Staying in a convent

You don't have to take vows of chastity and poverty or wear those itchy woolen robes to shack up in a European convent for as little as $30. You don't even have to be particularly religious.

There are religious guesthouses scattered all over Europe, including the one attached to the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli in Venice (+39-041-522-4077, are religious guesthouses scattered all over Europe, including the one attached to the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli in Venice (+39-041-522-4077, However, it's proof that religious lodgings aren't always the cheapest: this one charges €115 for a double room (still not bad, by Venice standards).

This page covers:
• What convent guest room are like
• What convents cost
Where to find convents
• Convent rules
• Why stay in a convent
• How to find convents
   - Books on convents in Europe
   - Books on convents in- the USA
   - Websites
There are really two types of hospitality at religious institutions.

The more widespread are the convents, many of which run guest houses, set up and administered something like a bare-bones hotel.

(The other type is a monastery: often cheaper but usually in rural—not city—settings and covered in full here.)

Not only is a convent stay one of the ultimate budget lodging options, it's also a great cultural experience—and a chance to get yourself out of your own head for a day or two, no matter what your religious affiliation or beliefs.

What is a convent guest room like?

Expect small rooms, battered functional furnishings, and a décor that, at its most lavish, includes both a tiny print of the Virgin and a crucifix nailed to the wall above your bed. Amenities will be similarly spare: a TV or telephone in your room will be rare—though private bathrooms are surprisingly common, though not guaranteed.

As to the sleeping arrangements, the Brady Bunch bedroom revolution hasn't hit convents. Like a 50s sitcom, the beds are narrow twins with a healthy, holy amount of space between them. Double beds are only occasionally an option, and even then only for married couples (in fact, many convents will not allow an unmarried couple to share a room).

How much does cost to stay in a convent?

The famed Bascilia of Sacre-Coeur affords you the chance to stay in the heart of the storied Montmartre district of Paris for the pittance of around $15 a night, staying in the famed basilica's Ephrem Guesthouse. 'Course curfew is 9pm.The famed Basilica of Sacre-Coeur ( affords you the chance to stay in the heart of Paris' Montemarte district for $15.

These religious guesthouses charge rates anywhere from $50 to $210 for a double, but most prices for a double room hover in the $80 to $120 range, prayers for your immortal soul included.

Where will I find convents?

Convent hotels are often designed to house pilgrims (from big church trips to solo folks seeking enlightenment) and are most widely available in major cities, especially in the predominantly Catholic countries of Spain, France, and, of course, Italy.

In fact, you'll be spoilt for choice in major pilgrimage sites like Rome and Assisi—though also face stiff competition for bed space against traveling church groups.

Are there any rules for staying in a convent?

Nuns are like anybody else. Some are kindly; some are sourpusses.

The best strategy is to treat them with respect and a smile, and accept with good grace their many rules, like curfew (usually falls between 10pm and midnight), early checkout (often by 10am), and keeping relatively quiet (24/7).

Absent any specific rules, convent guesthouses simply expect you to respect the community and its values—be quiet, attend major masses, avoid throwing keg parties, that sort of thing. Also, don't blow in and out overnight basically just using them as a free crash pad.

Why should I consider staying in a convent?

ValdeseAcross town from Don Orione, the Foresteria Valdese in Venice is a fantastic cheap religious hostelry run by the Waldesians. It has both private rooms and shared dorms (the Post-It on the door there is letting you know how many bunks are left in the boys and girls dorms, respectively), and the kicker is that many of them are covered in 18th century frescoes and overlook a canal, and the prices start at just $25 a person. There's much more on this remarkable hostelry on

For the faithful, a convent stay holds many rewards, not least of which is getting a chance to commune with your spiritual siblings from other lands. Also, they're cheap.

However, here I'm going to speak to my fellow non-believers out there for a moment. You don't have to have faith to find a convent stay fascinating.

Aside from the (generally) low prices, convents offer an interesting cultural experience—particularly in Europe, where they've been part of the fabled fabric of local communities since the Middle Ages.

After all, you spend much of your time in Europe admiring frescoes in historic churches, and paintings in museums, filled with nuns and monks scurrying about, observing their daily devotions, witnessing major historical events, or simply kneeling in adoration of the central saint. These works of art are a window into a tradition that's remained largely unchanged for centuries. Staying at a convent is like stepping through that window and into the fresco for a day or two. Pretty cool, huh?

Even if you aren't jazzed by the anthropological experience of it all, you can always use this is as an excuse to take a day or two to empty your mind and cleanse your soul. Wander the gardens. Sniff the flowers.

If invited, eat in the refectory with the residents (picture filling, simple, family-style meals served by smiling lay sisters Full story ).

Contemplate the country you've been visiting, your life, God, that itchy rash that developed since you stopped washing out your clothes every night, whatever.

Resources for finding convents

How do you find convents that offer lodging? Tricky. Ask local tourism offices. Do lots of Googling. Use these books and online resources:

Guidebooks to religious lodgings

Convents in Europe
Monasteries and convents in the United States

Online convent resources

There are also several good online resources:

Guided tour of Tuscany

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in June 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.