A happy, work-related coincidence led me to Montevideo. I call it “happy” because the city’s...
Montevideo, A Leisurely Tour
Like its inhabitants, Uruguay’s capital is easy going. Visitors will do well to choose outings that let them discover the city at a relaxed pace, savoring the stress-free environment.
The best starting point is Mercado del Puerto, redolent with the scent of roasted meat. This historic space first opened in 1868 and has since been converted into a spot for gourmands: you can’t miss with any restaurant you choose. It is practically mandatory to enjoy a medio y medio (half sparkling wine and half dry white wine) with your meal, especially if you decide to eat in Roldós, which claims to have created this traditional Uruguayan beverage. After your meal, stretch your legs with a rambling tour of the older part of town. Don’t miss the Iglesia Matriz, the traditional opera house Teatro Solís and the historic buildings that seem ready to topple into the river because of the area’s sloping geography.
A little further down, on Avenida 18 de Julio, you’ll find the Plaza de la Independencia, where the nation’s founding father, José Artigas, is buried.
If the sun is shining, walk over to “la rambla” and spend some time exploring the river promenade. If you’re up for a walk, head out to Pocitos, a beautiful beach, then back towards the Punta Carretas area. Look for Calle José Ellauri, where Montevideo’s newest designers and brands make a name for themselves.
The next must-see is only open on Saturdays and Tuesdays. At the Feria de Villa Biarritz in Parque Zorrilla de San Martín Llauri, you can shop for high-quality and affordable textile products along with books and folk art. A group of stands a few feet away deal exclusively in fish and vegetables.
Ready for a rest? Take a break in a pub and sample another local culinary delight: chivito canadiense, a veal sandwich topped with mayonnaise, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes and bacon. One of the positive aspects of Montevideo’s culinary scene is that you can eat well anywhere, from the most elegant restaurant to the most run-down snack bar.
Start off at the giant, riotous Feria Tristán Narvaja, which covers several blocks along the street of the same name, spilling over onto side streets and crossroads. This place can be defined with a single word: eclectic. You can find everything from socks, tee shirts and flags honoring the country’s most popular soccer teams (Peñarol and National) to computer parts, fruits and vegetables, antiques and the obligatory mates for serving the bitter and eponymous brew. According to local legend, this fair has been held every Sunday since 1909.
The outing ends with yet another feria, this time in Parque Rodó. Some 900 stands are set up in a place that is an attraction all on its own. The children use the grassy slopes to “snowboard” on cardboard boxes, and there’s an artificial lake with a castle and rides so old that you’ll feel like you have traveled back in time.
The Mercosur building, located near the park, is an emblematic Montevideo construction that dates back to the early 20th century; it once housed the Parque Hotel. Watch the sunset from Playa Ramírez while drinking a Colet chocolate milk, which you can purchase in any kiosk.
Have you checked your watch lately? You’ll be surprised to find that time passes just as quickly as it does everywhere else in the world and not more slowly, as you might have suspected during your stay in Montevideo. In
Where to Sleep
$$$ Sheraton MontevideoCalle Víctor Solino 349 starwoodhotels.com
$$$ Cala di Volpe Hotel BoutiqueRambla Mahatma Gandhi & Parva Domus hotelcaladivolpe.com.uy
$$$ Palladium Business HotelTomás de Tezanos 1146
Where to Eat
Roldós Mercado del Puertoroldos.com.uy
Café BacacayBacacay 1306 bacacay.com.uy
La SilenciosaItuzaingó 1426
What to See
Mercado del Puertomercadodelpuerto.com
Ferias de Parque Rodó & Villa Biarritzlaferia.com.uy
Feria de Tristán Narvajafacebook.com/pages/Montevideo/Feria-Tristan-Narvaja/26664725237/