Themed Tours in Montreal
Montreal's harsh, long winters (and hot, sticky summers) were the motivating force behind the construction of a series of underground tunnels that has created an accessible network of (mostly) subterranean shops, cafés, hotels, Métro stations and attractions. This monumental achievement in urban planning stretches for nearly 23 miles (37km), and often sees nearly 500,000 people pass through its corridors each day. It's ideal to catch a movie, buy a new outfit, go ice skating, take in some art, or hop on a train to New York City - all without ever venturing outdoors.
Start: Peel Métro Station.
Peel Métro Station
Visitors should note the coloured circular artwork on the walls of this station by noted Québec artist Jean-Paul Mousseau (1927-1991). Mousseau, a member of the Automatist movement and a proponent of integrating art into urban landscapes, eventually became the art director for the Métro network, and contributed murals to several stations.
Les Cours Mont-Royal
Cutting-edge fashion and trendy styles reign supreme in Les Cours Mont-Royal. 'Three Monkeys', perhaps the complex's best boutique, is a store that showcases some of Montreal's most talented independent artists and designers. A few of the other establishments pander to the young, clubbing crowd with loud and colourful outfits, but more demure yet chic shops give Les Cours Mont-Royal some fashion cred. Before it became a couture hotspot, the legendary Mont Royal Hotel stood on this spot from 1922 until the late 1980s. It was then gutted and turned into today's complex of condos, offices and boutiques. Now, instead of gawking at the beautiful hotel chandelier, visitors to Les Cours Mont-Royal can admire the 'tingmiluks‘ in permanent flight above the atrium. First Nations artist David Piqtoukun created the six metal sculptures of the flying shamans.
Where: 1455 rue Peel.
Website: Les Cours Mont-Royal Website
Le Centre Eaton
The hey-day of the once extraordinary Eaton Centre has come and gone, but the four-level mall is the largest commercial space in downtown and is still one of the most popular places in the Underground City (it gets 28 million visitors a year). Its enormous food court might be one of the reasons. The endless sea of seats and eateries on the lowest level are a good option for anyone looking for a fast-food fix.
Where: 705 rue Sainte-Catherine ouest.
Website: Le Centre Eaton Website
Complexe Les Ailes
Connected to the Eaton Centre is one of Montreal's most aesthetically impressive shopping centres. The former Eaton department store building (completed in 1927) was the second-largest store in Canada before it was completely gutted in 1999 and turned into this office/retail complex. In addition to its anchor department store, Les Ailes de la Mode, the three-storey mall is also home to some of the city's priciest boutiques:Terra Nostra, Tommy Hilfiger and Swarovski, to name a few. Its gorgeous skylight and illuminated atrium make the Complexe Les Ailes a sight to see during the day as well as the evening.
Where: 677 rue Sainte-Catherine ouest.
Telephone: +1 514 288 3759
Website: Complexe Les Ailes Website
The layout of this 60-store mall may not be the most straightforward, but considering how it was constructed (the cathedral above it was 'floated' on supports as the arcades below were built), it's understandable why the narrow paths twist and turn like they do. To visualise the unique and difficult birth of this retail complex, check out the series of visual displays depicting the construction process in its halls.
Where: 625 rue Sainte-Catherine ouest.
Telephone: +1 514 845 8230 ext 215
Website: Promenades Cathédrale Website
The city's first subterranean shopping centre debuted when this cross-shaped office building opened in 1962. Originally built to cover a rather unsightly railway trench north of Gare Centrale (7), the now famous 41-storey building — and the tunnels connecting it to both the train station and the Queen Elizabeth hotel — eventually became the cornerstone of the network that evolved into the Underground City.
Website: Place Ville-Marie Website
Gare Centrale (Central Station)
The current Central Station, which handles all of Montreal's major rail traffic, was built over the old Canadian Northern Railway's train tunnels. The tunnels date back to the 1920s, when several train stations were scattered throughout the city. When a consolidation of all the stations became necessary, construction on Gare Centrale began (though, due to delays caused by the Great Depression, the station wasn't completed until 1943). Adjacent to the station is Les Halles de la Gare, a shopping and restaurant complex that includes a branch of one of Montreal's best bakeries, Première Moisson.
Where: 895 rue de la Gauchetière ouest.
Telephone: +1 514 989 2626 (via Rail enquiries).
1000 rue de la Gauchetière
There's some controversy as to whether this office tower is the tallest in the city (some skyscrapers have spires that exceed its height though the buildings are shorter). Even so, the 51-storey post-modern structure (built in 1992) reaches Montreal's maximum allowance of 672ft (205m), the height of Mont Royal. Note the copper-capped roof and the rotunda entrances at the corner of the building's base — they were designed to mirror the design of the tower's northern neighbour, the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde.
Website: 1000 rue de la Gauchetière Website
Ice Skating Rink
Active folks might use this opportunity to show off their double toe loops or triple salchows, but it's more fun to grab a snack from one of the surrounding vendors and watch skaters dodge the columns in the middle of this indoor rink. The light-filled space — it's beneath a glass-domed atrium — was inspired by the rink in New York's Rockefeller Center.
After a couple of laps on the nearby ice rink, a strawberry-pecan muffin and a cup of Earl Grey from mmuffins, a branch of a Canadian chain that sells tasty baked goods, are just the job. 1000 rue de la Gauchètiere ouest (Ground Floor). Cash only.
Telephone: +1 514 395 0555