Le Monastère des Augustines is tucked down a quiet side street in Old Quebec, and it’s one of Quebec City’s best kept secrets. Once you discover it, you may went to spend your whole holiday there. At Le Monastere des Augustines, old becomes new again. A historic Quebec City monastery is transformed into a modern wellness center, while its history and legacy remains in tact.
Posts may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated if you make a purchase using my link.
I’m going to show you how to plan your visit to Le Monastere des Augustines. Justin and I checked out the museum, wellness centre, boutique shop and restaurant during our trip to Quebec City. It’s also possible to spend the night at the hotel, which is perfect for solo travelers and couples alike.
A Short History of Le Monastere des Augustines
Back in 1639, a small group of Augustine sisters became the first Catholic nuns to arrive in the New World. They traveled from France to heal the bodies and souls of those living in Canada (New France at the time). The sisters founded the first hospital in North America, north of Mexico.
At one time, 225 sisters lived at the monastery. Today, only nine remain. The average age of the sisters is 85 years old. Looking for a way to preserve their legacy, they opened a museum at Le Monastere des Augustines (the Augustine Monastery), with the building and its antiques entrusted to all of Quebec.
They decided to renovate the 377 year old monastery, creating a non-profit healing hotel to finance the museum and keep their heritage alive. The construction of the wellness center and hotel was a 25 year project, and it cost $45 million to design and build.
The end result is quite impressive. It’s an open-concept design, with soaring glass windows and minimalist steel structures. These provide a stark contrast to the preserved wood beams, stone flooring, religious paintings and antiquities found throughout the building.
Inside Le Monastere des Augustines, there’s a museum, a hotel with two different styles, a wellness center, and a restaurant. The center focuses on health, harmony and creativity. I should also mention that while the monastery does preserve the history of the Ursuline nuns, it is no longer based in any religion or creed.
Le Monastere des Augustines: The Museum
For hundreds of years, the sisters acquired over 45,000 artifacts at Le Monastere des Augustines. The museum not only provides a home for thousands of antiques collected by the sisters, but it offers a glimpse into their lives. The trunk shown above is the “Trunk of 3 Keys”. Each of the three sisters had their own key, and they each needed to insert their key into the trunk to open it.
It was very interesting to learn about how the monastery operated and how the sisters lived. As technology improved, their knowledge of healing and health did as well. They discovered new medical procedures, and these new medical instruments are on display at the museum. Here are a few of my favorite heirlooms from the museum that serve to explain their teachings, purpose, and contributions to society.
This wooden contraption stood at the entrance to the museum. In the 1800s, women who gave birth to illegitimate babies would leave them with the sisters. The mother placed the baby inside this wooden container, and then spun the container to face the interior of the building.
One of the nuns would collect the child, and that would be the last time the mother saw her baby. Between 1800 and 1850, women left over 10,000 infants at Le Monastere des Augustines for the nuns to raise or adopt to other families.
There are so many intriguing pieces of history at the museum of Le Monastere des Augustines. While many other museums in Quebec City get far more attention, this one is worthy of a visit. You’ll gain insights to early French Canadian history and the lives of the Augustine Monastery sisters.
The Vault at the Augustine Monastery in Quebec City
We visited the basement of the monastery to see the vault, but we weren’t able to go inside. It will open in the future for tours. They built the vault in 1695 and the original staircase from 1756 is still in use. This is classified as a National Historic Site of Canada.
As this vault was never destroyed by fire, it is one of the oldest in North America. The vault was used as a storage place, but the sisters also hid here during battles. In 1759, the British soldiers took the monastery in a battle and stayed there with the sisters.
The Choir at Le Monastere des Augustines
The Choir has both religious and non-religions purposes in the modern day. For instance, this room is open to visitors for concerts, mass, or simply to meditate. When we visited the choir, there was a man practicing the pipe organ that sounded lovely.
Le Monastere des Augustines Hotel
Le Monastere des Augustines is a non-profit organization. The profits from the hotel room rates are reinvested in social missions, primarily to take care of those who care for others. Ten percent of the rooms are reserved for those who are visiting their family members in the hospital at a vastly discounted rate.
The caregivers of elderly people can stay for free at the hotel to recharge for a week (as determined by applying through a government program). There are two floors of rooms. One floor has the authentic rooms, and the other has the contemporary rooms.
The authentic rooms offer a unique experience to stay in a renovated monastic “cell”, designed in the spirit of the original rooms of the sisters. The furniture (except the bed) is original. Everything in the room is made locally in Quebec by artisans.
While there is free Wi-Fi, there are no TVs and no phones. There are six shared bathrooms on the floor. Out of the 33 rooms, 28 of them are single occupancy, making it a popular choice for solo female travelers. The authentic rooms are also a slightly lower price than the contemporary rooms.
The contemporary rooms combine the rustic design of the monastery with modern influences. These rooms are similar to hotel rooms, each with a private bathroom. There are both single and double occupancy rooms available. While the contemporary rooms cost a little more than the authentic rooms, it isn’t by too much.
Wellness and Holistic Health Center
There are programs for health, workshops, and scheduled events for those staying at the hotel and those wishing to drop in for a class. There are activities for harmony and creativity, such as yoga, meditation, or crafts (painting, colouring, scrapbooking).
Furthermore, you can receive consultations about nutrition and inner health.The center offers workshops that deal with universal subjects like happiness, introduction to yoga, the quest for meaning, and mourning.
For guests of the hotel and wellness center, a typical day starts with movement and meditation. It’s followed up by an hour for creativity, like drawing or making art. Later, you can participate in yoga sessions or guided walks, and the day ends with film screenings or readings.
We attended a session on cardiac coherence, which is a breathing exercise done three times a day for health and vitality. It follows the rule of “365”: breathing three times a day, six breaths a minute, for five minutes. I need to integrate this into my daily routine more. Justin and I felt revitalized after simply taking those moments to breathe.
Shop at the Quebec Monastery
There’s also a small shop with special tea blends created by the sisters. You can also buy an essential oil with their own scent. We purchased an air diffuser and one of the essential oils, which instantly transports me back to the monastery from my own home.
There is a small counter at the shop serving coffee, tea, juices and desserts. They had some Sweets from the Earth vegan desserts available, too. I love how vegan-friendly the monastery is!
The Restaurant at the Quebec City Monastery
The restaurant focuses on healthy, fresh, and organic meals. The decor is very serene and natural in shades of brown and green, with wooden decorations on each table. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keeping in the tradition of the Augustine sisters, breakfast is eaten in silence.
We were delighted to hear that there’s always a vegetarian/vegan option available, and the entire salad bar is vegan! The salad bar is included in the price of the meal. It had a variety of greens, bean and lentil salads, hummus, breads, minestrone soup, and more.
Our main entree was a delightful tofu and vegetable dish, topped with a light pesto sauce. Everything was incredibly satisfying and exceptionally tasty.
Plan Your Visit to Le Monastere des Augustines
If you’re visiting Quebec City, be sure to spend at least an afternoon at Le Monastère des Augustines, exploring the museum, taking a yoga class, and dining at the restaurant. It’s a must if you love wellness travel. I’d love to return to stay the night and attend some classes and workshops. Please note: a majority of the workshops are in French, but some are offered in English.
This Quebec City monastery is not your typical tourist attraction, but offers a unique and unforgettable experience. The history of the Augustine sisters shines brilliantly and harmonizes with a healthy and fulfilling modern culture. Just as the sisters aimed to cure the sick and wounded, this wellness center offers tranquility and balance for the mind, body, and spirit.
You don’t need to stay at the hotel to participate in any of the activities or dine at the restaurant. However, you might want to consider spending the night at the hotel. It’s a great price and the accommodations are very comfortable. Plus, it’s a very unique place to stay. How often can you stay at a historic monastery?
More Things to Do in Quebec City
Looking for more activities and attractions in Quebec City to add to your list? Here are some of our favourite things to do in Quebec City:
- Visiting Quebec City in the Winter
- Seeing Street Art in Quebec City
- Montmorency Falls, Quebec City
- The Intriguing Staircases of Quebec City
- Quartier Petit Champlain, Old Quebec’s Pretty Shopping Street
- Cycling in Quebec City
- Quebec City Fortification Wall
- Place Royale in Old Quebec
- Passages Insolites: Outdoor Art Festival
- Quebec City Vegan Guide
- Ile d’Orleans, the Beautiful Island Near Quebec City
- Morrin Centre, Quebec City
- Visiting Quebec City’s Parliament Buildings
- Taking the Ferry to Levis from Quebec City
- Governor’s Promenade, Quebec
- Observatoire de la Capitale, an Amazing Observation Deck
- Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral