I was in Belgium recently where I visited some rather unique and beautiful monasteries (a pilgrimage of sorts?). Not many of them had guesthouses as the monks in this country survive financially by brewing beer so good that it has a huge international market. However, Belgian monks live an austere life and only brew what they need to make ends meet. Work never comes before the most important part of a monk’s life.
While I can now vouch for the virtues of genuine Trappist ale I didn’t have much success in finding monastery guesthouses. However, when I was flying back to London and flicking through the in-flight magazine I came across an article on what appears to be a welcoming monastery guesthouse in Ghent, a 30 minute train ride from Brussels.
The tourist hub of Bruges is on the same line and is situated another half an hour on from Ghent. As I was time poor I had to make a choice – Bruges or Ghent. I chose the former and wasn’t at all disappointed. I even found the historic English Convent at Carmersstraat 83, Bruges and was taken on a tour of this peaceful retreat by one of the sisters. http://www.the-english-convent.be/ Tourists are welcome to visit and the nuns don’t mind showing people around, but unfortunately the guesthouse has closed.The monastery in Ghent, Het Rustpunt, at Burgstraat 46, is run by Carmelite monks who welcome overnight guests. This monastery is also a Carmelite novitiate and is nestled in beautiful grounds very close to the centre of the town; and while guests are welcome to stay – they have a number of conference rooms too – it is expected that they will respect and observe the etiquette of a working monastery. If you are planning to visit Ghent you might like to check it out www.hetrustpunt.net

English Convent, Bruges                                                        The Het Rustpunt Monastery, Ghent