There are many incredible historic abbeys across the globe which can still be visited today. In fact the list of abbeys around the world contains some of the most spectacular historic sites to visit, with many having witnessed momentous moments in history as well as being remarkable historical buildings.
An abbey itself is a monastery or a convent which has grown up with an Abbot or Abbess as the leader of the community. While not all monasteries were abbeys, all abbeys were monasteries or convents. Many abbeys were a vital centre of local scholarship and trade and there are many examples of abbeys which often found themselves at the heart of the local community. In some cases entire towns would grow up around an abbey.
Today, while many abbeys remain as centres of religious life others – for example Westminster Abbey – have seen their function change over the centuries. Often abbeys found themselves at the forefront of religious and political change, with many abbeys being closed or re-dedicated during times of upheaval, particularly in Europe.
For those wishing to explore the list of abbeys around the world, our selection of historic abbeys below can provide a good starting point. Remember, you can always shortlist abbeys of the world as you go and build your own personalised pocket guidebook to take with you on your tour.
The Abbaye aux Hommes is an 11th century Romanesque abbey church in Caen, Normandy, known for being William the Conqueror’s gravesite.
An 11th century abbey in Marseille, Abbaye Saint-Victor has a fascinating crypt housing a number of early Christian tombs.
Though now a cathedral, the Basilica of St Denis was originally an abbey dedicated to Saint Denis. It is one of many abbeys in the world to have become a place of pilgrimage.
An abbey with a turbulent history, Bath Abbey went through a number of versions before being destroyed by Henry VIII in the 15th century and restored under Elizabeth I.
Location of the famous Battle of Hastings, this beautiful former abbey is now a museum dedicated to exploring the events of that famous day in 1066.
One of many historic abbeys in England, Bayham Old Abbey was a medieval monastery closed by Henry VIII and now in a state of ruin.
Beaulieu Abbey is an early 13th century historic monastic complex, partially destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site is home to the National Motor Museum.
Byland Abbey was a prominent twelfth century monastery which now lies as a pretty ruin in Yorkshire.
Carmo Convent is a ruined medieval convent in Lisbon now used as an museum.
A good example of abbeys which have been used as a centre for royalty, Dunfermline Abbey and Palace was a royal residence and the burial site of several Scottish monarchs.
An interesting addition to any list of abbeys, Einsiedeln Abbey is a beautiful Benedictine monastery with a history dating to the ninth century AD.
Consecrated as an abbey in 1325AD, Fonte Avellana is a picturesque medieval hermitage in Italy which is still a working monastery.
One of the most famous abbeys of the world, Fountains Abbey was a thriving monastery until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries left it in ruins.
Renowned for its stained glass windows, Fraumunster is a medieval church and former convent which is one of the most famous sites in Zurich.
Furness Abbey is a partially ruined 12th century monastery which now operates as a tourist attraction and museum.
Ranking among the most important historic abbeys in Britain, Glastonbury Abbey is the legendary burial place of King Arthur.
An impressive abbey in the UK, Inchcolm Abbey is a 12th century monastery turned abbey located in an important defensive position.
The ruins of the 12th Century Cistercian monastery of Jervaulx Abbey, situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales.
Best known for its stunning Romanesque Benedictine Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel is an imposing rocky outcrop in Normandy which contains a number of interesting historic sites.
A fifteenth century nunnery of the order of St. Bridget, Pirita Convent now stands as a picturesque ruin and is an interesting example of ruined abbeys around the world.
Built in the 11th century, Saint-Remi Abbey houses the tomb of Saint Remi and is one of many abbeys around the world to be UNESCO listed.
An important stop on any list of abbeys, Sainte-Foy Abbey in Conques was one of the places along the historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
The Temple of Saint Augustin is a 16th-century abbey in Acolman in Mexico.
In existence since 1069, Selby Abbey has been used for worship for over 900 years. Not especially well known despite being its beauty and archaic stance, Selby is nevertheless among the most impressive medieval abbeys today.
Consecrated in 1148, St Matthias Abbey houses the grave of its namesake, the apostle, St Mathias.
St. Anna’s Church of Kokar is a pretty stone church in Aland and renowned for its fourteenth century Franciscan convent.
Also known as Vezelay Abbey, Vezelay Basilica is a 12th century Romanesque church once said to have housed Mary Magdalene’s relics.
One of the most famous abbeys in the world, and probably the most famous of all abbeys in Britain, Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and site of many historic royal events.
Among several ruined abbeys in the UK, Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of a thirteenth century Benedictine abbey in Yorkshire.