5 things travellers love about Montevideo, Uruguay (and the best things to do)

Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, Uruguay

Despite being sandwiched between South American juggernauts Argentina and Brazil, the country of Uruguay has somehow stayed off the beaten path of travellers—much to the benefit of those who choose to make the trip to Montevideo. Travellers who’ve explored the continent’s other major cities may find themselves surprised by how laid-back the capital is: instead of honking horns and traffic jams, Montevideo’s well-paved roadways are quiet and smooth, and the causeway into the city centre looks like a scene from the French Riviera thanks to its boardwalks lined with palm trees and beautiful historic buildings.

With under 1.4 million inhabitants it’s one of the smaller capitals, and considered to be one of the safest. Many travellers come to explore its well-preserved old town, or use the city as a jumping-off point to head to touristy spots like UNESCO-protected Colonia or the beach town of Punta del Este which is a favourite party spot for Argentinians. Here are five things travellers love about exploring the city, and the best things to do in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, Uruguay

What to see in Montevideo: Ciudad Vieja

Ciudad Vieja is somewhat of a juxtaposition. While it’s home to the city’s most historic, preserved sites making for a tranquil place to stroll during the day, the old town is also where most of the fun nightlife is found which makes it a popular place for Montevideo sightseeing. Visitors love exploring the pedestrian-only walkways which wind past boutiques, outdoor patios, cafes and markets, stopping to admire the sculptures and street art framed by palm trees jutting out of the pavement.

Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay

Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, Uruguay

With building facades painted every colour under the rainbow, wrought-iron railings that look down on the streetscape and vines that hang from rooftops, Ciudad Vieja is a fun spot for photographers angling for great shots of the city. Those who time their visits well might come across tango dancing in the street, or happen across a violinist busking on a corner. While not quite as charming as other parts of the old town, the grandiose Plaza Independencia is not to be missed as it’s home to important landmarks such as the Solis Theatre and serves as the divider between Ciudad Vieja and the more modern downtown area.

Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay

Plaza Inendependencia

Teatro solis in Montevideo, Uruguay

The Solis Theatre

Rambla of Montevideo

Montevideo was built to maximize waterfront real estate, with many homes, hotels and restaurants overlooking the Rio de Plata which is the confluence of the Uruguay and the Paraná rivers. Sunny days lure residents to the Montevideo beaches for kite surfing, beach volleyball, and cycling or walking along the Rambla of Montevideo, a promenade which traces the shoreline. However, visitors thinking about walking the whole distance of the pathway should be warned; La Rambla happens to be the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, stretching nearly 14 miles. A good place to start for a more leisurely stroll is at the Montevideo sign near Avenidas Luis Alberto de Herrera to snap a token tourist shot, then head towards the old town.

The Montevideo sign

The Street Art

Montevideo’s laneways come to life thanks to the vibrant art installations found near spots like Parque Rodo, Cordon and Ciudad Vieja. From mythical creatures to raven-haired women looking out seductively from what would otherwise be just a wall bordering an anonymous plot of pavement, talented artists have turned the city into somewhat of a living canvas for visitors to admire. It turns out even plain-old graffiti can look chic in the right kind of setting.

Street art in Montevideo, Uruguay
Street art in Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay

The Food

Meat lovers will be in heaven when dining out in Montevideo—particularly those who love steak. To sample some of the best, visitors head into the covered Port Market found between Ciudad Vieja and the port, which is one of the top Montevideo attractions. Dating back to the 1800s, it doesn’t feel like much has changed about the building in the centuries since, thanks to the dark, arched timber ceilings and intricate iron pillars which make for an impressive backdrop. Artful culinary displays line the stalls below, where merchants entice hungry travellers with specialites like juicy steaks, matambres (stuffed meat rolls) and pamplonas (grilled and stuffed meat) as smoke rises up from the overworked grills.

Port Market in Montevideo, Uruguay

The Port Market

The perfect pairing for all that steak is wine made from the rare Tannat grape, which is Uruguay’s signature varietal and produces full-bodied reds. Traditionally paired with beef and lamb, it goes down smooth and is one of the country’s culinary treasures.

The Prices

While things like food and wine set visitors back more than in other South American countries like Peru or Bolivia, there are still plenty of savings to be had. Buses are a budget-friendly, convenient and comfortable way to get to popular spots like Punta del Este or Colonia del Sacramento, and most nice hotels in the city centre cost well below $100 USD per night. And there’s another way to save money that comes as a pleasant surprise; car hires and hospitality services like restaurants and bars actually offer a discount to people who pay with foreign credit cards, to the tune of 22 per cent thanks to a government program designed to curtail tax evasion.

Where to stay in Montevideo

When deciding where to stay in Montevideo, most visitors situate themselves in the old town Ciudad Vieja, or along the waterfront. Some top picks include:

  • Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa– This opulent property is far away from the action on the outskirts of the city, but it’s worth the trek as hotels don’t get much fancier than this. Click here to book.
  • Oliva Hotel Montevideo– Travellers love the sleek, modern rooms, amenities like a large pool and courtyard, and that it’s just steps away from a golf course and shopping. Click here to book.
  • Hyatt Centric Montevideo– This hotel opened in 2017, in a prime location on the water which means guests can enjoy river views. Click here to book.

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

A day-tripper’s guide to colourful Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

La Boca: The most photogenic spot in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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From exploring historic Ciudad Vieja to enjoying the vibrant street art and fantastic culinary scene, here's why #Montevideo, #Uruguay is worth a visit. 

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16 Responses

  1. Nancy says:

    Montevideo sounds fabulous! The palm-lined boardwalks, historic buildings, and colourful Ciudad Vieja sound wonderful. I loved reading about the discount for foreign credit car users. As a Canadian, we pay often pay so much exchange – a discount is such a treat!

  2. Linda says:

    South America is one of the continents we have not yet explored. Uruguay was not on the top of the list to stop but I may need to reconsider that. The water and beaches look dreamy. I would love to be wandering the streets and stop to watch tango or a violin player. Maybe I could find dance lessons for my husband 😀 Thanks for adding Montevideo to my mind.

  3. Carol Colborn says:

    Something that will draw my husband to Montevideo is the full-bodied red from tannat grapes. The colorful and beachfront homes, street art, plaza and the savings we can find elsewhere, but that kind of wine will probably not be available widely.

  4. Kavita Favelle says:

    You are right that Uruguay is easy to forget when considering travel to Argentina, Brazil, Peru… South America is so large, I guess we focus on what we have heard most about. So it’s good to read a post about attractions of Uruguay. Montevideo looks like the kind of capital city I’d really enjoy visiting, with a historical old town, the impressive waterfront, and of course that fantastic food. I am craving matambres and pamplonas now!

  5. Medha Verma says:

    I love your pictures, can I ask, which camera do you use? I cannot believe I haven’t as yet made it to South America. That is one whole continent left unexplored by me! Uruguay will certainly be in the list when I am able to plan a trip and Montevideo looks perfect. I especially love the street art!

  6. Bella WW says:

    Montevideo sounds like a really cool place to visit, especially due to the fact that is not as busy as other capitals in South America. I would love to take a photo of that cute Montevideo sign and explore Plaza Independencia.

  7. Rosemary says:

    Great article and so glad to have come across it. When I visited Montevideo in 2016, I really enjoyed it tremendously. The food, the delicious Tannat wines and the general vibe. The best part is the discount for paying with a credit card 🙂 It’s truly a great city to explore. Gorgeous photos!

  8. Suruchi says:

    Honestly, Uruguay was never on our list earlier, but Montevideo looks amazing. Ciudad Vieja is so instagrammable and wandering around these streets, watching the Tango will be lovely. Food too sounds quite interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Andra says:

    I don’t read that many articles on Uruguay so I guess it’s still one of those places that have tons of potential. I would love to visit Montevideo, especially for the street art, just wandering around and do some people watching 🙂 And I guess I wouldn’t mind trying the food either 🙂 Were there a lot of tourists when you were there?

  10. Harsh Gupta says:

    Those beachfront homes are calling me! Montevideo looks super cool and now I am already making my way to google to search more about it. How many days ideally should one be spending here?

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