You won’t find a party atmosphere when you stay overnight at a convent or monastery, but you sure can’t knock the experience for novelty value.
Many such institutions offer plain but clean rooms or dormitory style accommodation. Some may even expect you to join in daily prayer sessions or impose evening curfews, which is not ideal if you’re looking for a clubbing holiday.
But not all holy hotels are austere and guilt-commanding; some are upbeat and wholesome health farms, others are now luxurious five-star retreats that benefit from the beauty of the building and surroundings.
Here’s our guide to the hotels and hostels that could be the answer to your holiday prayers.
Convento do Espinheiro, Evora, Portugal
What was once a convent visited by royalty has been transformed into a super luxurious retreat, making splendid use of the building’s stunning features.
There’s been a convent in this location just outside the UNESCO town of Evora in the rustic surroundings of the Alentejo region of Portugal since 1458.
Nowadays the lodgings have been transformed into majestic suites and a gourmet restaurant is located in in what used to be the wine cellar. There are wine-tasting sessions in the cloisters and a beautiful church — covered in hand painted tiles and gold engravings — which holds monthly mass as well as occasional weddings and christenings.
The Convento has just opened its fabulously hip modern wing with rooms featuring contemporary art and designer furniture, and in the spacious but manicured garden there’s a pool area that wouldn’t look out of place in Miami. From about $360; www.conventodoespinheiro.com.
Marienkron Abbey & Hotel, Mönchhof, Austria
Since the 1970s, the Sisters of the Cistercian Order have balanced their daily prayers with a running a full hydrotherapy resort. These dynamic sisters offer a full wellbeing retreat at their convent, with upbeat fitness classes, medical diagnoses, aromatherapy massages, Tibetan meditation sessions, and vigorous runs and bike rides round their substantial grounds.
From about $98 for full board; see www.marienkron.at.
Le Couvent D’Herepian & Benoit, Provence, France
This 17th century convent, at the edge of the regional park of the Languedoc area in France, has been thoughtfully transformed into a luxury boutique hotel with spa.
Nearby, Garrigae Resorts has also transformed a monastery into a resort with holiday homes in the heart of the former friary. From about $190; www.garrigaeresorts.com.
Convento do Carmo, Salvador, Brazil
The Brazilian city of Salvador is the heart of the country’s mysterious Candomble religion, but this monastery was built by an order of Carmelite Friars in 1586. Now, it’s the first luxury historic hotel in Brazil, and part of the Portuguese Pousadas chain — which painstakingly and tastefully transforms castles, palaces, convents and monasteries into unique hotels. From about $280; visit www.pestana.com.
Foresteria Venezia, Venice, Italy
This is a cheap way of staying in the heart of Venice with a view over the canal. Run by the Methodist church, and a stone’s throw from the central square of St. Mark’s, the accommodations might be basic but you can’t argue with the location. The dorms are ideal for families, and there are doubles with en suite bathrooms for couples. Save here and you can splurge on a ride on an iconic gondola through the city. From about $35, including breakfast; see www.foresteriavenezia.it.
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