La Rambla, Montevideo
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La Rambla, Montevideo

© Creative Commons / Vince Alongi

Montevideo travel guide

Perched on a peninsula jutting out into the River Plate, Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, has been captivating visitors with its blend of Old and New World charm for centuries.

Elegant, if slightly down at heel, the narrow cobblestoned streets, historic buildings and atmospheric plazas of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old Town) cluster along the banks of the extensive estuary and sit across from the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.

Neighbours they may be, identical they are not: Uruguayans blend old-fashioned formality with laidback South American style, far removed from the openly effusive Argentineans. Locals may seem reserved at first, but things are changing rapidly in a city where former President, Jose Mujica, authorised same sex marriage and legalised marijuana.

Montevideo isn’t a pot smoking paradise, but visitors will find a relaxed pace of life. Its countless pavement cafés, particularly along the pedestrianised Peatonal Sarand, are ideal for watching the world stroll by as you sip a café con leche (milky coffee).

But don’t get too lost in just looking - Montevideo is about exploring. To the east, the modern city centre has wide, tree-lined avenues and art deco buildings that stand next to soaring skyscrapers; while its alluring seafront promenade, La Rambla, stretches to the greenery of Parque Rodo.

Near the airport, the upmarket Carrasco neighbourhood is home to the city’s most beautiful beaches, some of which could capture Copacabana’s crown if the secret got out. Then there’s the art and literature; Montevideo gave us masters like Juan Manuel Blanes and Joaquín Torres García, not to mention the writer Eduardo Galeano.

The annual Montevideo Carnival, meanwhile, cannons out each spring like a colourful celebration of existence. This raunchy, Rio-style fiesta sets the standard for the city’s infallible nightlife, which gyrates from rowdy discos to fiery tango bars. Still, there’s room for theatre, plus a fledgling foodie scene built on giant, mouth-watering steak sandwiches.

As with most of Latin America, dinner and dancing start late and end even later, so you’ll have all day to discover Montevideo, the pearl of Uruguay.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.