Quick: name a country in South America that begins with the letter ‘U’!
If you instantly thought of Uruguay, then I’ll bet you’ve visited lovely Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay and it has entered your heart like it holds mine! Montevideo is home to more than half of the country’s population and blends a liberal and open culture with an attractive adherence to tradition. Montevideo has a very European feel and blends elements of Latin culture with German and Eastern Europe influences.
Montevideo mixes tradition with freedom and relaxation
You will probably fly into Carrasco International Airport which serves international flights in South America, Central America, North America and even Europe. The airport is a small and very convenient facility which is well sign-posted for finding transport upon arrival. The distance from the airport to Plaza Independencia in the historic centre of the city is 22 kilometres (13.7 miles). Travel time by car is approximately 30 minutes in a taxi or ride-share long the scenic coastal road. There are also several bus lines that offer low cost public transport including; Cutcsa, Copsa and COT which all have frequent departures from the airport. Once inside the centre of this compact city, it is easy to walk nearly everywhere!
Here’s another Pro-tip: The official currency of Uruguay is the ‘Peso Uruguayo’ (UR$), although American Dollars are widely accepted. I recommend you change your currency once you arrive in Montevideo to grab the best rate which does fluctuate.
Uruguay is not as well-known as other countries in South America but it has some lovely places to visit. Here are my favourite place in and around the capital:
- Walk along La Rambla, the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze as you escape the noise of the city and watch the locals socialising and taking a stroll. This area is an important meeting point for Uruguayans.
- Don’t miss the eccentric Castillo Pittamiglio on your walk! This unique building randomly protrudes out of the side of an apartment complex, it’s filled with hidden rooms and a labyrinth of corridors and steps.
- Montevideo’s old town, with its neo-classical buildings and older tall buildings will remind you of Havana, Cuba! Don’t miss the following:
Declare your Independencia here!
– Teatro Solis is the second biggest theatre in South America and it is a beautiful venue for watching a play, opera, ballet or orchestral performance.
– Mercado del Puerto is the historical port market that has been transformed into a beautiful commercial space. Rather than its original purpose of being full of market stalls selling fruits and meant, nowadays it’s full of restaurants, taverns and bars.
- Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo is a beautiful art gallery housed in an old derelict prison. The setting enhances the creative art exhibits with each prison cell displaying a different artist’s work!
- Punte del Este – while not in Montevideo, the nearby resort city is a great place for an overnight stay when you visit Montevideo. Punte Del Este has been compared to both Monaco, because of its casinos, and Miami because of its cool Latin vibe. I just love the fun spirit of the place!
- Montevideo is home to some beautiful beaches including:
– Pocitos Beach, with the city as its backdrop, is a great choice to spend the day. With its beautiful promenade of restaurants and 2km long stretch of sand it’s the perfect spot!
– Carrasco Beach is in an upscale area. It boasts some beautiful greenery and equally as beautiful grand houses and mansions! You can catch some spectacular sunsets here.
– Honda Beach – this thin stretch of sand has the best surfing waves in Montevideo and has a great laid-back vibe.
- If you’re lucky you can catch the Uruguay Carnival! Running throughout January to mid-March this is a fun time during the summer in Montevideo! The celebration is based on the abolishment of slavery.
- Street Art – If you enjoy art and culture then take note of some of the amazing street art around the city. Around the area of the art gallery you can find lots of gritty, creative and colourful artwork by simply taking a stroll!
Here’s Another Pro-tip: Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalise recreational marijuana which is regulated and readily available. Although the country is conservative they also are dedicated to personal freedom. Just remember that this is a product definitely for local consumption only – unless it’s legal when you return home!
Montevideo is definitely the place to meat!
They are delicious! Here’s my go-to places to eat:
- La Pulperia is an old-fashioned, authenticparilla that grills meats the traditional way. The Asador (chef that cooks the meat) is specialised in producing wonderfully flavoured delicacies in beef, pork, chicken and even fish! It’s a cosy spot where you’re bound to meet some friendly residents.
- Primuseum – is a place to find local recipes and the excellent Uruguayan wines featuring the full-bodied Tannat grape. The recipes are hearty and they perfectly match the wines!
- Expreso Pocitos has been around since 1910. This beautiful restaurant is home to the iconic national sandwich of Uruguay, The Chivito. Full to the brim of steak, ham, cheese, and some healthy greens. You’ll love it!
Montevideo offers fun and eclectic Latin nightlife which is exciting and relaxing. Here are my favourite places to visit after dinner:
- Bar Fun Fun, is exactly like the name suggests; lots of fun. It is one of the best spots in the city for live tango music and dancing that was founded way back in 1895! They even boast some celebrity visitors like the singer Bryan Adams.
- Tango Bar El Hacha, this historic bar was opened in 1794 and hosts some of the best tango in the region!
- If you like craft beers, then Barba Roja is your spot! This bar even has its own micro-brewery, where twelve types of beers are brewed. You can expect live music and even karaoke nights.
This dance is Hotel Oscar Tango!
Here’s another pro-tip: try a Medio y Medio. It’s a Uruguayan cocktail made with a combination of dry white wine and sweet sparkling wine. It is totally delicious and a great fuel for dancing!
Montevideo has some great accommodation options for all budgets. Here are my favourite places to stay when I visit the city:
- Alma Histórica Boutique Hotel – This luxurious hotel is elegantly furnished and sophisticated and completely central. La Rambla is only 500m away!
You won’t become board in Montevideo!
- Radisson Montevideo Victoria Plaza is a no brainer! Facing Plaza de Independencia and providing wonderful views of the bay, this hotel as everything you need. Enjoy their covered swimming pool all year round and their relaxing spa facilities.
- Pocitos Plaza Hotel – enjoy a ‘medio y medio’ on their terrace bar and relax in their elegant rooms!
Montevideo is safe, fun and vibrant city that I recommend to all of my friends! You will fall in love with its relaxed lifestyle in such a beautiful setting.