The Montréal underground city, or La Ville Souterraine (RÉSO), is somewhat of an urban myth to those who have never seen it, and despite what many may imagine, it is nothing like the lost city of Atlantis, or the scattered remains of the Titanic. With approximately 30km (20 miles) of underground area containing everything from transport and hotels to retail stores, it is the largest underground mall in the world and the largest shopping mall in Montréal– appropriate for a city where the weather is not always kind!
The first section of the underground city was built under Place Ville-Marie, and designed by architect I.M Pei in 1962. The expansion continued as the metro system in Montréal grew to encompass a greater area and as the population increased. Now it is an interconnected weave of shops, food outlets, hotels and cinemas, all connected to the train and metro systems. For a more in depth look at the Montréal transport system, take a look at ARIANNE’s blog on public transportation in Montréal.
From street level, you will find there are over 190 entrances to the underground city, as the RÉSO connects office towers, hotels, residential and commercial complexes, convention halls, performing arts centres and universities. You may be thinking how will you ever learn to navigate such a vast underground mall, without the landmarks you would use as memory outside. This is the beauty of the underground city; each section is aesthetically different. As you go from one to another, you will notice the design and materials change – once you get used to this, you’ll have no problem at all. Besides, with an estimated 500,000 people using the underground city each day, you will never be short of someone to ask for directions.
So no matter the weather – rain, shine, sleet or snow – Montréal’s underground city is the perfect place to explore, and maybe even spend some of your hard-earned money. The RÉSO is a shopaholic’s dream; you will find hundreds of shops containing all the clothes, shoes, electronics, books, gifts, luggage, and food that you could ever want or need. There are all types of brands, from outlet and budget brands, to designer clothes with a designer price-tag to go with them.