buildings or have beautiful grounds and gardens.
Where can I stay at a convent?
Countries with a Catholic majority have the highest number of convents, with major pilgrimage sites offering a variety of convent accommodation for church groups as well as individual travelers. There are many guides to convent hotels in Europe such as ‘Good night and God bless’ by Trish Clark about convent and monastery accommodation in Europe and beyond. She covers establishments run by monks and nuns, so you’ll need to sift through to find the best female-friendly options.
There are convent hotels across Asia, but not as many as in Europe, so do your research before setting off. I recently stayed at Wisma Santa Maria, often referred to as Hotel Susteran (Convent Hotel) on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, Indonesia. Once again, being in a Catholic region enabled me to find convent accommodation.
In Africa there are convent hotels including St Eugene’s Hostel in Lushoto, Tanzania, which is popular with hikers, and Tre Fontane near Durban, South Africa which offers a range of amenities including a library and a swimming pool.
Can I really have breakfast with the nuns?
Convent hotels are extremely varied, with different facilities and services available. You can, however, expect a clean, comfortable but simple room, with a small crucifix on the wall, in well-kept grounds staffed by women, for a reasonable price. For religious guests, prayer rooms are available and guests are usually welcome to join the nuns in prayer if they wish. If you’re lucky you may even get to sing hymns with the nuns after breakfast.
What has your experience been like with convent accommodations? Do you have a favorite? Share your story with us in the comments below.