Quebec City is home to some of the world’s most famous hotels. Who hasn’t heard of Le Château Frontenac, or Le Germain? And yet, there is one that consistently tops off the list of the Best Hotels in Canada: the unrivaled Auberge Saint-Antoine. Nestled in the picturesque Petit-Champlain district, right next to Québec City’s Old Port, Auberge Saint-Antoine doesn’t cease to amaze its first time and returning visitors with its elegant decor, unique amenities and old charm. So what makes Auberge Saint-Antoine special?
A Unique History
One of the things that sets Auberge Saint-Antoine apart is its unique history. Back in 1988 the Price family bought three 18-th century warehouses on the shore of the Saint Lawrence river with the intention of turning them into a hotel. But the restoration project turned into the largest archeological dig ever recorded in North America. Shortly after the excavations began, they unearthed over 5000 objects dating back to the French and English colonial times. The relics were ranging from fine china tea cups, old silverware pieces, clay British pipes, cannon balls, wine, perfume and medicine bottles and even a wide variety of seventeenth-century shoes.
The discovery of these objects led to another interesting finding. When Quebec City was built, the Saint Lawrence River was much wider and in order to get more buildable terrain the locals began dumping their trash at the side of the river. So in essence, all the objects of this archeological discovery were in fact the trash of Quebec City. Over time people managed to push the river bed quite far from where it used to be. The street in front of the hotel has several markings on the pavement indicating where the river was at different times in history. And this could only be established by the age of the different objects unearthed during the excavations.
Guests are Auberge Saint-Antoine #1 Priority
What first surprises visitors of Auberge Saint-Antoine is the pure elegance and the very distinctive decor that includes 700 historic artifacts from the dig. The artifacts are showcased throughout the hotel in small display cabinets tucked in the walls. A 300-year-old oak timber board became the reception desk in the main lobby and a fragment of the old fortification wall was incorporated in the main structure. In the hotel lobby, next to the main entrance, there is a back-lit diorama that illustrates the exact location of this wall and how the hotel was built around it. The lighting changes color from blue, to yellow to pastel pink and purple. It’s like staying in a museum.
Every guest room is named after one of the artifacts. Fragments of these artifacts are displayed next to each room number and also imbedded in the bedside tables. I stayed in La Chambre des Heures Bleues, named after a style of French porcelain that was found in the dig and which is now exposed in the room.
The 94 rooms and suites –all spacious and luxurious– range from sleek and sophisticated with contemporary furniture, to thematic rooms furnished with antiques and an old time ambience. Some rooms have large terraces or river views. Rooms offer silky soft sheets, goose-down duvets, Nespresso machines, Bose sound systems, and large work desks. The bathrooms are equipped with an enormous deep bath tub with shower, heated floors and anti-fog mirrors. They have the most luxurious towels I have ever used! There is an abundance of towels and toiletries (so unlike our stingy hotels in the USA!)
There is a lot of attention to detail and special touches: a collection of up to date magazine by a soft couch. Thick blackout curtains to keep the morning sun out, ideal for late sleepers. Well lit closets with raised shelves for your shoes, so you don’t have to bend to reach the bottom rack. When you enter your room at night, soft music is playing and everything in place for a restful sleep. Nothing is overlooked.
Auberge Saint-Antoine also features a state-of-the-art movie theater where guests can do a private screening, a spa and fitness center, a full-service concierge and a business center. Also, in the evenings there is a cheese and wine reception downstairs in the lobby. They have wide selection of appetizers, everything from beef tartare, specialty cheeses, charcuterie and a variety of wines. Common spaces are elegant, open, and comfortable. The hotel staff is courteous, helpful and polite.
Auberge Saint-Antoine Is Home to A World Class Restaurant
After strolling through Québec City, you can cozy up at Chez Muffy (previously named Panache), the hotel’s award-winning restaurant that was opened in the old stone warehouse. The building was restored in the style of the historic maritime warehouse, with wooden beams, natural stone walls and a casual atmosphere. The intimate dining room has great view of the St. Lawrence River views and a diverse assortment of French-Canadian dishes.