Uruguay’s only real metropolis has its share of glitzy shopping avenues and modern office buildings. But few visitors come here specifically in search of urban pleasures. This city of 1½ million doesn’t have the whirlwind vibe of Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, but it’s a fine old city with sumptuous, if worn, colonial architecture, and a massive coastal promenade that—as it passes fine beaches, restaurants, and numerous parks—recalls the sunny sophistications of the Mediterranean. In fact, if you’ve been to Buenos Aires, Montevideo may strike you as a smaller, more manageable, less expensive incarnation of Argentina’s capital.
Built along the eastern bank of the Río de la Plata (River of Silver), Montevideo takes full advantage of its location. When the weather’s good, La Rambla, a 22-km (14-mi) waterfront avenue that links the Old City with the eastern suburbs and changes names about a dozen times, gets packed with fishermen, ice-cream vendors, and joggers. Around sunset, volleyball and soccer games wind down as couples begin to appear for evening strolls. Polls consistently rate Montevideo as having the highest quality of life of any city in Latin America. After one visit here, especially on a lovely summer evening, you just might agree.
Modern Montevideo expanded outward from the peninsular Ciudad Vieja, the Old City, still noted for its narrow streets and mix of elegant colonial and art deco architecture. El Prado, an exclusive enclave a few miles north of the city center, is peppered with lavish mansions and grand parks. When you remember that these mansions were once summer homes for aristocratic Uruguayans who spent most of the year elsewhere, you’ll get some idea of the wealth this small country once enjoyed.
Montevideo Restaurant Reviews
Menus don’t vary much in Montevideo—meat is always the main dish—so the food may not provide a distraction from the blinding light (even the most fashionable restaurant in Montevideo seems to be brightly illuminated).
Montevideo Hotel Reviews
Many downtown hotels are grouped around the big three squares, Plaza Independencia, Plaza Fabini, and Plaza Cagancha. In the weeks before and after Carnaval in February, rooms become hard to come by. Otherwise, rooms are plentiful in summer, when beach-bound residents desert the city
In Montevideo you’ll find quiet, late-night bars, hip-hop clubs, and folk-music shows. The entertainment and cultural pages of local papers are the best sources of information; particularly useful is the Guía del Ocio, a magazine inserted into the Friday edition of the daily newspaper El País. With few exceptions, bars and clubs come to life around 1 AM and don’t close until it’s time for breakfast.
Let’s face it: Montevideans head to Buenos Aires when they want to go on an extra-special shopping excursion. But quality and selection are decent here, and prices are lower than in Argentina. Stores in Centro, along Avenida 18 de Julio, offer the standard selection of urban merchandise. The truly fun shopping experience is to be found in the city’s markets.