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Underground City, Montreal


Underground City, Montreal

Location Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Opening date 1962
No. of floors 1

Montreal's Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French) is the set of interconnected complexes (both above and below ground) in and around Downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is also known as the indoor city (ville intérieure) and is the largest underground complex in the world.[1]

The lower floors of the Eaton Centre between the McGill and Peel Metro stations

Not all portions of the indoor city (ville intérieure) are underground. The connections are considered tunnels architecturally and technically, but they are air-conditioned and have lighting as good as any building's livable space does. Many tunnels are large enough to have shops on both sides of the passage. With over 32 km (20 mi) of tunnels spread over more than 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi), connected areas include shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, condominiums, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven Metro stations, two commuter train stations, a regional bus terminal, and the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena.[2] There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Each access point is an entry point to one of 60 residential or commercial complexes comprising 3.6 km2 (1.4 sq mi) of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal. In winter, some 500,000 people use the underground city every day.


  • Overview 1
  • History of the central segment 2
    • Structural concerns, 2007 closure 2.1
  • Central segment 3
    • Bonaventure 3.1
    • Square-Victoria-OACI 3.2
    • Place-d'Armes 3.3
    • Place-des-Arts 3.4
    • Peel 3.5
    • McGill 3.6
    • Lucien-L'Allier 3.7
  • Berri-UQAM segment 4
    • Berri-UQAM 4.1
  • Guy-Concordia segment 5
    • Guy-Concordia 5.1
  • Atwater segment 6
    • Atwater 6.1
  • Longueuil segment (off-island) 7
    • Longueuil–Université-de-Sherbrooke 7.1
  • Other segments 8
    • Sherbrooke 8.1
    • Pie-IX 8.2
    • Jean-Talon 8.3
    • Édouard-Montpetit 8.4
  • Hotels 9
  • Special events 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


In 2004, the downtown network of the underground city was re-branded and given the name RÉSO, which is a homophone of the French word réseau, or network. The "O" at the end of the word is the logo of the Montreal Metro. Schematic maps bearing the RÉSO logo are found throughout the network. The largest and best-known segment is located in the centre of downtown, delimited by the Peel and Place-des-Arts Metro stations on the Green Line and the Lucien-L'Allier and Place-d'Armes stations on the Orange Line.

The underground city is promoted as an important tourist attraction by most Montreal travel guidebooks, and as an urban planning achievement it is impressive. For most Montrealers, however, it tends to be considered more as a large mall complex linking Metro stations — they may not even know they are in it. Many Canadian cities have some kind of tunnel or skywalk system downtown to help people avoid the weather. Most parts of the Montreal underground city are open while the Metro is in operation (5:30 AM to 1:00 AM), though some are closed outside of business hours. Maps of the underground city and the Metro can be obtained free of charge from all Metro stations, and the network of buildings is indicated on most maps of the downtown core.

History of the central segment

The vision for the underground city was originally that of urbanist Vincent Ponte, for whom a commemorative plaque was unveiled in November 2006 at Place Ville-Marie.[3] The first link of the underground city arose with the construction of the Place Ville-Marie office tower and underground shopping mall, built in 1962 to cover an unsightly pit of railway tracks north of the Central Station. A tunnel linked it to Central Station and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

The advent of the Montreal Metro in 1966, in time for Expo 67, brought tunnels joining Bonaventure station to the Château Champlain hotel, the Place du Canada office tower, Place Bonaventure, Central Station, and Windsor Station, forming the core of the Underground City. Square-Victoria-OACI station connected to the Tour de la Bourse, Montreal's stock exchange building.

Adding to the development of the underground city was the Montreal Urban Community Transit Commission's policy of offering the aerial rights above Metro station entrances for construction through emphyteutic leases, an advantageous way to acquire prime real estate. When the Metro began running in 1966, ten buildings were already connected directly to Metro stations; development would continue until only three free-standing station entrances (Square-Victoria-OACI, St-Laurent and Place-des-Arts) remained in the central segment.

In 1974, the Complexe Desjardins office tower complex was constructed, spurring the construction of a "second downtown" underground city segment between Place-des-Arts and Place-d'Armes station, via Place des Arts, Complexe Desjardins, the Complexe Guy Favreau federal government building, and the Palais des Congrès (convention centre).

Between 1984 and 1992, the underground city expanded, with the construction of three major linked shopping centres in the Peel and McGill Metro station areas: Cours Mont-Royal, Place Montréal-Trust, and the Promenades Cathédrale (built underneath Christ Church Cathedral). McGill station was already linked with The Bay, Eaton's (now the Complexe Les Ailes), Centre Eaton, and two other office/mall complexes. Between 1984 and 1989, the underground city grew from 12 km (7 mi) of passages to almost 22 km (14 mi).

Mega-projects added to the size throughout the 1990s, including Le 1000 De La Gauchetière (the tallest building in Montreal), Le 1250 René-Lévesque, and the Montreal World Trade Centre. Although these buildings have only a secondary commercial sector, they use their connection to the underground city as a selling point for their office space. Also, the construction of a tunnel between Eaton Centre and Place Ville-Marie consolidated the two central halves of the underground city. The construction of the Bell (originally Molson) Centre connected Lucien-L'Allier Metro station to the underground city, as well as replacing Windsor Station with the new Gare Lucien-L'Allier commuter train station.

The tunnel between the Centre CDP Capital and the Palais des Congrès. A display case sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Architecture holds a video artwork about the underground city.

Finally, in 2003, the complete redevelopment of the ICAO headquarters joined Place Bonaventure to Square-Victoria-OACI station, which in turn was joined to the Palais des Congrès and Place-d'Armes station via the new Caisse de dépôt et de placement building and a tunnel under Place Jean-Paul Riopelle. Uniquely, the new tunnel sections in the Quartier International contain educational and artistic displays sponsored by major Montreal museums. As a result of this construction, one can now walk all the way across the centre of downtown, from the UQAM Sherbrooke Pavilion at the corner of Sainte Famille Street and Sherbrooke Street to the Lucien-L'Allier Metro station just south-west of the Bell Centre, without going outside — a span of 1.7 km (1.1 mi) as the crow flies, or approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) walking distance.

Structural concerns, 2007 closure

On Friday, August 24, 2007, construction crews discovered a seven-meter-long fissure in the ceiling of an underground corridor linking the McGill station to The Bay store located under de Maisonneuve Boulevard, between Aylmer Street and Union Avenue.[4] The station, the Underground City shops, and above ground streets and buildings were closed to assess whether there was any risk of collapse of the structure. Service on the Métro Green Line was halted between Berri-UQAM and Lionel-Groulx stations until Sunday evening. According to a spokesperson for the Hudson's Bay Company, city workers may have caused the damage by hitting a nearby pillar.[5]

During the weekend, city workcrews worked non-stop to shore up the sagging slab of concrete, installing more than one thousand temporary metal supports.

On Monday, August 27, 2007, service was restored to the Green Line, and all streets but the block of de Maisonneuve boulevard between Union and Aylmer were reopened to traffic. The one block that was not open to traffic was open to pedestrians. All buildings reopened, including The Bay. Officials said that it would take months to fix the problem.[6][7][8] While inspecting the site, it was discovered that 2021 Union, the Parkade Montreal building, was in danger of having concrete side panels fall off. City engineers performed emergency repairs. A report later blamed the construction of a bike path for the damage.[9] Street traffic on De Maisonneuve resumed in March 2008.

Central segment

The central segment interconnects the following seven Metro stations via indoor walkway. As the Berri-UQAM station, which allows transfers between the Green, Orange and Yellow lines, is two Metro stops from the closest station in this segment, in many cases it is quicker to walk than to take the metro. The lists of connected facilities which follow are grouped by segment and nearest Metro station.


Halles de la gare, going from Central Station to Place Ville-Marie


Square-Victoria-OACI Metro entrance, featuring the Paris Metro style entrance which was restored in 2003



Skylight in Place des Arts corridor towards Metro station



McGill Metro before renovations


Berri-UQAM segment


The hub of the Metro network located two Metro stations east of Place-des-Arts at the eastern edge of downtown is the transfer point for changing between the Green, Orange and Yellow lines.

Guy-Concordia segment

Guy-Concordia segment


Located one Metro station west of Concordia University.

  • Concordia University
    • Guy Metro Annex (GM) Building
    • Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts (EV) Complex
    • John Molson School of Business
      • This major new building connects to the EV building and Guy Metro station from the south-western corner of the intersection between Guy and de Maisonneuve streets.
    • JW McConnell Library Building
      • A tunnel links the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Complex to the Henry F. Hall Building and the McConnell Library building.

Atwater segment


One Metro station west of Guy-Concordia, this station is at the western edge of downtown and just inside the territory of Westmount.

Longueuil segment (off-island)


Situated two Metro stations south of Berri-UQAM, this station is a major hub for bus transportation on the south shore.

Other segments


  • Grand Plaza Montreal Centre-Ville (hotel)
  • ITHQ
  • FECQ (Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec)


  • Olympic Stadium
  • RIO (Régie des installations olympiques)
  • Regroupement Loisirs Québec


This station is the eastern transfer point between the Orange and Blue lines.



Special events

Every February, Art Souterrain presents a journey through the central segment of the Underground City during the Montreal Highlights Festival, showing contemporary artistic projects.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Underground City, Montreal
  2. ^ "Montréal souterrain" (PDF). Société de transport de Montréal. 2015-03-16. 
  3. ^ "Un hommage à l'initiateur du Montréal souterrain". Médias Transcontinental S.E.N.C. 2006-11-19. 
  4. ^ City core in chaos
  5. ^ Sara Champagne, Bruno Bisson et Martin Croteau : Le centre-ville paralysé | Actualités | Cyberpresse
  6. ^ "Montreal streets, subway line reopen after tunnel repairs". CBC News. 2007-08-27. 
  7. ^ | Subway, stores reopen in Mtl. after tunnel scare
  8. ^ De Maisonneuve fix to take months
  9. ^ Magder, Jason (2008-02-27). "Bay study blames de Maisonneuve bike path for crack in underground". Montreal Gazette (Canwest). Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  10. ^ Montreal Downtown & Underground event, Montreal Highlights Festival

External links

  • Underground Montreal Map Website dedicated to the underground city of Montreal
  • Map of the indoor city (in PDF format) by the Observatoire de la ville intérieure, Université de Montréal
  • Maps (in PDF format) including the underground city, provided by the Société de transport de Montréal

  • The term "underground city" is not used by local Montreal residents, usually one of the shopping malls is mentioned as a reference point.
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