Montréal’s massive underground city — known locally as the RÉSO, or “network” en français — connects museums, universities, office towers, hotels, shops, and the city’s convention centre. It serves as an all-weather transport link for 500,000 people per day beneath the city’s streets. With 32 kilometres (20 miles) to explore, here’s how 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, was connected to both the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel and the central train station by interior passage. The idea of connecting more buildings through an underground network continued with preparations for Expo 67 and the construction of the city’s beloved Métro (subway) system.
Flash-forward to today, 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 public art works including a piece of the Berlin Wall and an epic stained-glass musical tribute to the city. The underground network even hosts an annual 5K running race throughout its handsome corridors.
Ok, let’s go!
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.
Hop on the Métro to ride one station west and disembark at McGill for a dose of retail therapy at the multi-level Eaton Centre, a premier fashion destination offering 125 boutiques over five levels. Head to the first Time Out Market in Canada showcasing the very best the city has to offer in terms of food and culture.
Next, head for the Place Ville-Marie, which has transformed from a typical skyscraper to a business campus at the core of Montréal’s commercial and creativity sectors. Modern art fans should note that Montréal’s contemporary art museum (MAC) is temporarily located here. For nibbles with a view, head to restaurant Les Enfants Terribles for comforting classics and brasserie-inspired dishes as you an unparalleled vantage point of the city.
Alternatively, the Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten is a go-to epicurean meeting place. The high-end food court offers a world of culinary experiences in a light-filled garden — all located under a 40-meter-high glass-covered ceiling. Tall enough to raise your glass to the sky!
After eating, check out the stone murals portraying a cross-Canada rail journey at Gare Central (Central Station).
Head back east through Place Bonaventure, and the OACI building to the World Trade Centre, home to the piece of the Berlin Wall gifted to Montréal by the German city. Next, make your way back towards the Palais des congrès, the perfect place for a colourful selfie in front of the rainbow windows.
By now, it’s possibly time to eat again! Reward yourself with one of the city’s best eating options connected to the RÉSO system, such as the Provençal flavours of Osco or the contemporary tastes of Gazette, both a perfect way to recharge before heading back for more exploration — whether underground or above!