The Commercial Appeal
Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo is an easygoing city with plenty to see and do.
Best of Montevideo, Uruguay, from the old city to the beach
— Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, may not be as well-known to international travelers as some of Latin America’s other destinations. But there’s plenty here to see and do, and it’s a relatively short hop and worthy side trip from Buenos Aires.
Laid-back and friendly, Montevideo has a mellow vibe. Experience it as you savor a tasty chivito (steak sandwich) at a sidewalk cafe, or on a sunny stroll along a wide sandy beach. Gaze over the rooftops of the old city at sunset and take in the oddly appealing mix of elegant buildings rubbing stone shoulders with squat, concrete blocks.
Here are a few suggestions on making the most of your visit.
The renovated Mercado Agricola, 2220 Jose L. Terra, has everything from asado (barbecued meat) to gelato to handcrafted gifts. It can be less crowded than the morefamous Mercado del Puerto and is home to cafes and a small brewery. Open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Another rejuvenated classic is the Sofitel Casino Carrasco and Spa. Formerly known as the Hotel Carrasco, the beachfront luxury hotel opened in 1921. Albert Einstein stayed here in its early years, and the Rolling Stones were recent guests. Reopened in 2013 following a thoughtful renovation, the hotel’s rooms start at around $250.
A relative newcomer to Montevideo’s extensive museum scene is the contemporary art museum, Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo, 1930 Arenal Grande. Here the setting may be as interesting as the exhibits: It’s housed in what was a 19th-century prison. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m.8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.
Although it can get busy, the Mercado del Puerto in the Ciudad Vieja (old city) is worth a visit. A popular spot for asado is El Palenque.
For a dose of history, try the Legislative Palace. Highlights include uniformed guards watching over the glass case containing the national constitution. Open Monday-Friday. Visits by guided tour only (available in English) at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Enter from Avenida General Flores, $3.
Plaza Independencia (Independence Square), at the beginning of Avenida 18 de Julio is a good place to take photographs. You’ll find the Puerta de la Ciudadela (Citadel Gate), a remnant of walls that once surrounded the Ciudad Vieja, and a statue dedicated to national hero Gen. Jose Gervasio Artigas.
Not far from the square is Teatro Solis at the corner of