It may not have the glamour of neighbour Buenos Aires, but the cool, compact and cosmopolitan Uruguayan city of Montevideo, situated at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata, has lots to offer the cruise traveller.
Quieter than other South American cities, with an intriguing blend of old and new, the quality of life here is high, and many Montevideans enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle. Many tourists come here for the laid-back vibe – a party may be harder to find than in Buenos Aires or nearby Punta del Este. There are 1.5 million people in Montevideo; that’s half the entire population of Uruguay.
Situated in the south, about a mile from the city centre, Puerto de Montevideo is right next to the historic old town of Ciudad Vieja and is the main port in Uruguay.
There are two jetties. Passengers can walk from the ship into the heart of the old town in minutes.
Metered taxis are on hand and you can even hire an Uber taxi.
NEED TO KNOW
The pink Tourist Bus is a good way to see the sights – it’s a hop-on and hop-off service and tickets can be bought on the bus with a credit or debit card. If you’re looking for cruise and stay, the Hyatt Centric Montevideo is a good option.
Located in the Platos neighbourhood opposite the River Plata, there’s a sandy beach within walking distance. For shopping, the Plaza Constitucion in downtown Montevideo hosts an artisans market, while the Feria de Tristan Narvaja is a popular flea market held every Sunday. Spanish is the official language and the currency is the Uruguayan peso. High season is from December to March.
WHAT WE LOVE
Ciudad Vieja: This is the heart of the old colonial city, and includes the Plaza Independencia, which features a statue of the ‘Father of Uruguay’, Jose Gervasio Artigas, which marks the spot of his mausoleum – this is lit up at night so he is never in the dark. Plus, don’t miss the changing of the guard at midday. The Palacio Estevez once served as the Palacio de Gobierno, while Teatro Solis is the second-biggest theatre in South America and often hosts events and concerts.
Mercado del Puerto (Old Port Market Building): This is the place to go for an authentic meal and is just steps away from the cruise terminal. Built in 1868, clients will love sampling – and smelling – the delicious barbecued meats or ‘asado’ on offer, or grabbing a cold beer and watching the world go by. El Palenque restaurant comes highly recommended but does tend to get busy. But this place is not just great for local cuisine; the arts and crafts shops are also worth a look.
Museo del Carnaval: Montevideo is said to host the longest carnival in the world, lasting from January till March. Located near the port market, this colourful museum captures the real spirit of Uruguay – costumes, masks, drums and photos from 100 years plus pictures of Montevideo’s popular Carnaval. Don’t miss the café and courtyard behind the museum, where performances are held during the summer.
- Montevideo is great for leather goods, including jackets, wallets and belts
- Steak lovers will be interested to know that most cattle are grass-fed
- The last Saturday in September is El Dia del Patrimonio, a day when the city’s museums are free for the public. The same day, clients may catch the Murga festival – a huge parade throughout the city