It is a city in perpetual ferment that knows how to play many roles. Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, overlooks the northern shore of the Rio de la Plata, and is characterised by a humid temperate climate with mild winters. Snowfall is rare, but these months, mostly cloudy, are characterised by the wind, called "pampero". Its history is full of contamination and struggles, which have left traces and testimonies in art, culture and traditions.

According to Montevideo legend it takes its name from the exclamation of a Portuguese soldier a member of the Magellan expedition, who was surprised to see a mountain in such a flat region and shouted "Monte vide eu". The city was founded by the Spanish in 1724, starting with a military garrison built by the governor of Buenos Aires, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala. Since the 18th century, thanks to its natural port and its connection with Buenos Aires, Montevideo has established itself as an important economic centre specialising in the export of tanned skins and dried meat.

There are those who have called it the city "of the long nights" or "of a thousand faces". They go from the roughness of the industrial harbour to the exclusive neighbourhoods along the beach. In the historic business district in the city centre, art deco and neoclassical buildings vie for space with skyscrapers. To the south-east the city mixes shopping malls with seaside resorts and tall, modern palaces. The musical, theatrical and artistic scene is constantly buzzing with its elegant period theatres, cosy tango dance halls and beach clubs. But it doesn't end there: Montevideo is a city to enjoy.

For meat lovers it is a paradise, there are many places where you can enjoy asado, which can not be simply called a barbecue: there is in fact a whole process to follow for the preparation of the fire and the cooking of meat, which goes beyond the classic conception of grilling. The meats are cooked slowly and are tender, juicy and with an unmistakable taste. The Chivito is instead a steak-stuffed sandwich cut into slices, with vegetables, cheese, olives and pickles.  

Find out what the must-see stages are with us:

  • Montevideo Waterfront
  • Old Town of Montevideo
  • Plaza Indipendencia
  • Palacio Legislativo
  • El Prado
  • Batlle Park
  • Obelisco dei Costituenti
  • Stadio del Centenario
  • Carrasco District
  • La Rambla di Montevideo

Montevideo Waterfront

The waterfront connects the city centre to the resorts of Punto Carretas, Pocitos, Buceo and Carrasco. You can cross in the early morning or towards sunset when the inhabitants flock to walk and drink "tomar mate", a famous drink made from the infusion of a South American herb. It is one of the most loved places by the locals, not only for the many beaches reachable by its accesses but also for the many activities that can be carried out during free time: relaxing walks, jogging, yoga, skating, skateboarding. This huge boulevard skirts many important places of the city, such as the port or the old city.

Old Town of Montevideo

This is the historic centre of the city, a place where past and present coexist amidst historic buildings, bookshops and hectic life. To discover the beating heart of this city, all you need is a curious spirit. Inside we find colonial Baroque and Classical buildings of great architectural and historical value. Originally the site was residential, but over the years it has been occupied by offices and shops, turning into the centre of the country's financial activity. The Ciudad Vieja goes from The Mercado del Puerto to Puerta del Sol and it is full of clubs, restaurants and, above all, the real city spirit.  Don't miss the Mercado del Puerto, once the most beautiful port in South America, now transformed into a picturesque and lively centre, dotted with restaurants and markets. It's an animated and lively place, especially on weekends, and a gathering place for the city's street artists, craftsmen and musicians. One of the most spectacular places to eat Uruguayan meat. There are a dozen restaurants beneath its huge iron structure . Don't expect a well-maintained place, but more than anything a place where you can breathe the true local folklore, in the middle of picturesque buildings rich in history that allow you to experience Montevideo in its full vivacity. There are also several museums that show Uruguayan history, such as the Museum of Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art, the Carnival Museum and the Tango Museum. In recent years writers and street artists covered the grey walls with beautiful graffiti and the abandoned houses were transformed into modern cafes, creating an extraordinary vintage blend that has made Ciudad Vieja lively and cosmopolitan again.

Plaza Indipendencia

Plaza Independencia is the main square of Montevideo, and borders the Ciudad Vieja, the city's historic centre, and the central area, formerly known as Ciudad Nueva. The square was originally designed by theItalian architect Carlo Zucchi, in 1837, when it was decided to expand the city in line with the new urban plan project. The work was inspired by his teachers Percier and Fontaine, authors of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

The square as we know it, however, is the result of the changes to the project made by Bernardo Poncini in 1860. The main attraction is the Jose Gervasio Artigas monument, an equestrian statue dedicated to the Uruguayan national hero, below which, in a mausoleum, an urn containing his remains is kept. An important detail is the bas-relief on the base that presents a work depicting the exodus of the Eastern people.

Around the square are some of the most important buildings in the city: walking along Avenida 18 de Julio towards the old city we find Palacio Salvo, flanked by the Palacio Estevezthe Ciudadela Building and the Solis Theatre, the largest in the Uruguayan capital and the second largest theatre in South America. Uruguay's most important shows are staged here, but the Solis Theatre is a tourist attraction even for its imposing and elegant structureFinally, there is the Puerta de la Ciudadela, which, as the name suggests, opens the doors to the old city of Montevideo.

 

The square is also often the backdrop to major events in Montevideo. The most surprising thing, however, is the strange tower at the corner of the square: a structure 95 metres high and topped by a dome. Originally named Palacio Salvo it should have been a beacon so powerful that it reached Buenos Aires with its light, to establish an eternal bond between the two cities.

Unfortunately, however, it was realised that the light disturbed the boats, so it was turned off, and the tower was used to house offices, shops and apartments. But you can still climb to the top and enjoy the magnificent view.

Palacio Legislativo

Palacio Legislativo in Montevideo is the building that houses the legislative body of Uruguay. The building was inaugurated on 25 August 1925 as a tribute to the 100 years since the Declaration of Independence: inside, the House of Representatives, Senate and General Assembly all meet. Thanks to its undoubted architectural value, the palace goes far beyond its political importance, having become one of the main tourist attractions of the Uruguayan capital. The building was built between 1908 and 1925, according to the project of Vittorio Meano, with the direction of the works entrusted to the Italian architect Joseph Moretti, assisted by the Uruguayan architect Eugenio Baroffio. The choice of place was far from coincidental: it was attempted, in fact, to use Place de la Concorde in Paris as a model, structuring the building in such a way that it could be reached by several streets and became a reference point within the city's urban infrastructure.

 

The style is neoclassical, while the interior is divided into three main aisles. In addition to the parliamentary offices, Palacio Legislative hosts a very important public library, the second largest in the country, with a vast collection that has expanded during the last century.

El Prado

El Prado is a residential barrio in Montevideo located slightly outside the central part of the city. It is one of the quietest areas of the capital, where several villas and elegant dwellings are located. El Prado is also known as the “city’s lung”: it is in fact here that we find Parque Prado, the largest of Montevideo’s public parks.

The park covers 106 hectares and today it is also used to host exhibitions and events. Inside, cultural and historical footprints coexist. A few blocks away, for example, is the Juan Manuel Blanes Municipal Museum of Fine Arts which houses the canvases of Juan Manuel Blanes and Pedro Figari, two Uruguayan masters. This museum opened in 1930 and is reminiscent of the classic Italian villas built in the Renaissance style. The Museum of Fine Arts preserves ancient paintings, but presents works and projects by other national and international artists.

Don't miss the surrounding Japanese garden. While on the subject of nature, the Botanical Garden, a repository of more than a thousand plant species and Rosaleda del Prado, the rose garden that will arouse the enthusiasm of lovers of this flower rich in history and landmark in much literature are also to be admited. Opened in 1912, the rose garden is dedicated to the Uruguayan poet Juana de Ibarbourouil. A short distance away are the majestic Prado hotel and the presidential residence. 

he former Uruguayan president José "Pepe" Mujica had become famous for having opened the doors of the official residence to the homeless, so that they could shelter from the cold in the winter. The head of state had arranged that "if necessary", an area of the Suarez y Reyes Presidential Palace was used to accommodate the homeless.

Batlle Park

Located south of Avenida Italia and north of Avenida Rivera, two of the most important streets in Montevideo, you will find the Parque Batlle district, which takes its name from the large park that was designed in the centre. It has elegant houses with manicured gardens. The green area, which covers 76 hectares, is perfect for walks, sports and recreational activities in general. Inside there are three stadiums. It was born as a result of the donation of 11 hectares by the landowner Antonio Pereira in 1906. For history lovers you can visit several monuments in the area. Like Montevideo's obelisk and the La Careta monument, the work of sculptor José Belloni who received numerous awards. It was inaugurated in October 1934 and declared a historic monument in 1976. It is a structure 22 metres long and weighs about 150 tonnes: it consists of an ox-cart and a horse-drawn gaucho, which got bogged down in a pond. The monument is made of bronze and has a pink granite base. It symbolises and honours the famers’ means of transport and daily load. The sculpture stands on a green hillside next to an artificial lake in the park, opposite the Stadio del Centenario.

Obelisco dei Costituenti

The 1830 obelisk is a bronze and granite work by the Uruguayan sculptor José Luis Zorrilla de San Martin, one of the most important monuments in the entire nation. Opened in 1938, it honours the participants of the General Constituent Assembly and the State Legislative Assembly, which draftedUruguay's first constitution in 1830. This 40-metre-high obelisk was made entirely of Uruguayan pink granite. On its west face, the inscription "To the components of the 1830s" was engraved. It includes three bronze women's statues, 5 metres high, representing Law, Strength and Freedom. At the bottom of each of the female statues there is a tap from which water comes out and falls on the hexagonal fountain that is located in the obelisk. The obelisk is located in a small square in the city centre, where Avenida 18 de Julio ends and Batlle Park begins.

Stadio del Centenario

Stadio del Centennario is legendary because it hosted the final of the first World Cup won by Uruguay's national team over Argentina by 4-2 in front of more than 80,000 spectators in 1930. Since then, the Uruguayan national team has played its home games here. The architect was Juan Antonio Scasso, who designed a huge facility, intended to host major sporting events. Work began on 21 July 1929, directed by Scasso and was built by hundreds of labourers. They were divided into three production shifts, so that the work proceeded uninterrupted. In addition, the different sections of the stadium were assigned to various builders. All this so that the huge facility would be finished by the opening of the folliwng year's World Cup, which would begin on July 13, 1930. In the ensuing months, however, torrential rains hit Montevideo, greatly delaying the construction. It was thus that despite the effort of the workers' teams the end of the work slipped by a few days: the inaugural match, between France and Mexico had to be "moved" to the small stadium in Pocitos, where only 1,000 spectators were let in. Subsequently the Centenario, in addition to the official World Cup qualifiers and friendlies of the Uruguayan national team, also hosted major events of international football, i.e. most of the competitions and finals of some editions of the Copa América.

 

The importance for the history of football at the stadium was enshrined by Fifa, which proclaimed it a world football monument on 18 July 1983. Its name stems from the fact that in the year of its opening, 1930, Uruguay celebrated the centenary of the promulgation of the first Constitution of the Republic (which occurred in 1830). The stadium also hosts a Fùtbol Museum. Here you can learn everything you need to know about Uruguay's history and prizes in football. You will be able to see a wide variety of exhibitions, including trophies, signed T-shirts and the football used during the first World Cup final. The passion for fùtbol envelops the whole city, which has 15 football teams, so much so that the national championship is almost all a derby between the teams of the capital (and usually Pearol and Nacional usually win).

Carrasco District

What makes Carrasco special and different from any other neighbourhood is that the city prohibits the construction of buildings higher than three floors. Its multiple open spaces and the sprawling houses with huge construction sites make it one of the most expensive places to live in Montevideo. About 100 years ago, people living in Pocitos, Centro or Ciudad Vieja would have had a second home in Carrasco, so the neighbourhood, located on the southeast coast of the city, was mainly to live in at the weekend. Today, families live here all year round. One of the reasons is its environment, its location, but also because the area is less crowded than any other district in the city. The area is also growing economically. More and more companies choose to operate here every year, so the commercial area in the district has developed very quickly and exponentially. Carrasco has a long sandy beach and is close to the main airport of Uruguay. The barrio's name comes from Salvador Sebastian Carrasco, one of Montevideo's first settlers. One of the main attractions in Carrasco is the Stella Maris Church, a Roman Catholic parish built in 1918. It was one of the first structures in Carrasco and was dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea. There is also the Sofitel Carrasco Hotel, an imposing early 20th-century building that embodies history and tradition.

 

Other neighbourhoods to discover include Pocitos. Although many of its buildings are modern, Pocitos is actually one of the older neighbourhoods of Montevideo. Translating to "small holes in the ground", the name Pocitos dates back to the colonial period, when women went to the river to wash their clothes in small holes made in the ground. In this area, old renovated houses coexist perfectly with the tallest towers in the city. Those built in front of the sea are some of the most expensive properties in Montevideo. The Pocitos Rambla, the name given to the Montevideo waterfront, offers one of the most spectacular views of Rio de la Plata. During the summer the walk is always crowded and its beach is also one of the most popular in the city.

La Rambla di Montevideo

La Rambla is an ancient Spanish word that refers to a dry riverbed that is used as a road, based on the Arabic word ramal, which means "sand". In Montevideo the rambla runs along the shore of the Rio Plata and continues along the entire coast for over 22 kilometres. It is also the road that you walk along if you want to reach the beaches. The waterfronts (La Rambla de France, The Rambla de Gran Bretana and La Rambla Republica Argentina) will give you a fascinating glimpse and magical perspective on the wonderful bay of Montevideo, and maybe you will have the chance to enjoy the view, sipping cocktails in the many bars that line the area.

Visit Montevideo with Costa Cruises

 

History, art, folklore, nature and sports form an extraordinary blend that makes Montevideo a destination all discover, full of attractions and activities. From the long beaches of the coast modern architectures, monuments rich in history, the capital of Uruguay reserves several and unexpected surprises. It is a picturesque, cosmopolitan city extended on the Rio de La Plata, with streets and palaces blending Italian style with colonial architecture andart deco.

it is also known for hosting Joseph Garibaldi, who stayed here for nine years. With a beautiful natural harbour, the Old Town occupies a small 14-block peninsula where it is worth wandering around on foot without a set destination. It is also an area full of places to have fun or relax.

Thanks to its cultural influences, in Montevideo it is almost always party time. On Sundays, the neighbourhoods of Palermo and Barrio Sur, the most colourful, traditional and lively in the city, overlooking the Rio de la Plata south of the centre, are rumbling with percussion with the rhythms of candombe, the music-dance that came here from Africa along with the slaves. A mix of culture, nature and small surprises to discover: you just have to leave for Montevideo and enjoy a varied and holiday full of opportunities!

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