How to Explore Montréal’s Underground City
The name “Underground City” refers to the vast network of pedestrian walkways below the streets of downtown Montréal. In total, 32 kilometres (20 miles) of passageways connect the subway system with hotels, shops, museums, universities and skyscrapers. The system of walkways — referred to as RÉSO (“network” in French) — is a big deal and the numbers prove it: approximately 500,000 people circulate daily on this network.
Back it up
The concept of an underground network of paths began in 1962 with the lower level shopping mall in a building called Place Ville Marie. An interior passage was added to connect the commercial centre with the central train station and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. With the coming of Expo 67, Montréal’s dream of a metro system (subway) finally became reality and linking various buildings began. Over the years, the underground has gone through many stages of development, and today it maintains a reputation as both a practical way to move around the city and a fascinating tourist attraction.
Indeed, more than a pathway from point A to B, RÉSO is a destination in itself. Within the network you can find a segment of the Berlin Wall, a stained-glass wall devoted to the musical history of Montréal and hundreds of other works of art. In the winter months, an annual 5K running race takes place in the corridors. You’ll be surprised what you might discover.
Try this route
While we always encourage visitors to get outside, during certain months — the humidity of summer or the chill of winter — it’s sometimes more pleasant to wander indoors. With that in mind, here is an itinerary to go “deeper” into Montréal.
Start at one of Montréal’s most important buildings: Place Ville Marie. The building itself echoes the cross on top of Mont Royal, and contains a selection of boutiques and cafes at the metro level. For one of the most breathtaking views of the city, purchase a ticket to the 42nd-floor observation deck at Au Sommet Place Ville Marie.
Next, make your way toward the Eaton Centre. The well-illuminated mall is the perfect location to pick up a new outfit or visit the Grévin Museum on the fifth floor, where wax celebrities make the coolest/kitschiest partners for Instagram selfies.
Board the metro (subway) at the McGill station and head one stop east to the Place-des-Arts station. Here you’ll find yourself at the epicentre of Montréal’s entertainment district. Pop into Montréal’s Contemporary Art Museum or, if it’s evening, catch a performance by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal or the Opéra de Montréal.
Next, walk south through the Complexe Desjardins (more awesome shopping!) and the Complexe Guy-Favreau (home to many Government of Canada offices). Arrive at the Palais des congrés de Montréal, the city’s convention centre. Not only one of the most sustainable convention centres in North America, the “Palais” (as it’s casually known) is also home to a wide range of art installations.
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