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If you want to have a European experience without the jetlag, Quebec City is the place to go. From my home in New York City, it's just an hour away by plane, and some U.S. carriers even fly direct. (But, don't forget to bring your passport because it is an international flight.) A trip there is often paired with a visit to Montreal as well -- it's about two hours away -- but Quebec City is a destination unto itself for its world-class dining, stunning historic architecture and dreamlike setting.
My homebase for the visit was the Auberge Saint-Antoine, located in the heart of the Old Port. We’ve run this property a handful of times in the Canadian Top 20 and I’ve always been tempted to stay in a cute French Quebec village at this Relais-Chateaux property. This has been on the Conde Nast Gold List for 10 years in a row and a CAA 4-Diamond hotel and being the hotel aficionado that I am, I had to stay here!
I had a great brunch at Panache, an award-winning restaurant at the hotel, which is a renovated barn. If you want super high-end dining, be sure to check out L’Initiale -- one of the top restaurants in Quebec City. This is also in the same building as the hotel.
Planning a trip yourself? Here's what you need to know:
- Cabs are at a flat rate of $40 into Old Quebec City, which includes the tip.
- The St. Lawrence River is only a block away from the hotel, and there is a short walking path if you want to take in the views or take a stroll. The famous Café du Monde is right on the water and is a five-minute walk from the hotel. Be sure to get the duck fat fries.
- The hotel is right across the street to Musee du Civilisation, which includes artifacts they found when they were constructing the Auberge St. Antoine. Some of the artifacts are placed around the hotel as well.
- Right around the corner of the hotel is Rue Petit Champlain. Next to the river, this is said to be the oldest street in North America. There are lots of restaurants and unique shops around there. Le Digne Cochon Petite are famous for its croissants and cappuccinos in the morning. My favorite meal of the whole trip was Le Billig, in the Palace Royal neighborhood. I had a crepe with duck confit, goat cheese, and arugula with onion marmalade. It was hands down the best crepe I’ve ever had.
- If you want to do some shopping, be sure to go to La Maisons Simons department store. This department store is only in Quebec and they have everything you can imagine and they are high quality items at great prices. I ended up doing a lot of my Christmas shopping here as well as buying a handful of kitchen items and scarves and mittens for myself.
- You can’t leave Quebec City without having some cider. If you are looking for a place to people watch, go to the Ice Hotel. It is open only in the winter but be sure to go there for a drink. The entire bar is made out of ice and it is where the James Bond movie was filmed. This is on Charlotte et Maurice on Grand- Allée 575, Grande-Allée.
- Another landmark you don’t want to miss is the Chateau Frontenac at the top of the hill. This is the grandest hotel and you for sure can’t miss it. Grab a drink at the hotel bar that overlooks the views of the river.
- If you are there in the month of December, there are also Christmas markets in the main square so be sure to get some mulled wine. I was there around the holidays, and it was picture perfect where you felt like you were on a fake set.There were Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Carolers, holiday music playing in French, and snow slowly falling from the sky.