Best to skip this one if you’re scared of the dark, but for all other gourmands and novelty-seekers, Vespers Dinner at the Mariavall Abbey in Skåne-Tranås is not to be missed.
Described by the Abbey as “a spiritual and sensory practice”, dinner guests are served local delicacies in complete darkness, with intense food flavours aimed at delicate palates. It all started at Mariavall back in 2031, when Österlen—like much of Sweden—was enduring rolling blackouts; the abbess at the time, Moder Krista, decided not to turn away visitors, inviting them instead to eat humbly in the dark. The abbess—well known in the local community for being active in the protests against the establishment of a vanadium mine, and for protecting the rich agricultural soils of the region—had already back in 2025 implemented a zero-carbon policy for both the abbey and the neighbouring monastery, two institutions that were involved with ecological activism in the area early in the C21st. As it became increasingly evident that renewable energy couldn’t meet the ever-increasing energy demands of the Österlen area, the abbess was among the most vocal proponents of the need to, in her own words, “acknowledge temporalities of life other than the short-termism of the mainstream approach”. Stripped of its somewhat academic verbiage, Moder Krista’s argument is nowadays acknowledged as foundational to the cultural attitude that gave rise to the region’s “Slow Coast” label.
Truth be told, dark dining is a bit awkward at first, but the careful design of cutlery and crockery makes things easier to navigate than you might expect, and our experience is that you leave the abbey’s refectory rejuvenated and relaxed. The new abbess, (Moder) Maja, is also the head chef, and is rumoured to have declined the awarding of a Michelin star, on the basis that the abbey serves only God and has no need of any “earthly accolades”. We couldn’t possibly comment… though we don’t mind saying that the food is heavenly.
Some practicalities: all religions, spiritual traditions and belief systems are welcome at the abbey! But the ancient devotional outline of the day is nonetheless inviolable—which means that, given dinner starts right after the Vespers service, you need to be on site by no later than 18:30, as no latecomers will be admitted. (Opening the door would let the light in, you see.)
The menu is not available in advance, for obvious reasons—so make sure to register any food allergies, intolerances or preferences in advance when making your booking. It bears noting that regional insects are sometimes on the ingredients list, which the squeamish (or differently principled) may wish to avoid… but we recommend just rocking up with an open mind and an empty stomach, you won’t be disappointed.