Things to Do in Montevideo
With its succulent meat markets, charming Old Town, and easygoing pace of life, Montevideo is one of the most underrated cities in South America. Far less crowded than Buenos Aires across the Rio de Plata, Montevideo has a leisurely vibe as relaxing as it is welcome. This isn’t to say it’s slow, however, as the bustle of people on the waterfront is one of the city’s highlights. Officially, the Rambla of Montevideo (Rambla de Montevideo) stretches 13.5 miles along the city’s waterfront. Here you’ll find joggers, walkers, and skaters all enjoying the riverfront parks, or maybe children just flying a kite while their parents sip mate in the shade. It’s the public gathering place to take in the sun or simply go for a stroll, and on the warmer days of summer and fall, is the place to pack a bikini or board shorts and spend a day on the beach. Given its length, the Rambla is broken into many zones for different parts of the city, and one of the most popular is Rambla Sur which runs the length of the Old Town. Head to the section by Playa Pocitos for the popular, wide sandy beach, and if you like to start your day with the sun, there’s nothing better than a sunrise jog along the Uruguay coast.
Housed in a beautiful historic building, the Montevideo Agricultural Market (Mercado Agrícola de Montevideo) is over 100 years old and one of the Uruguay’s largest markets. After falling into disrepair, the structure was recently renovated to house dozens of food stalls and restaurants, while maintaining the charm and details of the original architecture.
It doesn’t take long for visitors in Montevideo to realize that Uruguay is an under-the-radar culinary destination, and the agricultural market is the ideal place for foodies to experiment a wide array of Uruguayan specialties and local products. This is the go-to place for the highest quality Uruguayan wines, olive oils, cured meats and produce and also is home to traditional bakeries, steak houses and a craft brewery. The market is the perfect stop for lunch or a snack while touring the city. And, beyond the food, this is also a great place for souvenirs, toys, and handicrafts.
Despite Uruguay’s diminutive size, its Parliament Palace is one of the most magnificent legislative houses in the world. Built in a heraldic neoclassical style, the palace was inaugurated in 1925, on the centennial of the country’s independence. No expense was spared in the making of its luxurious interior, which makes the palace a must-see attraction in Montevideo.
One of the most important public squares in the Uruguayan capital, Independence Plaza (Plaza Independencia) divides Montevideo’s Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) and downtown areas. Several of the city’s most famous landmarks are located here, including the Salvo Palace (Palacio Salvo), Solis Theater (Teatro Solís), and Executive Tower (Torre Ejecutiva).
Behind its wrought-iron facade (it was originally constructed as a train station), the sprawling Port Market (Mercado del Puerto) houses a number of bustling parrillas (steak restaurants) and other choice eateries. It’s one of the best places in town to enjoy an authentic, traditional (and affordable) meal.
Pocitos is an affluent neighborhood along the banks of the Río de la Plata in Montevideo. Renowned for its long golden sand beach and beach promenade lined with upscale restaurants and shops, the leafy enclave also boasts historic mansions of great architectural interest, including a handful that have been declared National Heritage Sites.
Immerse yourself in an evening of Uruguayan culture, music, dance, and cuisine at El Milongón, one of Montevideo’s most romantic performance venues. At this intimate theater, singers, dancers, and musicians perform several diverse styles of music and dance, including tango, milonga, Afro-Montevideo candombe, folklore.
Opened in 1856, Solís Theatre is a longtime cultural touchstone in Uruguay. Visit the theater to see opera, ballet, theater, and classical music performances. Even if you don't attend a show, stopping by to view the neoclassical building, designed by Italian architect Carlo Zucchi, is a must-do in Montevideo.
Completed in 1928, Salvo Palace (Palacio Salvo) is a historical landmark building featuring an eclectic architectural style—predominantly Italian Gothic, with classic and neo-romantic influences. Originally planned as a hotel, it is now an office and apartment building.
El Prado is an affluent residential neighborhood in the north of Montevideo with tree-lined streets filled with historic homes including Residencia de Suarez (the presidential residence), and the peaceful Parque El Prado, the city’s main green space where a creek runs through grassy fields and a botanical garden grows over 1,000 plant species.
More Things to Do in Montevideo
Located across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, Montevideo Cruise Port (Puerto de Montevideo) is Uruguay’s largest cruise port. A popular stop for large cruise liners touring South America, the port also welcomes regular ferries from neighboring Argentina.
Named for its distinctive promontory rising over the sea, Montevideo's Punta Gorda neighborhood is known for its beaches, the winding Darwin’s Ladder staircase—named for the famed scientist, who spent time studying the soil here—and its waterfront park. Visit to enjoy views of the ocean, or bring a swimsuit and go for a dip at Playa Verde.
Located on The Rambla in Montevideo, it’s difficult to miss Pittamiglio Castle (Castillo Pittamiglio). The building’s red-brick towers, with giant protruding ships and fortress-like architecture, stand out among the modern skyscrapers. Designed by Humberto Pittamiglio and built in 1911, the castle is a tribute to the science of alchemy and its interior is full of obscure symbols with deep meanings.
The Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral de Montevideo sits in the historic Old City, and serves as the seat of the city's Roman Catholic archdiocese. This National Historic Landmark is the mother church for all of South America and is replete with details like intricately tiled floors and elegant chandeliers.
In 1724, when the Spanish founded Montevideo, they fortified the settlement with granite walls thick enough to house canons. More than 100 years later, the walls came down except for one towering slab, the Gateway of the Citadel, which stands at Independence Square (Plaza Independencia) the border between the Old CIty and the New City.
Composing part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay, this 180-mile (290-km) long estuary is formed by the confluence of the Uruguay and Paraná Rivers. After multiple explorations by various Spanish navigators, the waterway came to be known as the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) for the promise of riches thought to lie upstream.
Many don’t know that Montevideo was host to the very first World Cup final in 1930 at the Estadio Centenario. Today, part of the stadium is home to the Football Museum (Museo del Fútbol), which not only honors the beginning of soccer’s biggest tournament, but also celebrates international and Uruguayan soccer throughout history and in the current day.
There’s a wide array of pieces of history from the world’s most popular sport on display at the museum, including trophies, posters, signed jerseys, and original match programs and tickets. Blown up old photos from some of soccer’s most historic moments and newspaper clippings bring visitors through the history of the game. A highlight is the actual match ball from the first World Cup final.
The museum celebrates Uruguay’s strong soccer culture and the country’s many accomplishments in the sport, including dozens of trophies and a certification that a local Montevideo football club was the first in South America. There’s also plenty of soccer history from all over the world, including a signed jersey from Brazilian legend Pelé.
The museum has a gift shop loaded with cool soccer souvenirs. Visitors are also able to enter the Estadio Centenario itself, where not much has changed since the 1930 final. For an extra fee, it is possible to go up the stadium tower, which boasts panoramic views of Montevideo.
In 1972, a charter plane departed Montevideo en route to Santiago de Chile and crashed in the Andes Mountains. The story of this tragic event is the subject of the Andes Museum 1972 (Museo Andes 1972. The exhibitions here honor the Uruguayans who perished in this disaster and tell the harrowing tale of the 16 travelers that survived.
Directly south of Montevideo’s center, the neighborhood (or, “barrio”) of Barrio Sur is closely connected to its large Afro-Uruguayan community, who settled here after slavery was abolished. It is the home of the “Candombe,” the Uruguayan music and dance style that comes from African slaves and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage of humanity.
The eclectic artworks of Montevideo-born artist Joaquim Torres-Garcia—Uruguay’s most prolific and influential modern artist—take center stage at the Torres García Museum (Museo Torres García). One of Montevideo’s most visited art museums, its vast collection features Garcia’s work, alongside temporary exhibitions from local contemporary artists.
Dive into Latin America’s ancient history at the award-winning Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art Museum (MAPI). Small but comprehensive, with more than 700 artworks and artifacts in its permanent collection; it’s one of Montevideo’s most important archaeological museums.
Hugging Montevideo’s southeast coast, Carrasco is one of Montevideo's most exclusive residential suburbs. A long, sandy beach fronted by an elegant promenade form the neighborhood’s lively core, while tree-lined streets feature an eclectic mix of early 20th-century mansions, antiques shops, and bookstores. Enjoy a day at the beachside General Lavalleja Park and picnic alongside Carrasco Creek.
The local government presides from Montevideo City Hall (Palacio Municipal, a tremendous government building in the heart of the city. The main draw here is the 22nd-floor viewing deck, known as the Mirador Panoramico de Montevideo. You can peer across the city all the way to the ocean. And you can't beat the price of admission: it's free.