Montreal is famous for its complex of underground tunnels linking buildings, in particular the shopping centres. When winters are freezing, shifting things underground away from the weather does indeed seem to make eminent sense – as well as being rather unique. So we just had to experience this for ourselves.
According to the information we received, the ‘Underground City’ now takes in 33km of connecting passageways and links over 1700 boutiques and businesses. That isn’t hard to believe, because with our lack of local knowledge we soon were … um … lost! Undaunted, we pressed on, finding some shops selling the goods we needed (more summer clothing).
While we did our shopping though, I came to the realisation that our ‘above ground’ shopping malls are equally windowless – so the experience of shopping underground felt very like being at home. And, interestingly, the Montreal shopping complex in the photos even had a glass dome over the top, through which trees were visible (photo 2): that was definitely less claustrophobic than usual in a ‘standard’ shopping centre!
As you may already know, Montreal is renown for its underground city. What mostly interconnects the underground city are the different malls that we have downtown. You can basically go thru the malls without even putting a foot outside..great during the winter time or the summer time when its too hot and humid! Start East at Union street at The Bay department store, then to Place de la Cathedrale mall, Complexe Les Ailes mall* & Les Ailes High-End Department Store, Eaton Centre*, Montreal Trust mall*, Simon's Department Store to finally Les Cours Mont-Royal mall on Peel Street*. The 3 malls with a * are the most popular ones that have all the big famous stores such as The Gap, Old Navy, Jacob, Tommy, Guess, Zara, Mexx, LeChateau, Aldo, Pegabo, LaSenza, Tristan...Simon's is a great Quebec department store that has nice cheap clothes where as Les Ailes is an High-End Quebec department store. Les Cours Mont-Royal, on the other hand, is less mainstream, and offers a great variety of hip/trendy independant boutiques. There are other malls connecting to the underground city such as Complexe Desjardins (metro Place des Arts) and Place Ville-Marie, but the stores there arent that great. All of the malls have great food courts in their basement with a large variety to eat from at a low price...anything from Mediterranean to Veggie healthy food, Mexican to Sushi...Eaton Centre and Simon's have the best ones.
What to buy: Wanna buy something canadian?
- Cheap tops at "d" Dynamite, Le Garage, Simon's or LeChateau
- Cheap international cuisine at the Food Courts
- Hip brands like Space FB (Francois Beauregard) at Les Cours Mont-Royal.
- Nice cheap lingerie and underwear at La Senza
- Cheap trendy shoes at Aldo or Pegabo
- Great clothing for the office or dresses for cocktails at FC - Femme de Carriere, Tristan or Club Monaco.
- Great & not expensive make-up brand CARGO at Les Ailes
- Good quality/price clothing at Jacob.
- Canadian Dept stores are: LaBaie (The Bay), Les Ailes, Simon's, Ogilvy and Holt Renfrew (high-end).
What to pay: Depends on how much you like to spend on clothes, etc...
Every city has its popular shopping districts. In downtown Montreal the place to go is famous Rue St. Catherines (Street).
Though it runs a great distance east & west, the most popular stretch is between Atwater on the west and St. Laurent on the east.
You should also be aware that underneath much of the central area of this strip (between Stanley and Aylmer are a series of interconnected underground shopping malls. They're especially nice to go in when it's -15C or colder outside!
What to buy: St. Catherines has an enormous variety of stores of every kind imaginable, from huge department stores to the smallest boutiques.
It also doubles as a "cruising strip" for young men and women in their fancy cars!
I came across this wonderful Chocolate shoppe on my way back from the Museum of Fine Art. I intended to purchase a gift box of chocolates but once I saw the homemade creme glace'e I couldn't resist. I chose a dip of mocha almond on a sugar cone. I also purchased a gift box of assorted chololates. It was $12 Can for a box of 12. This is a great assortment. The gift was nicely wrapped in blue tissue with a gift card. A special treat for someone special.
What to buy: All the chocolates are exquisitely exotic, outstandingly rich and simply Divine.
The first Simons store opened in Quebec city in 1840. There is a sense of tradition in this store but also a good understanding of all the new trends. Men and women can find something very interesting in all the choices available. Each fall, i always go there for the new male collection.
What to buy: - men and women clothing
- hats, scarfs, coats
What to pay: It depend a lot, but it's a little bit more for a very good quality.
A souvenir shop is a souvenir shop is a souvenir shop, right? Well, usually. But this store is a bit different. Located on West St. Catherine's, near Bishop, Harmonie stocks a number of higher-end items that not all stores seem to have.
It was the favourite gift/souvenir shop of my girlfriend ... and she's quite the expert on shopping, I assure you!
Complexe Desjardins is a big shopping complex, part of Montreal's underground city. Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, Complexe Desjardins has over 100 shops and restaurants. It also has a big food court. It is directly adjacent to and accessible from the Hyatt Regency hotel. It is also directly accessible from Montreal's contemporary art museum.
What to buy: Mostly retail stores: clothing, shoes, electronics, etc.
In Downtown Montreal is a series of shopping malls and food courts, all linked by underground tunnels and providing links into the Metro systems. This is known as the underground city and lets Montrealians get around in winter without ever going outside. One of the major malls is the Bonaventure Place, with shops, food courts and even an ice rink.
Sainte-Catherine Street is the main downtown artery for shopping. Unlike most North American cities the downtown of Montreal is vibrant and always hopping. There are four very large stores (Ogilvies, The Bay, Simons and Les Ailes de la Mode) and hundreds of other shops and shopping centres. You can find anything you want. In the winter you don't even have to go outside (although I would recommend that you walk on the street). The underground city is huge...and you can access it from many metro stations...go to METRO McGill and start from there.
What to buy: Fashion, fashion, fashion. Non-canadian visitors can have their sales tax refunded. Lots of foreign exchange shops with good rates will assist you. Every day is a sale day :-) Imagine, with all the money you will save...you can go out and have a good time.
What to pay: The sky is the limit :-)
St Catherine street (rue Ste Catherine) is the main street in Montreal from where you'll be able to buy pretty much anything you need! There are plenty of bigger and smaller shops, mega-stores, a few department stores (Simons, La Baie) and some shopping centres (Eaton Centre is the biggest). Most of them are in the area between metro stations Guy-Concordia and Place-des-Arts. And don't forget to check out all the nice shops underground!
Of course it all depends on how much you like or dislike to shop but it's easy to spend a whole day (and all of your cash!) here. And as shopping passes for hard work stop to rest your feet once in a while in the cafés along the way. Presse café opposite Zara clothes store serves excellent wraps!
What to pay: Depends on the store. Anything from a few bucks to huge amounts.
Le Faubourg Sainte-Catherine, constructed in 1986, is a 175,000 sq. ft. mixed use complex anchoring the west side of downtown Montreal on Sainte-Catherine Street.
It's really a one stop for shopping for prepared food (bagel, meat, pastry, ethnic food, etc...), fruits and vegetables, wine, flowers, newspaper, book or simply take a coffee or grab a snack in the food fare on the top levels.
What to buy: Similar to a market place, it is possible to complete your grocery shopping with quality gourmet products, in the heart of downtown Montreal.
Also arts and crafts, carpets, haircuts, or go bowling!!
What to pay: very affordable.
When coming to Montreal, lots of tourists come downtown, on Ste-Catherine street and around, to shop. Don't worry, it's not a tourist trap as all Montrealers alike or almost, do a lot of their shoping here, as well. This is where you'll find what has been called the 'underground city'. I've always found it to be a strange appellation, since it does not have everything that a city includes...but I guess that it hits the imagination of people. Nonetheless, it's very practical to have around, as we are stuck in snow, a good many months of the year, and helps us to go around much faster and effectively. To find it, just go down in any shoping center of the said street , and you will automatically be within it, as they all interconnect as well as interconnecting with the metro stations that serves them. But to see tourists coming here with a guide, always feels a bit surrealistically strange to me. But I guess that it's because I'm used to it, and perhaps it might be innovative for people from overseas...But what many will find innovative is the fact that everyone crosses the street regardless of the colour of trafic lights, that's how we separate Montrealers from tourists.
What to buy: Anyhow, you'll find lots to buy, and you can look for the best deals all you like, since there are so many stores around. There are plenty of restaurants as well, inside the shoping centers, usually the lowest level, and on the street itself.
Stores are open every day. From around 9-10 am to 6-9 pm on week days. And 9-10 am to 5 pm on weekends.
The Square-Dominion building on the picture, is where the Montreal's tourist office (Infotouriste Centre) is located at 1001 Square-Dorchester Street (corner Peel and Ste-Catherine Streets), Peel Metro.
Sainte-Catherine Street is Montreal's main shopping street. If a major international chain has a store in Montreal, it is likely to be found here. Countless souvenir stores, street vendors and coffee shops compete with those larger chains on the city's most bustling street.
While this means you will very few original, smaller stores in this part of town, it also means that this is perhaps the best place to feel the pulse of Montreal during the day, as you cross the full gamut of locals, whether they are on their way to/from work, lazing around or shopping themselves.
Every year in July, Sainte-Catherine's merchants holds a huge sidewalk sale, from Saint-Marc Street (Guy metro) to Jeanne-Mance Street (Place-des-Arts metro), which covers most of the street's shopping area. In 2008, the sidewalk sale will be on the weekend of July 12-13.
Mostly clothing stores, Les Cours Mont-Royal is very chic and trendy. If you want exclusive pieces of clothes, this is the right place for you. Many great names are here: Harry Rosen, Monaco, Exchange, and many more.
What to buy: Clothes, clothes and clothes.
What to pay: A little bit more than the other malls in that part of the town but you will find very nice clothing stores.
One can only imagine the severity of Montreal's long winters. What do people do? They head underground, to the vast pedestrian network known as RESO. It seems to stretch on forever; one could spend days here.
Every kind of shop and restaurant is somewhere down here. The hallways are crowded, and you can spend plenty of time just watching all the people go by. Constantly being expanded, this sprawling complex goes on for 19 miles.
What to buy: You can find virtually anything here.
What to pay: Prices are about average for Montreal.