If you ask people about South America they’d likely be able to name all the capital cities except for Montevideo. One almost feels bad for this forgotten city until you visit it and realize that the people here don’t mind it, in fact they might embrace it. As a tourist, the fact this is often a fogotten destination actually has a massive appeal. Unlike the busy beaches of Brazil or the tourist crowds in Buenos Aires, Montevideo feels much more real, much more relaxed and is as good a city as there is to visit in the region. Montevideo is quiet and quaint yet has all the amenities of the big city. The sheer size of it will not blow you away, but the history likely will; this is one of the great places in South America to visit if you’ve got a love for the history. There is some great architecture in the city as well.
Although it might not make headlines, chances are that Montevideo will grow on you and, if you’re anything like me, it very well could become one of your favourite cities in South America.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 35-40 USD a Day
Things to do in Montevideo
Montevideo may not have the plethora of things to do that places like Buenos Aires of Rio de Janiero do, however there is certainly enough to keep you busy for a couple days. The beauty of Montevideo is that the variety of activities is quite varied and there are plenty of different things to do so you won’t feel like you’re stuck doing one thing over and over again.
- The Museums: There are a lot of museums in Montevideo, but you don’t NEED to see all of them. I really enjoyed the Museo Torres Garcia and the Museo Romantico. Although not really a museum, the Mausoleo Artigas which is under ground in the Plaza de Independencia is also worth checking out.
- The Beach: Most people head to Playa Pocitos which is quite nice. You can rent a bike to get here from town or take the bus. One of the apparent goals of many people who come here is to swim to the island which sites about a half mile off-shore. I didn’t do the swim. Instead I watched the guys do it as I sat on the beach drinking Mate with a bunch of girls; I made the right decision.
- The Sites: The Plaza de Independencia is the place to go in the city and the majority of the sites are in this area. The picturesque plaza is home to the Teatro Solis, Palacio Estevez, and the building that was at one point in time the tallest building in the world the Palacio Salvo.
- Day-trips: It’s an easy day trip to Colonia del Sacramento from Uruguay as it’s about 2 hours each way. You could also easily do a day trip to Punta del Este which is about an hour and a half away if you’re looking for a better beach.
Where to Eat in Montevideo
When I think of food in Montevideo, if I’m not careful a large stream of drool will escape my mouth. Don’t tell the Argentinians, but the meat here is actually better than there; or at least in my experience it was. If you’re a meat eater you’ll be in heaven, if you’re not you’re probably not going to enjoy it much. Aside from the meats the food in Uruguay, and Argentina for that matter, is quite bland in its flavour. Oh, but the meats are so good they have the ability to turn any vegetarian into a meat eater.
- The Asado: Other than having an asado at the hostel one night I went to a place called Los Lenos on a guide book recommendation one night. The asado was really good. There’s lots on the parrilla, and for about $12 it is really good value as long as you’re hungry.
- The Other Stuff: By the time I arrived in Montevideo I was quite sick of asado to be honest, which is why I was so excited when I found the Middle-Eastern cuisine of a place called Kazbah. There are also a number of pizzerias and pasta places in town if you’ve got a craving for that fix.
- The Street Food: If you’re just looking for a quick feed go on the hunt for a burger stand. The burgers are amazing and they’ll only cost you a dollar or so. You’ll also usually be able to get hot dogs and empanadas at these places.
Where to Stay in Montevideo
While in Montevideo I stayed at the El Viajero Hostel in the Ciudad Vieja. This is a great spot with nice rooms and lots of great activities organized. They also cook a meal every night on the roof which is a great place to eat and meet people at the same time. There is also a Viajero Hostel in the “new” downtown, but I preferred this location.
Getting out of Town
Montevideo is quite an easy city to get to and away from. There are simple connections to Colonia del Sacramento and Ciudad del Este nearby. You can also get to Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Florianopolis, or a number of other places directly via the bus. If you’re heading to Buenos Aires you’ll get there much faster via the ferry as the bus has to go the long way around.
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