Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Largest Underground Pedestrian Network, Montréal, QC

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Montreal Underground Network

So much shopping. Just not before 10:00am, when we were there. D%&#$!

While we were in Montréal, we enjoyed utterly perfect weather – warm, sunny, breezy. It framed the city in such a favorable light, it was difficult to imagine the brutal winters which settle early on this island. In 1966, a major initiative began to build an underground network to connect downtown buildings, and allow the city’s weather-beleagured residents to get in out of the cold.

Today, the world’s largest underground pedestrian network, known as RÉSO, is 22 miles of malls and shops, office buildings, 14 hotels, three universities, the World Trade Centre, The Bell Centre hockey stadium, and16 Metro stations.

We found ourselves in and out of the network several times during our trip, although it was never really our true and final destination.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Did I mention malls? That was reason enough for me to check it out. But when you avail yourself of Montréal’s wonderful Metro system, RÉSO is almost impossible to avoid.

I wasn’t expecting it to be a big hit with the kids, a hunch corroborated by the friendly mom blogger behind I Spy Montréal. Her blog is a wealth of information about family activities and events. I asked her, as a local, to suggest points of interest underground. She told us that Place Montréal Trust, one of the shopping centers within the network, has an Indigo bookstore on the top floor, with a nice kids’ section.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Les halles de la Gare

The entrance to Les Halles de la Gare, a step above your usual food court, within the main train station, Gare Central.

For one thing, being down there brought back fun memories of my first trip to Montréal as a college junior, when a group of us visited my friend Linda, who was studying at McGill University for the semester. Unfortunately, she chose the winter semester, so our February trip forced us to explore underground. It was the first time (but hardly the last) I shopped at The Body Shop, and discovered my favorite beauty product of all time, Passion Fruit Facial Cleansing Gel. Every time I open a bottle, the sweet smell stirs up the same memories.

That trip also involved a nightclub called Zanzibar, a legal drinking age of 18, and an ill-conceived MC Hammer-esque outfit. The rest is banned from public mention in accordance with The Pact. (p.s.  Montréal in February? COLD. To this day, I have never been colder in my life!)

On this trip, most of our exploration inside the network happened before or after the storefronts opened or closed for the day. (10am to 6pm most days). One night, Matt and I went out ourselves to check out the section near Gare Central, the main train station.

At 8pm, it was quiet but not desolate, with a few eateries still open. A few hours earlier, we would have had quite an extensive selection from which to choose. But it wouldn’t have mattered. I saw this sign, and made a full stop:

Super Frite.Gare Central

Can I get a show of hands … who else likes fried potatoes?

Not only were these fries “super,” they were served up as poutine, which means smothered with savory brown gravy and cheese curds, which get all melty and delicious. I didn’t see any defibrillators hanging on the nearby walls, but took a chance anyway. I selected the dish with smoked sausage, and Matt chose an Italian version (think pasta bolognese, with fries substituting for ziti.)

I did not take photos of my poutine, so eager was I to get noshing. If you want to see what a good poutine looks like, check MontrealPoutine.com. Ours didn’t look like that.

I’ve heard many people rave about poutine, and always wanted to try it. My poutine epiphanies were staggered over time. My first, immediate reaction was “mmmm…,’” then “salty…where’s my drink?,” then “this would be the perfect hangover remedy.” Several hours and ten TUMS later, the realization: “maybe a delicacy best NOT consumed at a fast food joint.”

A little background info about the place:

RESO sign

These "RESO" signs indicate points of entry to the underground network. A welcome sight in February, I should think.

The name RÉSO was derived from the French word réseau, or network. RÉSO is a connected series of over 20 miles /32 km of heated and air conditioned tunnels spread over more than 4.6 square miles / 12 km. There are more than 120 exterior access points to this underground city, which has inspired Montréal’s nickname as the “Double-Decker City.”

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):

Matt suggests a sliding scale ranging from 4 to 7 to rate the underground network, based on the weather and your desperation to escape it. As a shopping smorgasbord, I give it a 7.5.

Hey YOU! Go BIG:


Tourisme Montreal, 1 877 BONJOUR (266-5687)

I Spy Montréal

Skylight in Underground Network

An occasional skylight lets you know you won't be stuck down there forever.


  1. Michele Stefanides said,
    August 25, 2010 @ 8:52 am

    This brought back great college memories for me, too. I went to Montreal for the Summer Olympics in 1976. It poured down rain on one of the days I did not have tickets for any events, so my friend and I spent the entire day underground. I was so amazed such a thing was possible. We just rode from Metro stop to Metro stop all day, window shopping, eating, marveling that such a thing was possible! I had never been on a subway system before, either, and I was just enthralled with the idea that you didn’t have to pay for each train ride as long as you were going in the same direction.

    • Traci Suppa said,
      August 25, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

      I’m glad it did! I would have loved to do the same thing, spending an entire day doing my favorite things: shopping and eating!

  2. Mike said,
    August 25, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    Am I the only one that views 22 miles of malls and shops as a possible reason against visiting this attraction? Fortunately, the smothered frites sound like just the thing to restore my interest in miles of shopping and the credit card damage done by other members of my family. I would like to formally request that you include a picture of the aforementioned “MC Hammer-esque outfit” in your next post.

    • Traci Suppa said,
      August 25, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

      A picture of me in that get-up does exist, actually. And viewing it will bring welcome levity at my funeral.

  3. claude said,
    January 3, 2012 @ 12:32 am