Here is the story on how Rain and I found the underground city of Montreal.
It all started with our spontaneous trip to the city in January of 2018. During a Christmas party with Rain’s family, we brought up the idea of us visiting Montreal for a long weekend before our next semester of college began. After long conversations with her grandparents, whom have previously been to the city, we made the decision to go.
Rain’s grandparents talked about their time in the city and how they stayed at a fantastic hotel and found great restaurants. We already knew of the monuments and tourist areas, but it was good to hear about places from a first hand experience. We talked for a long time and wrote down all of the places we should visit, as well as the name of restaurants to try and the hotel they had stayed at.
After doing some quick research, we realized that this could be a rather inexpensive trip, and be a great experience for each of us. To start planning, we needed to determine the hotel we were going stay at. We then made a list of all the places we wanted to see and their relative location to the hotel we were staying at. Our choice in hotel was the Hotel Bonaventure, this was the same hotel Rain’s grandparents had recommended.
Not only was this hotel in the heart of the city, but it was at a great price for the weekend of our stay (roughly $100 a night). The hotel had parking for the guests (at an additional price) which was worth paying for rather than searching around for another parking garage or finding street parking. About 4 hours in the car; going through customs at the border, and trying to decipher directions that were in French, we finally made it to the city. I don’t have a lot of experience driving in cities, but this city was probably the most organized and driver friendly than any other place I’ve driven through. Good job Canada.
Once we reached our hotel it took us three tries to get in to where we needed to park. After a complete guess we entered this small parking lot with a down ramp in the middle. Unsure of where to go I thought I should try to park down below. To my surprise there was a gate that closed off the entry to the parking garage. In a panic, I put the car in reverse before another car came up behind me. Luckily I was able to get out, but I was unlucky when it came to the bellhop of the hotel. I pulled around up front by the doors and got out to ask for assistance in parking. As I approached the individual, he smirked and joked about being American. Looks like blending in was no longer an option.
The hotel itself is located on the top floor of the Place Bonaventure building. One of the many wonderful features of this hotel is the heated rooftop pool!
It’s one thing to have a pool at a hotel, but putting it on the roof and keeping it accessible all year round makes it quite spectacular. During our stay we also got the luxury to be in the pool during a snow fall! This hotel is one of kind and has a wonderful staff that helped us out with everything we needed. Including our lost reservation! Thankfully they were able to recollect the data from our email confirmation. Pro tip, always keep your travel documents and receipts in a easy to find location, whether it is a printed hard copy, or a separate electronic folder.
If you’re interest in the hotel here is the link to their website, we strongly recommend it: Hotel Bonaventure
Our first night there we decided to go explore the surroundings of the city. We probably walked for about an hour or so, before stopping for some food. If you’re ever in Montreal, a great place for lunch/dinner would be the Burger Bar on Crescent Street.
Not only does it serve burgers, but this is where Rain and I got to experience our very first bowl of Canadian Poutine!
Shortly after, we decided to head back to our hotel and get some rest for the next day.
Saturday came along, and although we were excited to get out and explore again we wanted to sleep some more. I always want to stay in bed and sleep more when I am staying at hotels. After serious contemplating, we got ourselves out of bed and started to get ready. At this point it was already 9:00 a.m., which gave us enough time to get ready and take our time. Being budget travelers we made lunches and packed muffins, and other snacks. Our goal was to save money on eating as much as we could so we could go to exhibits or buy souvenirs to remember this trip.
One hour later we finally leave, and head out to start the day. To our surprise it seemed to have dropped close to 15 inches of snow over night. Upon our arrival to the city there was not a single snow flake on the ground; even the temperature was relatively warm. So as we looked out the window, we realized we needed our scarfs and jackets and boots. Luckily we came prepared for Canadian weather! Our destination for the morning was Notre Dame.
Spending probably 5 minutes outside walking in the wind tunnel created by the buildings, and rummaging through snow we stopped in an enclosed subway entrance. It wasn’t until that point that we realized something funny. We didn’t see a single person outside. I couldn’t imagine everyone stayed inside on the weekends. It felt odd, but after some warming up we pushed through the weather again.
As we finally reached our destination, we were excited to get inside again and warm up. Whether you are religious or not, visiting a cathedral should be on your list for traveling. The architecture alone is stunning, and on top of that the colors and stories that the walls can tell are magnificent. Truly a work of art.
Once we had our time there we decided to go explore again, and still the only citizens and tourists we found were outside Notre Dame, even Old Montreal was lacking people in the streets. While we walked around, we needed to stop again to warm up. We found another entrance to the subway system, but this time we decided to take a look at how many people were around the subway waiting. We figured the citizens used the subway more frequently in the winter.
That’s when it hit us, not only were people using subways, but we found signs that pointed back to Place Bonaventure. Being curious and wanting to explore, we followed the trail of signs up to Place Bonaventure. When suddenly everything became familiar and we landed right back at our hotel! Which means we walked just over a kilometer underground, which was conveniently heated in some spots too!
Being able to use the hotels WiFi again, we needed to look up how exactly we managed to find this wonderful passage way, and whether or not there were more. Google became a lifesaver and we found that there is a massive underground city below Montreal! Further research and we found this:
Orientating ourselves after finding this map took awhile too, because we had to keep switching back and forth from maps to google. After some time, we found where we entered originally from Notre Dame, Place D’Armes. Now that we had barrings and a map we walked around the underground for a few more hours.
We started at Place Bonaventure and randomly chose to head towards Centre Eaton. We had no idea what we would find, but that’s what was fun about it! Gare Centrale was the main train stations in Montreal, and Place Ville-Marie housed businesses, some restaurants and stores. Centre Eaton, is where we (solely Rain) lost track of time, because this was where the mall was. It wasn’t just any mall either, but an underground mall. It had street level access too, but it had multiple levels. Tons of stores and a food court were located in this building.
Unaware of the time, we realized we had to head back to our hotel to eat. We brought pizza from home. Thankfully pizza is just as good cold as it is warm. After eating we decided to stay in for the remainder of the night and research what was in the other buildings according to our map of the underground. Some fun facts about the underground city: It’s the largest underground complex in the world, and it covers 32 kilometers (20 miles), which is about 4 million square meters. So yeah, it’s pretty huge and makes sense why we didn’t see anyone that morning walking outside in the blistering weather. We really must have looked like tourists again that morning.
Sunday was our last full day in Montreal, so we continued to explore the underground and go see Mount Royal. Although there were plenty of stairs to make the hike up the mountain easier, the snow was not on our side. Along with hundred of people stepping in the same spots too, ice formed fairly quickly which made it even more challenging for us. We managed though and the sights were worth it!
When we went back to the underground we headed in a different direction this time and searched for other interesting buildings. Not being disappointed, we found plenty. Centre Bell was where the Hockey games were played, and along the way we found an indoor ice rink, a beautiful large colored window display, and many others.
Back over in Centre Eaton they had a giant fountain with a light show!
On our last night we had some Canadian dollars left over to go out to eat one more time. In our search criteria I desired a milkshake. For some reason I was really craving a milkshake. After a few minutes we found a little diner not to far from our hotel. We got the map out, and headed off for a late dinner. Thankfully this diner was open late, because we got a little lost. It’s much harder to determine where you will end up outside when you use the underground city. Only needing to walk about a block, we reached the diner. I ordered a buffalo chicken wrap, while Rain had ordered a steak with rice. Obviously we ordered poutine too, and I got my milkshake. You could say we were quite happy at dinner time.
That next morning we packed up our bags, ate our muffins and checked out of the hotel. The following 4 hours was our car ride back to the homeland of New Hampshire.