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Montevideo, the southernmost capital in the Americas, is the forgotten side of the Río de la Plata; according to official figures, only 45,000 Americans visit the whole of Uruguay each year. Those who skip over Montevideo for historic Colonia or the resort town of Punta del Este miss a relaxed city with delicious meat, sandy beaches, and a well-preserved culture. The best way to see the whole city at once may be the winding, brick-lined Rambla, or boardwalk, that bends its way along the shoreline of the Río de la Plata where fishermen serenely cast from beachside rocks, couples stroll hand-in-hand alongside joggers and dog-walkers, and everyone from students to grandfathers sit on its brick rails as the sun sets, some drinking beer or mate, and other smoking cigarettes or both. Montevideo boasts 12 miles of white-sand beaches and a Mediterranean climate, but it is also a city filled with museums and architecture that fittingly reflect Uruguay’s Italian and Spanish roots.

To best see Montevideo, start in the Ciudadela or Old City. The heart of the Ciudadela is in the Plaza de la Independencia, guarded by South America’s first skyscraper, the 26-story Palacio Salvo, and the 30-ton monument commemorating independence hero José Artigas. North from here, through the giant colonial door, the Puerta de la Ciudadela is a wide pedestrian mall of museums, stores, and restaurants. The weekend is the most colorful time as musicians, tango dancers, and artists fill the space with their sounds and movements. The must-see portion of the walk is the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market). The portside building opened in 1868 and houses a throng of restaurants selling delicious Uruguayan beef, cut thick and piled high on iron grills. The best traditional way to top off a steak dinner here is with a glass of “medio y medio,” a surprisingly tasty blend of sparkling and white wine. The most distinctive aspects of Montevideo, however, go far beyond the Rambla and juicy steaks.

One of the most defining characteristic of Uruguyans and Montevideo is their love of Yerba Mate (yer-ba mah-tay). “Mate,” as it is also known, is an infusion similar to tea, but whose crushed leaves are sipped from a gourd via a silver straw, or “bombilla.” An equally distinctive feature of Montevideo culture is candombe music. On Sunday nights, impromptu formations of candombe bands march through the streets, especially in the Barrio Sur, traditionally composed of many Afro-Uruguayans. Candombe is a uniquely Uruguayan musical rhythm based on Bantu tribal dances brought to the Americas by African slaves. It is played on three different pitched drums called tambores and is similar to Brazil’s samba. In addition to candombe, Uruguay also has an important chapter in the history of tango; Carlos Gardel, the world’s most famous tango singer, was born in Montevideo. Tango clubs dot the city to this day and fill up on the weekends with locals. Unlike Buenos Aires, Montevideo’s clubs are inexpensive and almost totally devoid of tourists.

Uruguayans, especially middle- and upper-class Uruguayans, love to shop. One of the most controversial shopping centers in town is Punta Carretas Shopping, located between the Parque RodĂł and Pocitos, which served as a prison up through the dictatorships of the 1970s and early 1980s. A visit to one or many of its 200 stores is a also a visit to the past. Interesting sights also include the Parque RodĂł, the Botanical Gardens, the wealthy suburb of Carrasco, and the weekend Tristan Narvaja Street Fair that stretches on for blocks and blocks in every direction and sells everything from mate paraphernalia and books to old license plates and hubcaps.

El Cerro, an old fortress sitting atop Montevideo’s only hill, is an interesting visit, and provides some great views of the Río de la Plata estuary and the city. The best museum in the Ciudadela is the Museo Joaquín Torres García. A friend and collaborator of Picasso and Gaudí in Spain, Torres García was a pioneering modernist artist. The Estadio Centenario, site of the first World Cup, plays host to soccer games and rock concerts throughout the year; the most anticipated game of the year is played between Nacional and Peñarol, the two Montevideo teams with the most history.

16 Feb 2011

Best Eats in Montevideo

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

Los Glaciares National Park is home to the largest ice caps in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. This protected area was created in 1937 to preserve 724,000 hectares of rugged Argentine ...
National Park

IguazĂş National Park

103628The main reason tourists come to the 67,620-hectare (167,093-ac) Parque Nacional IguazĂş is to see the impressive waterfalls. Approximately 908,499 liters (240,000 ga) of water surge over the more ...
IguazĂş National Park, Argentina

Parque Nacional Alerce Andino

The legendary Carretera Austral leaves from Puerto Montt, hugging the coast of Seno ReloncavĂ­. Just before the end of the first leg of the highway at Caleta La Arena, is Lenca, one of the entrances ...
Parque Nacional Alerce Andino, Chile

Parque Nacional Monte LeĂłn

Once upon a time AĂłnikenk (Tehuelche) tolderĂ­as (teepees) dotted this is Southern Patagonia landscape scattered with 3000-year-old archaeological remains. Later European colonists came to establish ...
National Park

Quebrada del Condorito National Park

Quebrada del Condorito National Park is a wildlife reserve outside the city dedicated to the protection of the Andean Condor – an enormous species of vulture that is facing extinction. You can ...
National Park
Near Villa Carlos Paz, Villa Carlos Paz, The Punilla Valley , Argentina

Reserva Natural Sierra del Tigre

Some of the oldest mountains in the world make up this small natural reserve. Once the home of the original inhabitants of Tandil, the reserve is comprised of natural rock formations sit alongside ...
Eco-Tour, National Park
Tandil, Argentina

Parque Nacional de Arrayanes

123775The cinnamon-colored Arrayán trees (or Myrceugenella) only grow southern Argentina, and they flourish in the Seven Lakes area, home to the largest known specimens of Arrayanes on the planet. The ...
City Park
Villa La Angostura, Argentina

Parque Municipal Llao Llao

124101The Parque Municipal Llao Llao is a 1,200-hectare national park within the larger Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. It is sandwiched between kilometers 26 and 31 of Circuito Chico. The park is a mix ...
Llao Llao, Argentina

Parque Nacional Lago Puelo

126553Approximately thirty minutes from El BolsĂłn is the small village of Lago Puelo and a national park of the same name. Originally created in 1937 as an annex of the neighboring Los Alerces National ...
Other Activity
El Bolson, Argentina

Parque Nacional Los Cardones

Parque Nacional Los Cardones has breathtaking views from altitudes varying between 2,700 meters (8,858 ft) and 5,000 meters (16,404 ft). A walk in this park brings you through an amazing landscape of ...
Other Activity
Cachi, Argentina

Parque Nacional Calilegua

Located to the east of San Salvador de Jujuy, Parque Nacional Calilegua covers 76,306 hectares of mountainous terrain that include faults, glens and very steep mountain ranges originating in the ...
Other Activity
Jujuy, Argentina

Things to do in Montevideo

Museo De La Casa De Gobierno

142810On the south side of Plaza Independencia, whitewashed Roman pillars and elegant décor welcome you to this museum. Housing artifacts, furniture and paintings from former Uruguayan presidents, you can ...
El Centro , Montevideo, Uruguay

The Rambla

143438The Rambla is a long, walkable avenue stretching all the way around Montevideo’s coastal edge. Take a scenic stroll to watch waves crash against the rocky shore, or walk the boardwalk jutting out ...
City Walk
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Remate Semenal: Antiques Auction

143435The auction at Remate Semenal is a vignette into the antique age of Ciudad Vieja. Sift through the treasure trove of chairs, tables, hutches and dressers, or come for the bidding war every Thursday ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Teatro Solis

143434Showing an impressive array of plays, ballet, opera and concerts, Teatro Solis remains one of Uruguay’s most important cultural centers. This magnificent theater was built in 1857, but underwent ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Constitution Square (Plaza Matriz)

143432Historically, this is the place where the newly formed Republic of Uruguay signed it’s Constitution (hence the name). Important city buildings like Catedral Metropolitana and El Cabildo flank ...
City Plaza
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Palacio Taranco And The Museum Of Decorative Arts

143430Unlike museums that have paintings hung on bare walls, this entire venue is a work of art, with immaculate detailing, ornate Rococo touches and a beautiful gated terrace. Originally the house of the ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Museo Romántico

El Museo Romántico, also called La Casa de Antonio Montero, is another sumptuous former home of a prominent businessman now turned into a public museum. In 1830, the home underwent a complete ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

El Cabildo

143428El Cabildo was once the government house during colonial times, serving a multitude of purposes like courtroom, jail, guardhouse and infirmary. It was the site where Uruguay’s constitution was ...
Historical Building
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Museo Torres GarcĂ­a

143425The Museo Torres García’s location along central Sarandí appropriately reflects the importance of Joaquín Torres García, Uruguay’s famous pioneer of modern Latin American art. On the first ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Castillo Pittamiglio

143049Montevideo’s most eccentric building features a castle-style rooftop and the bow of a ship emerging at the front, complete with anchor and a headless angel, naturally. The peculiar dream of ...
Punta Carretas and Parque RodĂł, Montevideo, Uruguay

Walk Around Pocitos’ Art Deco And Art Nouveau Architecture

143047You may not believe it with all the high-rises, but hidden around the streets of Pocitos lie some fascinating art deco and art nouveau structures, with occasional Gothic and even Tudor influences ...
City Walk
Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay

Top Lodging in the city

Four Points By Sheraton Hotel

142826The Sheraton’s hotel in El Centro is exceptionally modern, with a laptop suite in the lobby, a stylish bar and restaurant, and very spacious rooms. The 10th floor has a gym and pool with an ...
El Centro , Montevideo, Uruguay

Hotel Plaza Fuerte

Hotel Plaza Fuerte is a beautiful colonial structure with modern accommodations and infused with up-to-date touches. Rooms vary in price and type, from a standard room with private bath to a ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Posada Del Puerto

143514Posada del Puerto puts you in a great location at rock bottom prices. Rooms range from shared common rooms to singles and doubles with private bathroom available. This hostel keeps it basic with ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Hotel Plaza Fuerte

Hotel Plaza Fuerte is a beautiful colonial structure infused with modern accommodations. Rooms vary in price and type, from a standard room with private bath to a concept suite with LCD TV, modern ...
Montevideo, Uruguay

Hotel Libertador

143441If ever there were a case of unappealing factors being trumped by the view and proximity to the beach, the Hotel Libertador might be it. Situated just across from the Playa Hermandad—a 100-meter ...
Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Arriba Hostel

143053Arriba charges more than the other Pocitos hostels, despite having larger dorms, but it may be a price worth paying if you want the closest bed to the beach. Staffed by friendly owners, there is a ...
Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay

Punto Berro Hostel

143052On the other side of Pocitos, close to several bars, the smart white building and colorful patio furniture of Punto Berro are very welcoming. The dorms are a little cramped, but the hostel makes up ...
Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay

Pocitos Hostel

143051One of the nicest buildings on the street, the elegant wooden shutters and stone walls wouldn’t tell you it was a hostel from the outside. Pocitos Hostel is bright and airy, with a sociable but ...
Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay

Unplugged Hostel

143050Set in a former recording studio, with some of the rooms still featuring sound-proof foam padding, Pocitos’ best-value hostel has clean bathrooms, a decent breakfast and a lively bar. There are ...
Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay

Red Hostel

Red Hostel is set in a converted colonial house in the center of Montevideo, just around the corner from the Plaza Intendencia. It gets a little noisy, but most people don\'t come here to stay long. ...
El Centro , Montevideo, Uruguay
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