The Uruguayan capital is an inviting and lively metropolis, full of contrasting architecture, districts and colours. Get the best out of 24 hours in one of South America’s pre-eminent cities with our 24-hour guide.

EARLY RISE

First Timers

Make your way west down Avenida 18 de Julio to Plaza Independencia (Independence Square), a stunning plaza, home to some of the capital’s most significant buildings.

Marvel at the Palacio Salvo that towers over the city, before paying your respects at the statue of José Artigas, “the father of the Uruguayan nationhood”. You can even descend into his guarded underground tomb (open 0900-1700).

Next, waltz through the adjacent Puerta de la Ciudadela (Gateway of the Citadel) into the heart of the Old Town. If you need breakfast, drop in the nearby Rincón de Zabala, a stylish and modern café offering refreshing fruit juices, croissants, sandwiches and coffee at affordable prices.

Barrio ReusColourful Barrio Reus
Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock

Old Hands

Grab breakfast at Facal, on Avenida 18 de Julio, next to the fountain of love covered in the initialled padlocks of visiting lovers.

Afterwards, hail a taxi and proceed to Fortaleza del Cerro (also known as Fortaleza General Artigas), a dazzling 18th century fortress in the west of the city that overlooks the Bay of Montevideo.

Have your camera at the ready as you explore this impressive Spanish-built colonial stronghold that offers spectacular vistas of the city. There is also a museum to commemorate the city’s military history.

After exploring the fort, hail another cab to Calle Emilio Reus, a pretty barrio planned and constructed by its namesake, Emilio Reus, during Montevideo’s 19th century urban expansion. The area is renowned for its colourful houses and stunning architecture.

MORNING

First Timers

Explore the Old Town, where the streets are lined with colonial era buildings and 19th century houses that now jostle for space alongside new offices, cafes, bars and clubs.

Pass by Plaza Constitución (Constitution Square), the oldest square in the city where artisan markets are regularly held. Take a look inside the striking 18th century Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral and then cross over the square to the Cabildo building, a former colonial government house that’s now a museum documenting the city’s history.

Port MarketPort Market
Creative Commons / LWY

When hunger strikes, head for the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market) on the waterfront, where you’ll find several bistros and restaurants. Alternatively, grab something to go from one of the traditional Uruguayan parrillas that serve up the finest grilled meats and vegetables including chivitos, a tasty filet mignon steak sandwich swathed with mayonnaise, cheese and other optional fillings. Shopaholics hunting for antiques, crafts and souvenirs are also well served.

Old Hands

From Barrio Reus, head south down Arenal Grande, which eventually brings you to Avenida 18 de Julio. Walk eastwards towards the grand Parque Batlle, a magnificent, 60 hectares (150 acres) park featuring a large variety of trees, several important monuments and the world renowned Estadio Centenario.

The historic home of the Uruguayan national football team, the Centenario was built in time for the inaugural World Cup in 1930, which La Celeste (The Sky Blues) famously hosted and won. Matches are still played regularly here, both by Uruguay and local club team C.A. Peñarol. There is a museum documenting the fascinating history of this FIFA declared ‘monument of world football’.

Elsewhere in the park, there is the impressive La Carreta monument depicting 19th century ox-cart drivers, and an Obelisk marking the centenary of the 1830 constitution. After exploring, start walking south towards Pocitos, stopping off in the Punta Carretas area en route to have lunch at the classy Restaurant Francis, serving fine sushi and traditional Uruguayan grilled meat dishes.

AFTERNOON

First Timers

Walk towards the Parque Rodó barrio, and relax in the picturesque park of the same name. Featuring a green-hued lake lined with palm trees (which families on pedaloes frequent in summer), and even a small but stately castle in its grounds, Parque Rodo was named after the Uruguayan writer José Enrique Rodó, of which there is a monument.

Next, stroll along part of Montevideo’s renowned and extensive ramblas (promenades) that run the length of the city’s coastline. Wander down Rambla Presidente Wilson towards the waterfront to Punta Carretas, an attractive barrio with delightful beaches. After walking and relaxing on the soft golden sands, wander right down to the end of the cape to an attractive 19th century lighthouse. Here you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the sunset. There is also a modern shopping mall in Punta Carretas should you desire retail therapy.

Beach MontevideoSunset at Montevideo's beach
Creative Commons / Vince Alongi

Old Hands

After lunch at Restaurant Francis, walk south to Rambla Mahatma Gandhi, then east onto Rambla Republica del Peru towards the Playa de los Pocitos beach.

Remove your shoes and feel the sand between your toes at the attractive, bustling beach.

Afterwards, head east a kilometre or so to Puerto del Buceo, and onto the Uruguayan Yacht Club, an impressive harbour where Uruguay’s rich and famous come out and play. The club hosts races and boasts marvellous views of the sunset over the River Plate.

EVENING

First Timers

After a tiring day of walking and sightseeing, you’ll crave a nice restaurant to eat and have a glass of wine. Head back to Constitution Square, where the swanky La Corte offers excellent good and a substantial wine list.

SolisTeatro Solis
Creative Commons / federicocristina

After your meal, head deeper into the Old Town for a few drinks. If you fancy clubbing, queue around the block with the young locals for La City discotheque. To enjoy some local live music, go to El Pony Pisador, and depending on the night, boogie to anything from blues, raggaeton, flamenco and rock ‘n’ roll.

If theatre is more your thing, head for the grand Teatro Solis (Solis Theatre) featuring spectacular opera or ballet performance.

Old Hands

Go west from Buceo and back into Pocitos, where the award winning Tandory is located. This delightful place serves a mix of Uruguayan and international cuisines.

Following your meal, proceed a few blocks south to 62 Bar, a really cool spot in an old colonial railway building which attracts the young and fashionable crowds. Dessert is great here, if you’ve left some room for it.

If you desire somewhere more lively, walk a few blocks west to the W Lounge in the Parque Rodó area. A stylish two-tiered nightclub that is one of the hottest nightspots in the city, the W Lounge offers a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the coast. Where better to end your day in Montevideo?

Author: William David Wilson

Published date: 27 December 2012

Edited by Tina Banerjee

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