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From Seville to Salzburg: Inside Europe’s finest religious-run Airbnbs and lodgings

Like your accommodation with a side of religious history? This could be the Airbnb for you
Like your accommodation with a side of religious history? This could be the Airbnb for you Copyright Airbnb
Copyright Airbnb
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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As a convent in Seville opens its doors to the public as an Airbnb, we take a look at other religious-run alternative accommodation across Europe.

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Airbnbs in Europe have been facing seemingly endless criticism lately. People say they’re too expensive, too small, too noisy and guests are expected to do an unfair amount of tasks before checking out.

One set of new properties on the holiday rental market is seeking to change that.

In the Spanish city of Seville, there are recently opened apartments, promising “peace… light and calm”, offering sanctuary to weary travellers.

While Airbnb write-ups are not always 100 per cent true, it may well be the case with these particular apartments; they’re situated within the walls of the Convent of Saint Mary of Jesus.

Expect to see relgious icons all over the Convent of Saint Mary of Jesus in Seville
Expect to see relgious icons all over the Convent of Saint Mary of Jesus in SevilleAirbnb

The 16th century institution is home to nuns from the cloistered Order of St Clare, sisters previously used to bolstering their income by selling home-baked goods to passersby.

Racking their brains, they originally decided to dive into the rental market by providing a long-term lease of a unit previously occupied by a former doorman and his family.

After some consideration, they came to the conclusion that, instead, short-term lets were the way forward. But don’t expect to be welcomed to your rental by a nun.

“We didn’t want to get directly into running the apartments because that’s not our way of life,” Sister María José told Spanish newspaper El País.

A simple, but comfortable, bedroom at the Convent of Saint Mary of Jesus Airbnb
A simple, but comfortable, bedroom at the Convent of Saint Mary of Jesus AirbnbAirbnb

“They bring an income that helps us live but we didn’t want it to come at the expense of our vocation, which is why we’ve had someone else take over the management,” she added.

After the decision was made, Seville locals Javier Bernal and his partner Luis Bidón heard about the sisters’ new venture.

“We got in contact with them last summer after someone who buys their sweets told us they were interested in using some of the rooms they had there as tourist flats - so we went to ask them about it,” Bernal told El País.

After some negotiations between the men and the nuns, they entered into a two-year agreement.

How much does it cost to stay in the Spanish convent Airbnb?

The apartments are now available for between €90 and €180 depending on the size of the space for a minimum stay of two nights.

Bernal says the unusual lodgings have been popular with Spanish people as well as foreign visitors.

“So far, it’s mainly been [foreigners] but it is true that the percentage of Spanish people is higher than you usually get in this kind of property,” he told the newspaper.

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If you’re not planning to head to Seville any time soon, but are still in need of a religious-infused stay elsewhere in Europe, we have some suggestions run directly by nuns and priests.

Experience the Pope as your neighbour in the Vatican

Starting with the very heart of Catholicism - there are no less than 27 lodgings in and around the walls of the 1-square-km sized Vatican City.

Run by the order of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Casa Maria Immacolata is just a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Basilica, where you might just catch a glimpse of the Pope himself.

Rates start at €55 per person per night, but we’d advise against using this kind of lodging as a base if you’re in Rome for anything other than a restful break. There’s a strict curfew at 11pm which the nuns will no doubt take very seriously.

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The unassuming Casa Maria Immacolata in Vatican City
The unassuming Casa Maria Immacolata in Vatican CityTom Rolvag/Wikimedia Commons

Hit the Amalfi Coast on a budget

Staying in Italy, but travelling further south, choosing to stay in a religious-run lodging is a budget friendly option.

The Amalfi coast is infamous for its high hotel prices but La Culla convent bucks that trend.

Just over 1 km from Sorrento, the guest house boasts a truly stunning 18th century villa with panoramic views over the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.

Costing from €50 per person per night, you’ll be welcomed by members of the order of the Oblate Sisters of the Child Jesus, with previous visitors saying they are some of the most “helpful and hospitable” nuns they have ever come across.

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Live your Sound of Music fantasy in Austria

Travel north and across the border and you’ll come across Gästehaus im Priesterseminar, located in the heart of the Austrian city of Salzburg.

Built in 1693 for the training of men wanting to enter the diocese of Salzburg, the guesthouse has been open to the public since 2012 after some “light renovations.”

The hosts say its 50 rooms are bursting with “historical charm… combined with the amenities of the 21st century” and there are more options for every kind of traveller than in most religious lodgings.

Prices - which reflect the rather swish facilities - range from €80 a night for a single room to €156 for a studio apartment.

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A view of the elegant exterior of Gästehaus im Priesterseminar in Salzburg
A view of the elegant exterior of Gästehaus im Priesterseminar in SalzburgGästehaus im Priesterseminar

Stay in an iconic Slovenian building in Ljubljana

If you like your accommodation with a side of historical significance, you can’t go wrong with the Saint Ignatius Retreat House in the centre of the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana.

Run by the Society of Jesus in Slovenia, the building was created by Jože Plečnik 100 years ago, in 1924. He was a famous architect hailing from Slovenia and known for many other architectural works across Europe.

With prices starting from €64 a night, previous guests say the guest house - which has two separate chapels for visitors - is more like a hostel, but nevertheless an ideal place to stay while seeking solace from exhausting travel schedules.

Saint Ignatius Retreat House in Slovenia's capital is as attractive as it is historically significant
Saint Ignatius Retreat House in Slovenia's capital is as attractive as it is historically significantSaint Ignatius Retreat House

See the City of Lights the low-cost way

For a true hostel experience run by the Catholic church, you’ll want to head to Paris and, namely, the Foyer Catholique Résidence Lanteri.

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Situated 20 minutes outside the French capital in the suburb of Fontenay-aux-Roses, you would be forgiven for mistaking this residence as student accommodation.

Student accommodation with a side of religion in Paris at the Foyer Catholique Résidence Lanteri
Student accommodation with a side of religion in Paris at the Foyer Catholique Résidence LanteriMonasteries.com

That is, in part, due to the fact that it provides basic facilities for low prices for university students in Paris and offers a number of communal spaces for visitors.

Rules are strict, with no entry after 8.30pm and guests have said rooms are very basic - but for just €40 a night, it’s a perfect base for young people to explore the City of Lights and Love.

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