RÉSO: things are looking up when you look down in Montréal
Montréal’s mammoth underground city – known locally as the RÉSO, or “network” en français – connects museums, universities, office towers, hotels and shops, in the process serving as a transport link for 500,000 people per day beneath the city’s streets. There’s 32 kilometres (20 miles) to explore and we’ve laid out this simple route for you to follow to get a taste of “the other Montréal.”
BUT FIRST, A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
In 1962, Place Ville-Marie, one of downtown Montréal’s crown jewel high-rises co-developed by celebrated architect I.M. Pei, was connected to both the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel and the central train station by interior passage. Preparations for Expo 67 included construction of the city’s beloved métro system, and with it the idea of connecting more buildings together at the métro level.
Flash-forward to 2018 and Montréal’s RÉSO is more than just a transport method to beat the cold in the winter months or the humidity of the summer’s hottest days. It’s an altogether different side of the city, offering shopping, dining and hundreds of pieces of public art including a piece of the Berlin Wall and an epic stained-glass musical tribute to the city. Equally beloved by locals and tourists alike, there’s even an annual 5K running race throughout the system.
OK, LET’S GO!
Easily accessible from the city’s conference centre the Palais de congrès de Montréal, descend into the RÉSO system at Complexe Desjardins passing the centre’s multitude of shopping options and head for the mammoth Place-des-Arts. Music lovers should make a point of taking in a performance by the Opéra de Montréal or the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, while modern art fans shouldn’t miss the MAC Contemporary Art Museum.
Hop on the métro and head one station west and disembark at McGill for a dose of retail therapy at the multi-level Eaton Centre. Kitsch fans shouldn’t miss the Grévin Museum for a selfie snap with wax figurines so lifelike your friends back home just might believe you bumped into Céline Dion or the Queen while wandering the town. (Barbie fans should take a side excursion to the Barbie Expo in the Les Cours Mont-Royal luxury mall.)
Head for the Place Ville-Marie and explore the system’s earliest tunnels before ascending up to the top floor’s Observatoire for an unbeatable 360 degree view of Montréal. Back underground, check out the stone murals portraying a cross-Canada rail journey at Gare Central.
Head back east through Place Bonaventure, and the OACI building to the World Trade Centre, home of the chunk of the Berlin Wall gifted to Montréal by Berlin. Next, make your way back towards the Palais des congrès, the perfect place for a colourfully-lit selfie in front of the multi-coloured windows.
By now, you’ve surely worked up a bit of an appetite so reward yourself with one of the city’s best eating options connected to the RÉSO system. We suggest the Provençal flavours of Osco or the contemporary tastes of Gazette, both a perfect way to recharge before heading back for more exploration of Montréal’s underground city.