With its intriguing name, the Underground City in Montreal might bring to mind a labyrinth of hidden passages that create a fully developed city below street level. Locally referred to as RÉSO (for réseau, the French word for network), it’s an integral part of Montreal’s downtown core—though it might be better to call it an “indoor city,” as much of it is not actually underground.
The Underground City constitutes a multi-level network of tunnels and stairways that connect various shopping malls, metro stations, offices, hotels, libraries, schools, concert halls, and restaurants. Around 500,000 people make use of the network every day.
Past and present
The history of the Underground City started in 1962, the year when the first interconnected sections were constructed. When Montreal’s subway system began operating in 1966, further connections were built. Urban planners designed it with the idea that this extensive indoor access area would reduce downtown traffic while also offering a way for pedestrians to circulate inside without having to go outdoors—especially during the harsh winters when temperatures can drop below -20°C (-4°F).
Today more than 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) of tunnels span the network, which covers over 12 square kilometers (4.6 sq mi) of the most densely populated area of the city. These underground passages create a vast indoor maze of sorts that at first glance looks like a giant shopping mall—but it has developed haphazardly throughout the decades and incorporates much of the most important artistic and cultural venues in Montreal.
How to get there
It’s so easy to access the Underground City that you’ll probably not even realize that you’re already there. There are more than 190 exterior access points to the network, including malls (such as the Eaton Centre and the Complexe Desjardins), metro stations, and even museums. The most central section, in the downtown core, is demarcated by metro stations Peel and Place-des-Arts on the Green Line, and stations Lucien-L’Allier and Place-d’Armes on the Orange Line.
Throughout the network, you’ll find schematics with the RÉSO logo to guide you—though it’s easy to get disoriented along the way. After all, it connects to 10 metro stations, two bus terminals, over 1,000 offices and 2,000 stores, 200 restaurants, nine hotels, four universities, 40 cinemas and other entertainment venues, and so much more.
What to do
Shop till you drop! Yes, one of the most obvious activities to enjoy throughout the Underground City is shopping, since the complex incorporates a total of six different shopping centers. Additionally, however, you can catch a movie at the Scotiabank Theatre or visit the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal, which is connected via Place-des-Arts metro station.
At the same time, there are other fascinating things to see. Historic buildings have been repurposed and incorporated into the RÉSO network. The Cours Mont-Royal, for example, is now a chic shopping mall that was once the luxurious Mount Royal Hotel. In the early 20th century, this was the largest hotel in the British Empire, with more than 1,100 rooms. Nowadays, a former outdoor courtyard of the hotel has been transformed into the shopping mall.
As you walk through the various layers of this vast indoor network, then, you will be able to engage with both the past and present of Montreal’s urban design.
Although it might be a bit disappointing to visitors who are expecting something a little more mythical, the Underground City adds another layer to Montreal’s creativity and diversity, which is also linked to the culture of shopping and consumption in the downtown core.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.