Last Updated on June 21, 2023
Montevideo is a small-sized capital that a first glance might seem to an unknowingly naive visitor not to offer a lot of things to do. But in reality, the capital of Uruguay is a fascinating city, with many historical buildings, a strong culture and natural beauty to admire.
The great thing about it being relatively small is that traveling around is easy and doesn’t take up too much time.
It is not a common top-travel destination and at first, does not seem like your typical Latin American capital, full of noise, activity along the streets and tremendous traffic. Rather, it is a quiet city that hides a lot of charm and that has several things to offer to its visitors.
If you’re considering to visit Uruguay, make sure you include a few days to be spent in Montevideo. If you keep reading you’ll find out about the amazing things you can see and do in Montevideo.
Let’s dive in.
1. Learn About A Bit Of Uruguay’s History in Plaza Independencia
You cannot say you’ve been in Montevideo if you haven’t wondered about and admired the main square of the city, Plaza Independencia. If you don’t where to start your visit to the capital, this square is the perfect point.
Centrally located, with the remains of the old city walls and gate which mark the entrance to the Old Town on one side of the square, Plaza Independencia is a must seen.
Also, it is in Plaza Independencia that you can visit José Gervasio Artigas’ mausoleum. If you don’t know much about the national hero of Uruguay, visiting the mausoleum might be a good way to learn something.
The beloved Artigas fought to liberate Uruguay from Spanish domination in the 19th century. His remains rest underneath Plaza Independencia and are supervised by national guards at all time,
2. Get Fully Involved In The Uruguayan Culture and Participate At The Carnival!
This one is time-dependent, but still, if you know you’ll be in Uruguay in the period spanning from mid-January to mid-March, you should not miss the carnival. Brazilian carnival might be more popular, but the Carnival in Montevideo is also totally worth experiencing!
It is the longest carnival in the World for the duration (it lasts 40 days) and has an important meaning for the locals. It is a celebration for the abolition of slavery, which has become an expression of freedom and the strength of individualism.
Some elements of the Carnival are rather ancient, rich in history and meaning. For example, some performances are a remembrance of the times when African slaves marched around the city banging the musical instruments that reminded them of their native country.
3. Eat Like A Local (Or Discover What Is an Uruguayan Parrilla) at Mercado Del Puerto
This activity might not be fun for a vegetarian, but the great atmosphere, the variety of meat and other local product is worth a visit when in Montevideo. You don’t necessarily have to eat at Mercado Del Puerto after all, Montevideo is packed with nice restaurants.
However even just walking around the market and smelling the “meat fumes” will be a good enough experience to get a sense of Uruguay’s love for meat. The love for meat shouldn’t come as a surprise once you learn that Uruguay has four times more cows than humans.
The market had been the center of the city’s trades. In there, everything imported could be sold and bought: from slaves to meat and vegetables.
Today, the place has been renovated. There are various restaurants and the best way to enjoy eating is to sit on the bar and getting served directly from the open fire grill just in front of you.
It is a bit pricey but the experience is worth it. If you only want to have a drink, the market can get crowded, which makes it great for some “people watching”.
The market is open every day from 11 AM to 6 PM and is located close to the port in the Old Town.
4. Get Artsy At The Gallery Of Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo
If you are an art lover (or if you’re not but you’re open to visiting art expositions), you should pay a visit to the Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo. Calling Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo just a gallery will be limiting. Starting from the setting in an abandoned prison, the exposition includes many different expositions from several artists.
If you want to learn about some of the movements and the social issues in Uruguay, the art gallery is a great way to raise your awareness about some of the problems of the country.
Additionally, around the area of the art gallery, there are several Street arts you might want to take a look at. The whole city has a variety of street art all over, you can simply walk around and have a look.
5. Pay A Visit To Teatro Solis
Teatro Solis (Solis Theatre) is an important building in the Old Town of Montevideo. It was built to be a “competitor” of European theatres, and it is the first theatre built in South America.
If you like theaters, you might want to check the schedule and you might find some interesting show you want to see in this historical theatre. The calendar has a great selection of ballet, opera, plays and comedies from all over the world.
Otherwise, you can visit the building from the inside and admire the nice decoration. If you want to have a better look, you can go for a guided tour which will bring you inside the theatre and discover its secrets and rooms.
6. Visit Some Natural Beauty in The Botanical Gardens and Museum
The Jardin Botanico of Montevideo is located in the neighborhood of Prado and covers quite an extensive area.
If you are looking for some nature when in the city, look no further.
The gardens are big and include various plants from around the world. The museum serves as a center for education, research, and information.
7. Be Amazed By The Beautiful Views in Fortaleza Del Cerro
If you want to get some good views of the city and its bay, you should walk up the highest hill in Montevideo and just admire the panorama. The fort located on top of the hill was built by the Spanish to keep an eye on the port.
Getting there can be easily done by taking a bus from the city center (number 124 or 125 will bring you there) and get off at Terminal Cerro. From there you can walk to the fort. You can visit Fortaleza Del Cerro from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM for a small entrance fee.
8. Have A Nice Picnic At Parque Rodò
Parc Rodò is a lush park that can be the perfect spot for a picnic or just to relax after a day of sightseeing. The park is nice and local families and friends tend to gather there and simply chill.
It is surrounded by a big lake which if you want you can explore pedalo. To hire a pedalo, the fee is around UYU 100 (USD 3) for 30 minutes.
If you visit the park on Sundays, you’ll be able to visit the big weekly market that takes place from 9 AM to 4 PM.
9. Visit The Best Market Of Montevideo: Feria De Tristàn Narvaja
We’ve mentioned the Sunday market at Parque Rodò. However, if you have time to visit only one local market, it should be the Feria de Tristan Navaja, which takes place on Sunday between 9 AM and 4 PM in a different part of the city, in the neighborhood of Cordòn.
The market is big and offers a wide variety of products: from fresh local produce, fruits, vegetables, cheese and meat to toothpaste and tasty street food. The market is known for its cheap prices and great street food.
10 Do Your Shopping at Mercado Agricola Montevideo (MAM)
If you want to buy some souvenirs of local products, Mercado Agricola Montevideo is a great place to go. Located in what was once an old market for cattle, today the building is renovated and hosts various bars, cafes, shops, and a food court. It is nice to stroll around and get inspired by the handicraft shops.
11. Admire The Beauty Of The Palacio Legislativo
This impressive building made of 27 different marble colors is the meeting place of the Parliament of Uruguay.
Even if it is a bit out of the city center, if you’re planning to go to Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo or the Mercado Agricola Montevideo, it will be on your way there.
If you don’t feel satisfied with just admiring the building from the outside, you can go inside and join a guided tour, which is usually scheduled at 10:30 AM and 3 PM.
12. Walk Along The Rambla (Or At Least Some Parts Of It!)
The twenty-two kilometers long Rambla in Montevideo is a popular thing to do. You might not want to walk it all (it is the longest side-walk in the world) but it is a nice way to get some gentle breath from the sea.
Along the Rambla, there is one sight you might not want to miss. It’s the Castillo Pittamiglio: a facade of red bricks that aggressively sticks out from the apartments surrounding it.
Built by the alchemist Humberto Pittamiglio at the beginning of the 20th century, the building is eccentric both from the outside but even inside. It hides many mysteries, starts leading nowhere, labyrinths, sculptures, secret doors. Today, it is a museum which you can visit with a tour every day at 5 PM.
13. Catch The Sunset At Punta Brava
Punta Brava is arguably the best place to see the sunset in Montevideo. It is common even for locals to just sip their mates or a beer while enjoying the beautiful sunset in front of them.
14. Go For A Day Trip
If you have time to visit more, there are various day trips you can take from Montevideo. For example, you can visit the “Hamptons of South America”, or Punta del Este. If you go on a tour, you’ll explore some of the luxuries of Montevideo as well as stop and admire the natural beauty on the road.
From Montevideo, you can easily visit Colonia del Sacramento, a city listed under the UNESCO World Heritage.
15. Relax At One Of Montevideo’s Beaches
Some of the beaches are very close to the city center and might be a good way for you to relax a bit. Playa Pocitos and Playa Rameriz are easily reachable on foot. You can even choose to go further along the coast to playa Brava, Playa de Los Ingleses or the posh Playa Carrasco. No matter where you chose to go, pick a sunny day and enjoy it!
The Bottomline: The Best Things to Do in Montevideo
You’ve seen that despite the size and the rather unpopularity of the city among many tourists, the capital of Uruguay offers a lot of things to do.
The activities are varied and depending on the amount of time at your disposition you can organize your day to get the best out of everything that this amazing city has to offer.
Because of the size of Montevideo, getting around the city is very easy and quick.
You could walk pretty much everywhere, but it can also take buses or Uber, depending on your preferences. If you’re wondering about the bus schedule, the simplest way is to type your destination on Google Maps and look at how to get there with public transportation. You’ll know the time of the next scheduled bus going there.
Generally, Uruguay is considered to be a safe country, with Montevideo being one of the safest South American cities.
If you want to experience good weather, try to go from October to March, and getting there for Carnival would be a unique experience that will make your visit even more unforgettable.
In any case, visiting Montevideo is certainly something you want to include during your trip to a country which is full of contrasts but also culture and interesting history.