There are dozens of hotels – and a couple of hostels – within the fortifications of Old Quebec City. Based on your level of comfort, these can be pricey, especially if you are travelling alone. During my four-day trip to Quebec, I leapt out of the box to stay at Le Monastere des Augustines, a hotel that was converted from an old monastery.
The hotel didn’t pop up on my first search for cheap hotels to stay in when I planned the trip. In fact, I was searching for airline prices when I found a flight and hotel combo on Expedia. I had not heard of the place before, but I am so glad I found it.
Le Monastere des Augustines
Le Monastere des Augustines opened Aug. 1, 2015, after two and a half years of construction and costing $42 million in restoration.
It, like much of the other building in Quebec City, has a history deeper than Canada itself. The hotel, built in 1637, now occupies the building of the Hotel-Dieu de Quebec Monastery, the first hospital in North America north of Mexico. (The hospital portion of the building still exists as a teaching hospital.) The Augustine Sisters arrived in New France on Aug. 1, 1639, and began caring for the sick. The Sisters also trained nurses and pharmacists, forming the foundation of the province’s health care system.
On Jan 1, 2013, the Sisters passed on their heritage to Fiducie du Patrimoine Culturel, who are entrusted with the archives of the monastery.
Now, 376 years after the arrival of the Augustine Sisters, the hotel aims to continue the sister’s work in healing, offering modern holistic health practices like yoga and meditation.
Inside the Monastery
The 65-room hotel is split into four floors. Floor one holds the hotel reception as well as a museum on the extensive history of the Augustine Sisters. The restaurant, boutique and wellness rooms are located here as well. The second floor holds meditation and wellness rooms, a church and choir.
On the third floor are the authentic rooms, which start at CAD$84 a night. These rooms are converted cloister cells that contain a single bed, antique wardrobe and writing desk, a sink and a mirror. That’s right, the washroom and showers were down the hall. They also have the modern comforts such as air conditioning and soft sheets.
Historical artwork, a testament to the building former life, lines the hallways that stretch down each wing.
The contemporary rooms, starting at CAD$104 per night, are located on the top floor. Those rooms have a more modern look – there’s a private bathroom – but still hold true to the building’s heritage.
Staying at the Monastery
I pulled up into the courtyard, the main entrance to Le Monastere des Augustines, jaw agape. It looked like a five-star palace. I thanked my taxi driver – an older man that drove to keep himself busy after his wife passed away – and rolled my carry-on toward the main entrance, wondering, like many young women before me, what lay behind the walls of this monastery.
Registration was quick and straightforward, and soon I was off to stroll down the long passageways to find my room. At first, I was hesitant of the highly religious paintings and relics that dotted the walls but soon was in awe of how much history each item contained.
The room at Le Monastere des Augustines was one of their smaller rooms but contained a bed, sink, wardrobe, and desk. I instantly fell in love with the minimalistic style of the past and FaceTimed my parents to show how awesome the room was. (They were skeptical.)
My room was comfortable and a haven, after a long day walking. And the air conditioning was a blessing during the heatwave of mid-summer.
The hotel was quiet, and while I knew people were going in and out of the rooms, I never once ran into someone in the hall.
Sidenote about the staircase in the above photo: After a fire ravaged the hotel in 1755, Joeseph Auger built these stairs. It’s not an optical illusion. They are crooked.
When I told colleagues and friends where I stayed during my trip, everyone was astonished that I would stay in a place where the bathroom was down the hall. I assured them that this was a non-issue. The room came with a bathrobe (no streaking down the hallways!), and you had a sink for washing and brushing teeth.
The bathrooms were classy, and it didn’t feel at all like a shared space. And there were plenty; if the closest shower was full, another three were further down the hall.
The only downfall of my stay was the breakfast. Don’t expect bacon, eggs, toast and whatever else people eat for breakfast. There was an array of fruit, yoghurt, juice, and bread. I ended up going to a creperie and a bakery on my next two mornings because it just wasn’t my taste.
(I don’t enjoy breakfast food in general. The only things I enjoy are blueberry smoothies or bagels. So I’m not a great judge of breakfast. I did love the food in Quebec City, however.)
My trip overlapped with the Le Monastere des Augustines’ first anniversary. They celebrated by giving out raspberry macarons a nod to the Augustine Sisters’ Raspberry Ritual. The story, according to the hotel, says on July 31, 1639, bad weather prevented the sisters from continuing their journey to Quebec. Therefore, they stayed on the nearby Iles des Orleans and feasted on the raspberries, which were in full bloom at that time. The next day, they landed in Quebec and thus began their New World story.
Located on the north end of the Upper Town portion of Old Quebec, the Le Monastere des Augustines is steps from the main street, Rue Saint-Jean.
I highly recommend this place to anyone, even if holistic healing isn’t your “thing.” The calm and relaxing hotel is an inexpensive way to stay in the old city, and the history of the building is fascinating.
Thinking about a trip to Old Quebec City? Try Le Monastere des Augustines then check ‘stay in unique lodgings’ off your bucket list.
All of the above opinions are my own and received nothing in return.