I love Montevideo. It’s a smaller, more humble version of Buenos Aires. Bus drivers wave you by rather than speed up to hit you. Stores close on Sundays, and people walk around with giant thermoses and mate gourds to pass the time. We’ve been there twice, and both times we’ve sat back and said, “We could live here; yeah, it would be really nice.” The city borders Rio de la Plata, so it has a serene feel to it.
From Buenos Aires, Buquebus is the easiest way to arrive. You’ll either arrive at Tres Cruces station by bus or at the port by ferry. If you want to go downtown from the bus station, you can either walk (it’s a hefty journey but doable on a nice day), or you can take city bus 188. Exact change is not needed, thank goodness.
Our favorite activity in MV is the Sunday feria at Tristán Narvaja. Starting at Tristán Narvaja street, there are blocks and blocks of fruit, vegetables, books, old clothes, antiques, and odds and ends. At the beginning of the block, the animal vendors set up shop. Unfortunately, I think puppy farm owners bring out their wares. The little puppies and kittens are so scared. They shiver as the sellers hold them in the air for everyone to see. One vendor had goldfish and mini turtles. Another vendor was selling a baby skunk! It was so dear, with a small, black, upturned nose.
Especially if you arrive at the port, walk a couple blocks and visit the parrillas at the port marketplace (Mercado del Puerto). This location seems like the place to be for happy hour as well as a late night hang out. Watch out in the old section after dark, though. Beggars can be particularly insistent–much more aggressive than in Buenos Aires. They are also lurking around the hostels in the area.
We stayed at the budget friendly Splendido Hotel across from the Teatro Solis (in the old section). This location was great in the Montevideo winter; however, when the weather was nice out, the bars below were really busy until late in the morning. We were kept awake by the thudding dance music and a generator running. I am normally a very deep sleeper, so if the bars kept me awake, they’ll probably keep most people awake.
All that said, if you visit Montevideo in the winter time, you may want to reserve at Splendido, Also, if you plan to dance and drink late into the night, it might be the perfect place because you can walk upstairs when you’re tired. The staff is friendly. Most of the guests are backpackers. Note that some rooms have a shared bathroom. Another recommended hotel is Hotel Palacio in the same area of the old city. Book ahead.
Since the theatre was so close, we went to see a performance of Bertolt Brecht’s Arturo Ui. The music, scenery, and makeup were all amazing. The play was set in industrial Chicago–gritty and noir. The theatre itself is decorated in the Victorian style.
E. and I did a lot of walking there. Along the port, a lot of the Uruguayans were fishing. We found a cat sullenly waiting for a fisherman to haul his catch on land so he could feast on entrails.
My suggestions for seeing Montevideo:
- Enjoy a glass or wine or dinner at Mercado del Puerto in the Ciudad Vieja
- Shop for food or souvenirs at Tristán Narvaja feria on a Sunday
- Take a tour of Teatro Solis and catch a performance if possible
- Take a bus to a neighborhood outside of the city center such as Pocitos
- Walk alongside the Rambla Republica Argentina next to the water
- Sit on a beach near the Punta Carretas section
- Window shop on Avenida 18 de Julio (the main street in the city center)