Uruguay’s capital knows how to reinvent itself without losing its air of nostalgia: one of the many reasons why we chose Montevideo as the city with the best quality of life on the continent. Music, food and culture, all at an unhurried pace.
Text: VERONICA PAMOUKAGHLIAN @verozoneuy map: manuel córdova @thechumbeques photos: federico berges
1. Mercado del Puerto
This market is a favorite of locals and tourists alike, although the former tend to come on Saturdays. Built with imposing metallic structures forged in Liverpool, the clock, roofs and arches transport visitors to the architectural opulence of Montevideo in the late 19th century. Today, the market is filled with bars and restaurants that are anchored by traditional Uruguayan parrillas cooking up succulent meats, sausages and a wide range of other delicacies. El Palenque, a two-floor restaurant with an outdoor terrace, is one of the popular favorites. When you visit the Mercado del Puerto, don’t miss the chance to try a glass (or two) of medio y medio, a blend made with sweet sparking wine and dry white wine, Uruguay’s answer to Prosecco.
Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 228, Ciudad Vieja
2. Feria de Tristán Narvaja
There aren’t many flea markets in the world as fun, big and varied as the Feria de Tristán Narvaja, which begins on the street of the same name near the main avenue 18 de Julio and branches off in all directions for several blocks. Antiquarians, antique dealers and bargain hunters lose their heads browsing the street stands, bookstores and antique houses that open early Sunday morning until three in the afternoon. From nuts, fruits and vegetables to birds, fish and other pets, not to mention car parts and antique furniture, this place has it all, charming even those who hate to shop.
Tristán Narvaja & Colonia, y calles adyacentes
Sundays 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Music & culture
3. El Mingus
This fun place offers a basic menu that the chef executes to perfection, with generous portions and reasonable prices (the daily specials are often a welcome surprise). From the wine menu, we recommend the Pisano Verde Virgen, a white wine produced by one of the country’s most successful wineries. El Mingus began as a restaurant but gradually transformed into a concert venue and art gallery. Friends occasionally tickle the ivories of the lounge piano to diners’ delight, and some of the Uruguay’s most important musicians offer intimate acoustic performances. When there are no live tunes, you’ll hear jazz greats on vinyl, with the music of the same high caliber as the food and atmosphere.
San Salvador 1952 & Jackson
4. Llamadas in Barrio Sur
The heart of Montevideo beats strongest at the llamadas. On weekends and holidays, candombe troupes parade their drums down Montevideo’s most iconic streets. After a few blocks, the drums stop, a fire is lit, and the leather drumheads are warmed up so the fun can continue. The traditional neighborhoods of Barrios Sur and Palermo are home to many descendants of the African diaspora whose rich tradition of percussion informs the music of candombe. While the official llamadas that take place in February are promoted for tourists, these weekend celebrations are a treasure of real-life musical heritage.
Zelmar Michelini & Carlos Gardel
Saturday & Sunday, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Dining & Drinking
5. Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet
This world-class international restaurant is just a short walk from Shopping Punta Carretas, one of the most charming spots in the city. On the excellent wine list, we highly recommend the Tannat Garzón, a fine example of Italian wine guru Alberto Antonini’s efforts in one of Uruguay’s most interesting wine-producing regions. For those who don’t enjoy meat, the menu offers superb pasta, salads and fish – the swordfish in caper sauce deserves a chapter of its own. From the appetizer of fresh breadsticks and original dips to the impeccable desserts, this restaurant pays attention to the smallest details.
Héctor Miranda 2432 & Ellauri
The Montevideo locale of this bar, originally based in the Punta del Este neighborhood of La Barra, has met the expectations of fans of the dynamic summer spot. Sunday brunch is the perfect antidote for a busy Saturday: there are few places in Montevideo where you can enjoy a refreshing lemonade with mint and ginger served with eggs Benedict and salmon. The baristas always have a friendly smile on their faces and a helpful recommendation. If you prefer to dine al fresco, come early because the outdoor tables fill up quickly. At night, Negroni becomes a classic New York-style bar.
Guipuzcoa 352, Punta Carretas
7. Lucca Bistró y Café
Following a notable career in film and music, one of Uruguay’s most important sound engineers decided to explore his greatest passion by opening this new restaurant. Ignacio Gamio designs his dishes with the same care and precision he once used to mix pitch-perfect songs and great soundtracks for local films. The blend of rustic and modern make Lucca one of the most elegant dining establishments in the city, and its overnight success stems directly from dishes made with first-rate ingredients and architectural precision. The fresh fish served with a delicious citrus sauce, the house-made pasta and the amazing desserts are just a few of the options.