Underneath It All
The weather is a harsh mistress in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The natives have fought
back by establishing a modern wonder, Montreal’s Underground City. The underground,
as the locals call it, is a remarkable pedestrian network of train stations, shops, hotels,
restaurants, museums, and more, under downtown Montreal.
The underground city got its start in 1962 with the building of the Place Ville-Marie
office tower and underground shopping mall. That first mall connected to Central Station
(subway) and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel via tunnels. Since then the underground has
grown to more than twenty-two miles of pedestrian walkways.
Residents of Montreal are extremely proud of their “inside city” (not all of it is
underground), the largest underground complex in the world. There are more than 150
access points to the subterranean city and more than 60% of the businesses in downtown
connect to the underground. Over 500,000 people traverse the belowground pedestrian
walkways and subways of Montreal each day. Several residential towers connect to the
underground as well, allowing some locals to go from home to work to play without ever
Some of the most stunning features of the underground complex are the subway stations.
Each station is, literally, a work of art. When the subway was built 1% of the budget for
each station was devoted to procuring and displaying art in the underground. A different
architect designed each station in a different style and no two stations are the same.
A number of well-known tourist spots in Montreal are accessible from the underground
city. Things to check out without going out include Olympic Park and the Olympic
Centre (built for the 1976 Olympics); the Place des Artes, home to the Montreal Museum
of Contemporary Art (Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal); and Molson Centre,
home of Montreal’s hockey team, the Canadiens.