We took the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia and then took a bus from Colonia (bus station is right next to the ferry terminal) for the 2.5 hour trip to Montevideo with COT ($URG311). You can get a ferry/bus combination from BA all the way to Montevideo but we wanted to spend a few hours in Colonia so went with this option instead. We took a taxi at Montevideo’s Tres Cruces terminal (very modern, with a pretty good shopping centre upstairs – clothes stores, supermarket, hairdressers, frozen yogurt and a food court; a good spot to have to wait around) to the centre of town for $URG160. We stayed at the SMART Hotel in the Barrio de los Artes (artsy neighbourhood) which was lovely; minimalist design, good food and great staff. I’m enjoying being back on hotel territory! The hotel was less than a five minute walk from Plaza Independencia, a great place to start your own walking tour of Montevideo.
Montevideo’s most attractive tourist area is the Ciudad Vieja or old city, which is reminiscent of Old Havana complete with crumbling facades and local ‘characters’. The old part of the city is surrounded by the Rio de la Plata (technically a river but more like the ocean) and you can easily walk along the rambla/boardwalk by the water – which can definitely be likened to Havana’s Malecon (remember my Havana post?).
We did a bit of walking tour so that’s the way I’ve decided to share this post. Hope you like it!
Walking Tour of Montevideo
Starting at Plaza Independencia, you’ll want to check out the beautiful architecture of the Palacio Salvo, apparently the site of the world’s first ever tango performance. Take that, Argentina! John obviously made me do a few tango steps here. Why not?! In the middle of the plaza you’ll find a 17 metre statue of José Artigas, (the man who put the wheels in motion for Uruguay’s independence from Spain and Portugal) on horseback. Underneath this statue is José’s mausoleum (free entry), a huge darkened room with some (very bored looking) uniformed guards. It’s worth walking just left of the statue to take a quick look at the beautifully renovated Teatro Solís too. Walking back along the back of the square I’d walk through the Puerta de la Ciudadela down Sarandí street, a street full of shops, art galleries and market stalls. Take a look around one of the loveliest bookstores you’ll likely ever see, Más Puro Verso Librería Brasserie (Address: 675 Sarandí). There’s a huge collection here, including some English language titles which is nice, there’s a brasserie upstairs and the music is ever so soothing. Museo Joaquin Torres García (Address: 683 Sarandí) is definitely worth a wander around. It’s a 4 floor museum dedicated to the works of J.T. García housed in a beautiful building with a quirky art shop at street level. Entrance is $URG100 (although they let us in for free as they had no change). Continuing down Sarandí you’ll end up at the lovely, leafy Plaza de la Constitucíon, complete with ornate fountain and market sellers and overlooked by the imposing Catedral Metropolitana. Take a walk in to the cathedral, it’s pretty plain from the outside (although still pretty) but the inside boasts beautiful blue tile-work and a very beautiful alter. It’s also a nice place to take some respite from the city. Continuing back down Sarandí you’ll find Artico, a very casual seafood restaurant/take-away spot – a great spot to pick up some lunch to eat back in the plaza. There’s a health food store a couple of more buildings down from here called La Molienda which has lovely fresh juices (orange or blueberry on our visit) for $URG8.
Continue down Sarandí until you get to Alzaibar street and turn right here to end up in Plaza Zabala. This is a very quiet park but one of the loveliest we’ve seen to be honest. Overlooking the park is the stunning Palacio Tarranco, once one of the finest residences in Montevideo (entrance is on 25 de Mayo so just walk along the side of the house. Entrance is free). There are a few floors to meander around here; it is still styled how it would have look back in the early 1900s although the furniture is somewhat minimalist compared to what you’d see in a similar style house in Europe. The garden, although small, is a lovely place to sit and relax.
You can either go back to Sarandí here or walk down Washington street to get down to a very famous Montevideo landmark, the Mercado del Puerto. There’s a lovely handicraft market just outside and has some good quality handicrafts. The Mercado del Puerto is less of a market than a selection of overpriced restaurants but it’s worth a look. There are a couple of souvenir stores here too. Make sure to look up to catch a glimpse of the awesome clock.
Walking out the back of the Mercado del Puerta, turn left and you’ll likely see the entrance to the Museo del Carnaval. Montevideo has the longest carnival season in the world at 40 days so it marks sense that they’d want to show off some costumes. Entrance is $URG90 (for us foreigners with a free coffee, no tea). You’ll find yourself in a darkened cobblestoned street with costumes of carnivals past surrounding you. It’s a pretty tiny but fun museum.
You’ll now need to make your way back to Plaza Independencia. From here, walk up Avenida 18 de Julio, Montevideo’s main shopping and traffic thoroughfare. There are plenty of cafés (something that’s lacking in the old town) and shops here if you need to buy some leather; Uruguay is famous for its leather and geodes. Random. You can also buy shoes with soles about 12 inches high. I honestly think this part of South America has some kind of a small complex. It’s just as bad in Buenos Aires. You’ll pass Plaza Ingenerio Juan B. Fabini and Plaza Cagancha walking up here and there are plenty of lovely colonial style buildings here so just look up! At the corner of Avenida 18 de Julio and Yi streets you’ll see Locks Fountain, similar to the locks bridge in Paris and absolutely heaving with lovers’ locks. We saw a little girl here with her grandmother and the grandmother was explaining the how if you put a lock here with somebody then you’ll always be in love; the little girl said she’d need to come back with her Daddy to put a lock there. How adorable!
Once you get to Ejido street turn right and the Museo de la Historia del Arte will be across the road (the door is on the left hand side of this very ugly building). Free entrance here again gets you 3 floors of Greek, Middle Eastern, Roman and Pre-Columbian art.
Have a lovely Easter weekend 🙂
Next stop: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil