The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is a beautiful port city on the Rio de la Plata is home to 1.3m people – half of the country’s population. The city enjoys a subtropical climate, with humid summer temperatures (Dec-Mar) reaching around 75F, and wet, windy winters (Jun-Sep) settling around 55F. Visitors will fly into Montevideo Carrasco Airport, nine miles east from which there is a very good bus service to Terminal Tres Cruces, Montevideo’s downtown area, which is within walking distance of most of the major hotels.
The Uruguyan Peso (UYU) is the unit of currency, although if you get stuck, you can use US dollars in many hotels and restaurants.
A busy port, Montevideo is the natural center for most of Uruguay’s commerce and industry. It has its own World Trade Center, and is sometimes called ‘The Switzerland of the Americas’, due to its solid economy and efficient banking structure.
Tourism is focused around the Ciudad Vieja (old city), which includes the port, the Sarandi Street pedestrian area, and Plaza Independence – Montevideo’s most important square. The Plaza is located at the end of 18 de Julio Avenue, which is the city’s main commercial hub. Also on the Plaza is Uruguay’s highest building, the Palace Salvo. You can take a free elevator ride up to the top for some spectacular views. Montevideo has many museums with highlights including the National History Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Decorative Art (at the Palacio Taranco).
Once you’re done with the culture, chill out in the city’s largest park, Parque Prado, where you can see the Presidential Residence and the Botanical Gardens.
For a slice of colorful Montevidean life head to the Barrio Reus, a tiny neighborhood that’s filled with charming houses and narrow streets. Or, go shopping in the markets of Mercado del Puerto, home to some excellent street food and restaurants. Sports fans should try and take in a soccer match at Penarol, Uruguay’s leading soccer club. To wind down, spend the evening walking or cycling at La Rambla, a 13 mile-long road along Montevideo’s waterfront, full of bars, restaurants, shops, and fantastic beaches such as Ramirez, Pocitos, and Carrasco. La Rambla is also where you’ll find many of the best hotels. On Sundays you can mingle with the locals at the La Feria Tristan Narvaja Flea Market. You’ll pick up genuine souvenirs at great prices. Other excellent markets and
malls include Mercado de los Artesanos, Punta Carretas, and the Montevideo Leather Factory.
Uruguay is one the world’s meat capitals, so when eating out expect most places to offer specialty steaks and platters. If you’re on the go, grab a ‘chivito’ (meat sandwich) or, if you’ve a sweet tooth, then try chomping down on a ‘churro’ (filled doughnut). You should also sample the local beverage, ‘El Mate’; a herb-based drink made from yerba, often sweetened, which you can find anywhere in the city.
Montevideo is not the largest of cities so you can reach most attractions on foot. There’s also a good bus system with very friendly drivers, so don’t be afraid to practice your Spanish as you find your
way around. Alternatively, cabs are plentiful and easy to catch. Or, use what’s known as a ‘remise’, an upscale taxi with your own driver, which is handy if you have several destinations you want to get to in one day. Being a close neighbor of Argentina, many travelers in the region like to take the ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo for a day trip. It’s only 140 miles across the Rio de la Plata,
and takes just 3 hours on the fast Buquebus.