Place Ville-Marie marks the beginning of Montréal’s famous Underground City (officially called RÉSO – a homophone of “réseau”, the French word for “network” – or La Ville Souterraine, in French), planned as a refuge from the weather – outrageously cold in the winter and humid in the summer. The underground network began with the construction of Place Ville-Marie in the 1960s. Montréalers flooded into the first climate-controlled shopping arcade, and the Underground City duly spread. Today its 33km of passages provide access to the Métro, major hotels, shopping malls, transport termini, thousands of offices, apartments and restaurants and a good smattering of cinemas and theatres. Everything underground is signposted, but you’re still likely to get lost on your first visit – pick up a map of the ever-expanding system from the tourist office. While the pamphlets make the Underground City sound somewhat exotic, it’s a pretty banal place – most Montréalers just use it to get from place to place, or drop in on a number of fairly standard shopping malls. If you’re on a budget, check out the inexpensive food courts on the lowest floor of any of the malls (also handy for public toilets).
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