Known as le RÉSO (réseau, which translates to “the network”) or La Ville Souterraine,(which translates to “the underground city”) in French, Montreal’s Underground City is one of the city’s top attractions. And as its popularity has grown, so too have the legends and myths about “La ville Souterraine“. Yes, it’s true that the underneath Montreal’s downtown core lies over 33 kilometers of underground tunnels to explore. And yes, it’s true that malls, banks, museums, Universities and a skating are accessible through the underground complexes. But there are no subterranean inhabitants dwelling in this underground city. In fact, “underground city” is a bit of a misnomer, since many parts of the network exist above ground. The following are the top things that you should know before visiting Montreal’s Underground City.
Nobody is actually living in the Underground City
Yes, it is called the Underground City but nobody actually lives in it. Yes, it is connected to hotels, malls, banks, museums and apartment complexes, but nobody actually actually calls it home. In fact, the RÉSO network follows the same schedule as Montreal’s Metro. That’s why most parts of Underground City are open from 5:30 am to 1:00 am – the same hours of operation as the metro.
It is a good way to avoid bad weather
Most locals use the Underground city as a shelter from the elements. Through the Underground City, you can avoid Montreal’s bitter, freezing winter days as well as the hot and humid days of summer. On brutal winter days when the thermostat plunges below -20 degrees Celsius, or muggy summer days where the thermostat soars above +20 degrees Celsius, you can shop, watch a movie, attend a concert, or go skating, all without venturing outdoors. The entire RESO network is a temperature-controlled environment, making it the perfect refuge for bad weather. Staying underground is also a good way to get out of the rain or snow. In fact, for many locals, figuring out how to get from point A to point B without going outside has become somewhat of an art.
You will get lost in the Underground City
Montreal’s Underground City is the biggest underground pedestrian network in the world.. With over 33 km of tunnels spread over more than 12 km2, the underground city connects visitors to museums, banks, universities, hotels, apartments, 2 train stations, the Bell Centre, a bus terminal, and 10 metro stations. So there is no doubt about it, you will get lost in the Underground City. Spanning over 33 kilometers, many visitors are afraid of getting lost within the Underground city. While it is possible to spend an entire day inside the various underground complexes, it is impossible to “really” get lost. The STM, Montreal’s public transit authority does a very good job at placing signs and maps trhougout the Underground City. And if you are still afraid of wandering inside the Underground City by yourself, there are plenty of local tours that will guide you through this impressive network.
It is a paradise for shoppers
The Underground City is connected to 3 major shopping centers, making a shopping destination like no other in the world! Visitor favorites include:
- The Eaton Centre: a shopping mall that is four stories high and home to over 100 stores, a food court, and is host to many cultural events.
- Les Cours Mont-Royal: a 1920’s hotel that was refurbished into an upscale shopping center.
There really is a skating rink inside
That’s right. There really is a skating rink inside the Underground City and it is open year-round! Inaugurated in 1992, the Atrium Le 1000 skating rink is located on the main floor of Quebec’s tallest building, Le 1000 De La Gauchetière. The skating rink features a 10,000 square foot rink, complete with glass dome overhead. It is open Monday, from 11:30AM to 6PM, Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30AM to 6PM, Saturday from 12:30PM to 9PM and Sunday from 12:30PM to 6PM. Happy skating!