Montevideo is without doubt the calmest city in South America, but Uruguay’s capital does not suffer from an inferiority complex. Its 1.3 million residents are proud of their city’s rich cultural life and avant-garde atmosphere.
While the melodies of traditional tangos dominate the streets of Montevideo at daytime, hipster DJs-of-the-moment dominate the city’s nightlife. Enjoy Uruguay’s traditional mate tea or have a Scotch. Montevideo moves at its own pace, between tradition and modernity.
Montevideo is the most European city of South America. Much of the population is of Spanish and Italian descent. There’s an abundance of creative talent, including Jorge Drexler, whose Al Otro Lado del Río’ made him the first Uruguayan to win an Academy Award for best original song.
Situated in the southern coast of the country, on the north shore of the Río de la Plata, Montevideo covers 200 miles with 62 different neighborhoods. Buenos Aires, known as Montevideo’s big sister, lies only 230 kilometers (140 mi) west on the Argentine side and is easily reachable by ferry.
The city’s architecture ranges from colonial to Art Deco. The city’s Beaux-Arts architecture, strongly influenced by French and Spanish immigrants, let visitors often feel as somewhere in Paris or Madrid.
Several chic districts like Punta Carretas and Carrasco offer upscale shopping malls and high-class hotels with the most exclusive views over the bay. One of the most splendid buildings in Montevideo is the Hotel Casino Carrasco build in 1921. It is located in the residential area of Carrasco.
Most expats decide to settle in the city’s residential areas Punta Carretas and Carrasco, but the most charming part of the city is it’s old town known as “La Ciudad Vieja”. Founded in 1730, it was once the original city of Montevideo. With a high concentration of governmental institutions and financial offices, “La Ciudad Vieja” represents the commercial hub of the city.
*Tradition runs deep in Montevideo*
A great number of restaurants, bars, shops and museums are located in “La Ciudad Vieja” and “Centro”. The city offers restaurants for every taste: innovative, European, and classical Uruguayan cuisine. But tradition runs deep in Montevideo: Countless restaurants serve the well-known Uruguayan steak grilled over fragrant wood. Locals and tourists adore to go to the authentic Mercado del Puerto, a historic market hall dating to 1868, hosting numerous parrilla (grill) restaurants.
_The popular Mercado del Puerto (Photo: Jorge Gobbi/Flickr)_
The Cerro de Montevideo, a hill of 132m situated across the bay of Montevideo, offers a fantastic view over the city. A wide spread belief says that the name “Montevideo” comes from a Portuguese expression “Monte vide eu” (“I saw a mount”) which had been wrongly pronounced by a sailor belonging to the expedition of Fernando de Magallanes on catching sight of the Cerro de Montevideo.
_The Cerro de Montevideo (Photo: Claudia/Flickr)_
La Rambla is a big avenue with a large pedestrian promenade along the coast and buildings on the other side. It runs from West to East in the southern part of Montevideo leading directly to the beautiful Parque Rodó. The park offers an artificial lake with a little castle housing a municipal library for children, an amusement park and an open-air exhibition area of photography. The name Rodó’ has been given in memory of José Enrique Rodó, an important Uruguayan writer whose monument is in the southern side of the main park.
_La Rambla (Photo: Wikipedia)_
The Plaza Constitución, also known as Plaza Matriz, is the city’s oldest square. It is home to the Cabildo de Montevideo, a former government house during the colonial times of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate. Today, the building is used as a museum and houses the historical archive of the city. Right in front of the Cabildo there is the Catedral Metropolitana de Montevideo, the main Roman Catholic church of Montevideo and seat of its archdiocese. The Baroque bastion was built between 1784 and 1799 and is an example of Spanish colonialism at its best.
_The Plaza Constitución (Photo: Wikipedia)_
Montevideo’s most important and most popular plaza is the Plaza Independencia (pictured above), which separates the Ciudad Vieja from downtown Montevideo. Buildings like the country’s oldest theater, the Solis Theatre, and the President of Uruguay’s workplaces, Estevez Palace and the Executive Tower reside here.
The Palacio Salvo is known worldwide as “the symbol of Montevideo”. It is located at the intersection of Plaza Independencia and 18 de Julio Avenue. An Italian immigrant named Mario Palanti built it in 1928. The Palacio Salvo has and has been the tallest building in South America for decades. Nowadays, tourists and locals can rent out fully furnished apartments.
_The Palacio Salvo (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)_
*One of the longest carnival seasons on earth*
Only a handful of tourists know that Uruguay has one of the longest carnival seasons on earth, which runs from late January to mid-March. During 40 days Uruguayans and tourists lose themselves in parties at day and night celebrating the country’s Afro-Uruguayan culture. Costumes, masks, pictures and videos tracing back the history of Montevideo’s carnival can be explored at the the Museo del Carnaval at 218 Rambla 25 de Agosto 1825.
*Celebrate the “Semana Criolla” in Montevideo*
Easter Week is Uruguay’s biggest national holiday. In Montevideo, the Semana Santa (Easter week) is known as the “Semana Criolla”. Since 1925, Gauchos (South American cowboys) from all over the country come to Montevideo to show the city’s urban population what life in the interior of the country is like. Rodeos, barbecues and folk music celebrate the lifestyle of Uruguay’s rural population in the city’s parks.
*How to get to Montevideo*
There are nonstop flights :www.despegar.com.pe from Lima to Montevideo. The time of flight is about 4 h 35. If you want to travel from Cuzco to Montevideo you need to change plane in Lima. The possibility exists to travel by bus :www.perucaracol.com from Lima to Montevideo, but the trip would take about three days. This relaxed city is an excellent place to get away from it all