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The nation’s capital and home to nearly half of Uruguay’s population; Montevideo is a vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life. Stretching 20km from east to west, the city wears many faces, from its industrial port to the exclusive beachside suburb of Carrasco near the airport. In the historic downtown business district, art deco and neoclassical buildings jostle for space alongside grimy, worn-out skyscrapers that appear airlifted from Havana or Ceausescu’s Romania, while to the southeast the shopping malls and modern high-rises of beach communities such as Punta Carretas and Pocitos bear more resemblance to Miami or Copacabana. Music, theater and the arts are alive and well here – from elegant older theaters and cozy little tango bars to modern beachfront discos – and there’s a strong international flavor, thanks to the many foreign cultural centers and Montevideo’s status as administrative headquarters for Mercosul, South America’s leading trading bloc.

Discover more about Montevideo

The City

Montevideo, a port city and the capital of Uruguay, is a perfect destination for travelers looking for a relaxing stroll past colonial era buildings and along beautiful beaches. The Ciudadela Gateway, the only remaining section of the wall that once surrounded the entire city, now serves as the entrance to Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo's oldest neighborhood. Home to churches, museums, and theaters, at night the area comes alive with nightclubs playing Tango and Candombe music for crowds of dancers.

Night Life

Like most of Latin America, nightlife starts late in Montevideo, with locals eating dinner around 2200, clubbing at midnight and going home at 0400 or 0500. The city does not have the same breadth or depth of cosmopolitan clubs as Buenos Aires, but it does have a decent local bar and café scene; indeed, bars, cafés and restaurants tend to be rolled into one.

Montevideo also has a rich cultural life, especially considering its size, but bear in mind that many performances are in Spanish only.


Created as a result of a Spanish-Portuguese spat, Montevideo’s hasn’t enjoyed a smooth ride.

Unhappy about Portuguese advances south from Brazil, Buenos Aires governor Bruno Mauricio de Zabala founded Montevideo in 1726. The Portuguese had set up a town across the water from Buenos Aires in 1680, and it was time to boot them out.

The town was initially home to soldiers and a handful of Spanish immigrants, but gradually grew into a vital trading base.

In 1807, the Brits swanned into town, occupying the city for a few months until the Spanish snatched it back.

And so continued a series of occupations and skirmishes, with Spanish, Argentine, Portuguese and Brazilian forces taking it in turns to control the city.

Uruguay won independence from Brazil and Argentina in 1828, with Montevideo as the capital.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing from there. Squabbling rival political factions couldn’t find common ground and a civil war ensued. Montevideo was subjected to a nine-year siege from 1843 to 1851.

While an Argentine-Uruguayan army besieged the city, French and British forces were busy supplying the city via sea. Montevideo’s port ended up doing rather well.

When the siege ended, Montevideo expanded and prospered, implementing important infrastructure projects throughout the 19th century.

By the early 20th century, Spanish and Italian immigrants were arriving in droves, with new neighborhoods popping up left, right and centre.

During WWII, it was in neutral Montevideo that a German captain chose to scuttle his ship, Admiral Graf Spee, rather than risk the lives of his crew.

By the 1950s, the city was in decline. From the late 1960s and throughout the dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, political violence rocked Montevideo.

Democracy was restored in 1980, but a banking crisis in 2002 caused untold economic damage. Since then, Montevideo has steadily got back on its feet.



  • La Petite Cuisine: French and International cuisine. Price Range: USD 7-14. Alzaibar 1316 | 30 Meters from the Peatonal, Sarandi, Montevideo 11200, Uruguay. Tel. +59 8 99 688 497. Closed on weekends.


  • Tandory: Fusion cuisine with European, Latino and Asian influence. Price Range: USD 15-50. Ramon Masini and Libertad, Pocitos, Montevideo 11300, Uruguay. Tel. +59 8 2709 6616.


  • Dona Ines Dulces Tentaciones: Coffee Shop, Delicatessen, Tea Room. Price Range: USD 1-15. Miguel Barreiro 3293, Esquina Chucarro, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay. Tel. +59 8 2708 0349. Closed on Sundays.


  • Bouza Bodega Boutique: Barbecue, good for special occasions. Price Range: USD 40-80. Cno. De la Redencion 7658 bis, Montevideo, Uruguay. Tel.: +59 8 2323 4030.
how to get there

By plane: Montevideo’s stylishly modern Carrasco international airport is served by fewer airlines than Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. Direct flights are available from Madrid and Miami, and one-stop service is available from several other European and North American cities via Buenos Aires or São Paulo.

At the time of research, the only airline offering domestic service within Uruguay was BQB, with four weekly flights from Montevideo to Salto, and onward international connections to Foz de Iguazú, Argentina.


By bus: Montevideo’s modern Tres Cruces bus terminal is about 3km east of downtown. It has tourist information, clean toilets, a luggage check (UR$124 per 24 hours), public phones, ATMs and a shopping mall upstairs. A taxi from the terminal to downtown costs between UR$100 and UR$120. To save your pesos, take city bus CA1, which leaves from directly in front of the terminal (on the eastern side), traveling to Ciudad Vieja via Av 18 de Julio (UR$14, 15 minutes).


For the beach neighborhoods of Punta Carretas and Pocitos, take city buses 174 and 183, respectively, from in front of the terminal (UR$21). A taxi to either neighborhood costs around UR$120.

All domestic destinations are served daily, and most several times a day. A small tasa de embarque (departure tax) is added to the ticket prices. Travel times are approximate.


By boat: Buquebus Centro; Port; Tres Cruces bus terminal runs daily high-speed ferries direct from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, including the superfast Francisco boat (2¼ hours), launched in 2013 and named after Pope Francis, which shaves 45 minutes off the traditional three-hour crossing time. Full turista-class fares are UR$2120. Buquebus also offers less expensive bus-boat combinations from Montevideo to Buenos Aires via Colonia (slow boat UR$935, 6½ hours; fast boat UR$1596, 4½ hours). Better fares for all services above are available with online advance purchase.


Seacat offers more economical bus-boat connections from Montevideo to Buenos Aires via Colonia (4¼ hours).


One-way fares range between UR$850 and UR$1170.


Even more affordable, but less comfortable, are the bus-boat combinations offered by Colonia Express. Standard one-way fares for the 4¼-hour trip are UR$1040 per person; online advance-purchase rates drop as low as UR$810.


Cacciola Viajes runs a scenic twice- to thrice-daily bus-launch service from Montevideo to Buenos Aires via the riverside town of Carmelo and the Argentine Delta suburb of Tigre. The eight-hour trip costs UR$1091 one way (UR$1201 on holidays and long weekends).

general info


Country Code






The best time to visit Montevideo is during summer (December to April).




Bus: Montevideo’s city buses, operated by Cutcsa, go almost everywhere for UR$21 per ride.


Car: Most major international companies have counters at Carrasco airport. In downtown Montevideo, you can also try the following Uruguayan companies (with nationwide branches).


Taxi: Montevideo’s black-and-yellow taxis are all metered. Cabbies carry two official price tables, one effective on weekdays, the other (20% higher) used at night between 10pm and 6am, and on Sundays and holidays. It costs UR$31 to drop the flag (UR$37 nights and Sundays) and roughly UR$1.78 per unit thereafter (UR$2.14 nights and Sundays). Even for a long ride, you’ll rarely pay more than UR$200, unless you’re headed to Carrasco airport.



While Montevideo is pretty sedate by Latin American standards, you should exercise caution as in any large city. The Ciudad Vieja west of Plaza Matriz should be avoided at night, as wallet- and purse-snatchings are not uncommon. Montevideo’s policia turística (tourist police) patrol the streets throughout Ciudad Vieja and the Centro and can help if you encounter any problems.

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