Montevideo, Uruguay

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.

Palacio Salvo

Palacio Salvo

José and the Palacio Salvo

José and the Palacio Salvo

José and a crap load of aircon machines

José and a crap load of aircon machines

José's mausoleum

José’s mausoleum

Teatro Solís

Teatro Solis

Lovely tiles

Lovely tiles

Cool skateboard bench

Cool skateboard bench

Puerta de la Ciudadela

Puerta de la Ciudadela

Más Puro Verso

Más Puro Verso

JTG's New York

JTG’s New York

And some more

And some more

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.

Plaza Constitucion

Plaza Constitución

The prettiest fountain

The prettiest fountain

The sweetest cherub

The sweetest cherub

Market in Plaza Constitución

Market in Plaza Constitución

Montevideo's Cathedral

Montevideo’s Cathedral

Tiles in the Cathedral

Tiles in the Cathedral

Stalls in Plaza Constitución

Stalls in Plaza Constitución

Awesome wall

Awesome wall

Palacio Tarranco's garden

Palacio Tarranco’s garden

John taking it all in

John taking it all in

Nifty Parisian piano

Nifty Parisian piano

How to own this..

How to own this…

What a staircase!

What a staircase!

They built them well!

They built them well!

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.

So much colour!

So much colour!

Central Bank of Uruguay

Central Bank of Uruguay

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.

Street art

Street art

More street art

More street art

And a little more!

And a little more!

Doors of the world

Doors of the world

Outside Mercado del Puerto

Outside Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto

More of the market

More of the market

Inside the Museo del Carnaval

Inside the Museo del Carnaval

Model Carnaval

Model Carnaval

Past costumes

Past costumes

Here's a close-up - fine moustache!

Here’s a close-up – fine moustache!

Carnaval past

Carnaval past

What's this?!

What’s this?!

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Made from plastic. Talented bunch.

Made from plastic. Talented bunch.

Mini model

Mini model

And another. So cute.

And another. So cute.

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.

Arty!

Arty!

Locks Fountain

Locks Fountain

Have a lovely Easter weekend 🙂

Next stop: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

We took the 8.15am, one hour ferry crossing with Colonia Express from Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. We went straight to the bus terminal and purchased our tickets on to Montevideo. We only stayed for about 4 hours as we had to get to Montevideo but that was plenty of time to explore. You can store your luggage in the bus terminal (2 hours: UYU30, 4 hours: UYU50, 6 hours: UYU60. UYU50 is about $2.50). Colonia’s historic quarter or Barrio Histórico is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has quite a few sights to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 and changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish quite a few times (and the Brazilians once) so it has a lot of history! It’s very popular with Argentinians who pop over from Buenos Aires to get their hands on USD (which are given out at all ATMs in Uruguay) so they can save or get the blue dollar rate back in Argentina. I’ve heard that ATM queues can be ridiculous in Colonia (Argentinians bringing their friends ATM cards and the like) but we went at the bus terminal and had no wait. We actually got a good enough rate at the bus terminal for exchanging the Argentinian Pesos we had left too.

We wandered around the city for a few hours, taking in the colonial architecture, grabbing overpriced coffee and trying to dodge the hoards of tour groups. There is a beach here but it’s anything but pretty. You can walk all along the water and you’ve circled the historic quarter and pretty much taken in all the sights so that’s quite handy! One of the nicest things to check out is the lighthouse and ruins of the old Convent of San Francisco. The trees around it are beautiful and you can go up the top to take in the surrounding landscape. The drawbridge or Portón de Campo is also worth checking out. There are plenty of souvenir stores near here to help you while away some time. We stopped for ice-cream at Cali next to the drawbridge ano that’s definitely worth a stop. Calle Suspiros is one of the oldest streets here; it’s quite dilapidated but that’s really the beauty and charm of it. The Basilica del Santísimi Sacramento is a lovely whitewashed church with some ruins right alongside it. You can sit on a bench here in the shade and do some people-watching, lovely!

Nice welcome!

Nice welcome!

Awaiting a tumbleweed

Awaiting a tumbleweed…

Wouldn't mind this as my house...

Wouldn’t mind this as my house…

So pretty

So pretty

Yachting with the locals

Yachting with the locals

They enjoy their Coca Cola signs in Uruguay

They enjoy their Coca Cola signs in Uruguay

Lots of old cars in Colonia

Lots of old cars in Colonia

Looking towards the Basilica del Santísimo Sacramento

Looking towards the Basilica del Santísimo Sacramento

Planting in cars these days

Planting in cars these days

Pretty flowers

Pretty flowers

Wire sculpture

Wire sculpture

Getting ready for the lunchtime rush

Getting ready for the lunchtime rush

Lighthouse of he ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

Lighthouse of the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

Portón de Campo

How cool!

How cool!

A nice reminder

A nice reminder

Gorgeousness on Calle Suspiro

Gorgeousness on Calle Suspiro

Uruguay baby!

Uruguay baby!

Next stop: Montevideo, Uruguay