Explore the Underground City of Montreal
In french we call it le RÉSO (réseau) or La Ville Souterraine, which translates to “the network” and “the Montreal underground city.” First built during the 1960’s, it now connects shoppers to over 1,000 retailers and restaurants through a network of tunnels, corridors and plazas. This city beneath the city, is most advantageous during those long winter months, making for convenient shopping and commuting without the slush and oversized coat. Needless to say, this alternative route can seem a bit daunting at first, and I’m not going to lie to you, it is pretty confusing if you don’t know your way around. So don’t worry about it, getting lost is part of the experience! But hey, just to be safe here is the map, and below are several places that you must drop by!
For unique inspiration at any elevation, these Exciting Things to Do in Montreal should do the trick.
16. Shop at the Eaton Centre
This shopping mall is located at the very centre of underground Montreal; it is four stories high and home to over 100 stores, a food court, and is host to many cultural events. Connecting through the McGill metro station, it is often considered the city’s main artery!
15. Catch a movie at Cinéma du Parc
Cinema du Parc is an independent cinema that offers a variety of programmings and screenings that stem from indie flicks to artistic documentaries to great feature films. It is truly a gem for artistic minds, and of course it is accessible by the underground city!
14. Take the Mile-End Montreal Food Tour
This 3 hour food tour through Mile-End explores the historic parts of the area and dives into the history of Montreal’s Underground. The tour stops at 5+ different tasting sites, including 3 sit-down restaurants. There’s even an opportunity to sample a locally-brewed beer! If learning about the history of Mile-End Montreal while sampling delicious food tickles your fancy, then click here for more information on the Mile-End Food tour.
13. Indulge at Jeff de Bruges
Located in the Place Montreal Trust area of the tunnel, Jeff de Bruges is your one stop shop for sheer indulgence. This French brand makes decadent Belgian chocolate with only the best ingredients. Their goal is to combine quality with creativity. The chocolates are made in Brussels and are shipped out to their Montreal store every week. A 250g box goes for about 23$ and they also serve ice cream and frozen yogurt made with natural ingredients.
12. Visit the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal
This was Canada’s first museum devoted strictly to contemporary art. Displaying work by Québec, Canadian and international artists, its collections include contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs, installation, video and works on paper. Make sure to check out their latest expositions: Now Have a Look at This Machine by Emanuel Licha, Mundos by Teresa Margolles, and For Time is the Longest Distance Between Two Places(Conveniently accessible via the underground city Montreal).
11. Catch a show at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra House
This state of the art concert house seats 2100 and can seat an orchestra of 200. It was designed for unamplified music; the acoustics in the room are something to experience. It also houses the only functioning octobass in the world and an impressive organ that has 6,489 pipes! The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conducted by grammy winner Kent Nagano, has 92 permanent members and puts on close to 100 shows a year. The venue also hosts many international and local shows that you can checkout here.
10. Dine in the Places des Arts Square at Tavern F and Brasserie T
A good meal is well deserved after navigating the underground tunnel (all 32km of it!). If you’re checking out a show in the Places des Arts area, these two restaurants are ideal stops for a refuel. Taverne F is a tapas restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes that are mostly meat and fish-based. Their glass walls allow patrons to enjoy the bustle of the Places des Arts square.
Right down the square is Brasserie T, a high end contemporary French restaurant in a sleek, bright, and glass building. The menu includes charcuterie, cheese, tartars, and various fish and meats. It’s a great stop before or after a show and they’re also open for brunch if you’re catching a matinee performance.
9. Fuel-up at The Tunnel Espresso Bar
Coffee fanatics know how to locate this place by heart, but for those who want to find it without getting lost in the burrows of city, look for the blue neon sign. This trendy espresso bar is literally a hole in the wall, and located in the tunnel between Eaten Center and Ville-Marie. The coffee here is unbelievably rich and flavourful, plus it comes with super friendly service. Make sure to fuel up here!
8. Go to the contemporary art Festival Art Souterrain
Each year this non-profit organization showcases international art institutions, artists, and the architectural and cultural heritage of downtown Montreal’s underground city. This unique festival aims at taking art and artist out of their traditional exhibition spaces. The 2017 theme is Art and Diversion and runs from March 4- 26. Last year, artists spanned through 7 km of the underground city Montreal!
7. Enjoy the view at Les Enfants Terribles’ rooftop restaurant
Forty four floors up the Place Ville Marie building is a beautiful restaurant where you can wine and dine, all while feasting your eyes on Montreal’s city skyline. Les Enfants Terribles is a high-end bistro that serves-up classic French fares. Unlike their other 3 locations, this restaurant in particular has a more festive and friendly vibe that’s also family friendly. The menu includes comfort foods like burgers, ribs, macaroni, shepherd’s pie, and, of course, classic French tartars. It’s a great place to bask in the sun for brunch and lunch, enjoy a cocktail from 5-7, or see the sunset at dinner time.
Be sure to checkout the #MTLGO exhibit one floor up. The exhibit features over 500 archived and new images that explores famous Montreal personalities like Olympic athletes Jennifer Abel and Caroline Ouellette, comedian Sugar Sammy, and many more!
6. Partake in the festival: Montréal en Lumière
Performing arts, gastronomy, free outdoor family activities, and a full night of exquisitely original discoveries await you at the festival Montréal en Lumière. As one of the largest winter festivals in the world, fans experience the joy of Montreal during wintertime! Each year the festival closes on the wildest night of the year called La Nuit Blanche! Once a year a free shuttles service is offered to locals and tourists to enjoy a variety of activities, installations, exhibitions, and parties! (From February 19 to March 1st).
5. Visit the gorgeous metro station: Station Champs-de-Mars
Champs-de-Mars metro station was designed by Adalbert Niklewicz back in 1966, and displays glasswork by Marcelle Ferron, who was one of the signatories of the manifesto Refus global, written in 1948 by painter Paul-Émile Borduas. This is the only station where sunlight reaches the train platforms, and it is gorgeous! It’s worth checking out if you’re in this area of the underground city Montreal.
4. Meet the stars at the Grévin Museum
Ever dreamt about meeting your favourite celebrity? Well now you can at the wax Grévin Museum in the Eaton Centre. The museum contains the over 120 figures including those of Queen Elizabeth II, Scarlett Johansson, Albert Einstein, Lady Gaga, Mahatma Gandhi, Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling and many more. It also depicts some of Quebec and Canada’s history, including figures like Jacques Cartier. Be sure to also checkout a Quebec favourite figure, Celine Dion!
3. Grab a Delicious Hestia Tea
If you’ve ever watched Dragon Den Quebec and wondered what they consider a good business idea, Hestia Tea is the answer. Tucked away in the Ville-Marie tunnel, this magical tea joint received the support and financial backing of those Dragons. Stay warm and cozy inside while you enjoy their unique concoctions such as a “matcha, ginger, and lime” tea, that you can sip along with one of their delicious scones. To get there, walk from the Eaton Centre towards Place Ville Marie. They’ve also got a loyalty program– one more reason to keep coming back for more! It’s a great place to relax in the underground city Montreal.
2. Go underground shopping at Les Cours Mont-Royal centre
Formerly known as the Mount Royal Hotel, this 1920’s hotel was refurbished into an upscale shopping centre. Its beautiful architecture and gorgeous interior still holds reminisces of the hotel, like the luxurious ceiling of the big entrance lobby. Decked out with a spectacular chandelier from the Monte Carlo casino and six bird-human sculptures under the main skylight by the Inuit artist David Ruben, this high-end shopping centre is one of Montreal’s underground gems.
1. Skate indoors at Atrium Le 1000
Ice skating is one of the most classic activities you can do in Montreal. At Atrium Le 1000, you can do it year round! That’s one of the many pros of having an underground city. Located on the main floor of Quebec’s tallest building, Le 1000 De La Gauchetière, it’s easily accessible by the underground city Montreal. Make your way there from Monday, from 11:30am to 6pm, Tuesday to Friday, from 11:30am to 9pm, Saturday from 12:30pm to 9pm and Sunday from 12:30pm to 9pm. Happy skating!
Don’t forget to check out Canadian photographer Andrew Emond’s photo blog Montreal Underground, documenting the City of Montreal’s sewers and other underground infrastructures.