Located on the Rio de la Plata estuary's north shore, Uruguay's capital is home to nearly half the country's population. Often thought of as a calmer version of Buenos Aires, it is easily one of Latin America's most intoxicating cities.
Visitors can expect an alluring mix of parks, fine beaches and leafy plazas, where modern high-rises seem to dance with splendid colonial structures. Cosy tango bars, elegant old theatres and beachfront clubs provide entertainment.
Also, as Uruguay is renowned for the quality of its beef, foodies must eat at one of the city's barbeque restaurants.
Set under a vast, wrought-iron structure reminiscent of old European railway stations, Montevideo's port market is a lively affair. Historically, it has been a hive of trading activity since 1868. Today, it houses some of the city's finest steakhouses and seafood eateries.
It's a great place for people-watching, exploring the labyrinthine alleys crammed with stalls, watching buskers and entertainers, and generally taking in the city's atmosphere.
For those interested in Montevideo's past, the Museo Historico Nacional is a good place to begin. Located in the Old City, it's made up of old houses where national heroes once dwelt.
The museum's collection traces the history of Uruguay from before its colonisation by Europeans up to the mid-20th century. History buffs will find it interesting.
Montevideo's showpiece plaza contains some of the city's most impressive architecture, including its best-known landmark, the Palacio Salvo. Designed by Italian architect, Mario Palanti, and completed in 1927 or 1928, it was originally intended as a hotel. It has never fulfilled that purpose. Instead, it is home to an elaborate collection of offices and residential apartments.
Once the tallest building in South America, it was built on the site where Gerardo Matos Rodriguez wrote La Cumparsita: one of the most famous and recognisable tangos of all time. The Plaza also contains a statue of Uruguay's national hero, General Artigas.
Montevideo's ancient city is a vibrant, fascinating district of old buildings and cobbled streets. Weekends see dancers and musicians gather for impromptu performances, while artists have turned many of the decaying, ground-floor apartments into studios and galleries. The old iron gates and street lamps are very photogenic.
All told, visitors will find a wonderful juxtaposition of old and new, making Ciudad Vieja the purest embodiment of Montevideo's evolution.
Built between 1929 and 1930, the Estadio Centenario commemorates the centenary of Uruguay's first constitution. It also hosted the first-ever FIFA World Cup final, in which Uruguay beat Argentina by four goals to two.
Listed by FIFA as one of the world's Classic Stadiums, the Estadio Centenario has become a bucket-list item for many football fans. Indeed, thousands of tourists visit every year, either to attend a match, or to enjoy the fascinating Museo del Fútbol (Football Museum) housed within the stadium itself.
Visitors should do everything they can to attend an Atlético Peñarol home fixture. Football, as the saying goes, is a way of life in Uruguay, and watching a game with 90,000 passionate locals is an amazing cultural experience.
Montevideo's climate is mild, with an average annual temperature of around 55°F (13°C). During the height of summer (January), Montevideo's average temperatures range from 64°F (18°C) to 82°F (28°C), while winters (June to August) are much cooler and tend to be wet. Average temperatures range between 45°F (7°C) and 53°F (12°C). Autumn is the wettest season.
Given its temperate climate, Montevideo is a pleasant destination at any time of year, though summer and early spring are probably the best times to go.
Buses run all over the city until around 11pm daily, and are cheap and easy to use. Visitors can buy tickets directly from the driver or conductor, who can also offer advice on routes and destinations. Taxis are metered and plentiful.
Otherwise, locals are generally friendly and willing to point travellers to various sights and attractions. A Spanish phrase book is useful for this reason.
Given its bargain shopping, beautiful beaches, atmospheric old town and excellent restaurants, Montevideo is well worth adding to the bucket list. All things considered, it's every bit as captivating as Latin America's more famous capitals.
Its gorgeous beach front will draw sun chasers, while the National History Museum will offer insight into Uruguay's links with Spain and Portugal. Visitors must also venture to Ciudad Vieja: the city's oldest area. More specifically, they'll find many of Montevideo's most striking landmarks in Plaza Independencia.
Football fans should take in a match at the frenetic Estadio Centenario. Foodies must enjoy Uruguay's world-class beef at one of the capital's restaurants. Otherwise, the charming old city of Colonia del Sacramento is only two hours' drive away, making it a perfect day trip.
Punta del Este holiday resort is a favourite destination among upper-class South Americans. Located on Uruguay's southern tip, its pristine, sandy beaches, yacht marinas, luxury hotels and holiday condominiums scream money.
Thousands of wealthy visitors arrive during the summer holiday season, when sophisticated shops, clubs and restaurants do most of their business. The off-season sees many of Punta del Este's establishments close, transforming the area into something like a sleepy coastal town.
The historic town of Colonia del Sacramento is a must-see. Situated on the River Plate, it is the country's oldest settlement and a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many visitors ferry across from Buenos Aires, which sits almost opposite the city.
Founded in 1680, the quaint town is home to cobbled streets, brightly coloured houses, vibrant bars and excellent restaurants. Gift shoppers will enjoy its art and craft shops.
Regarding access, Colonia is about two hours from Montevideo by road. Local operators offer day trips.
Visitors can sample the gaucho (cowboy) lifestyle at Uruguay's estancias (ranch-houses). Fishing, star-gazing, occasional bonfires, horse-riding excursions across the country's pampas (grasslands), and visits to tanneries are all part of the experience. Options range from basic ranch-houses, where visitors breakfast on galleta de campana (a type of biscuit that lasts for a week), to establishments with pools, saunas and libraries.
All in all, Estancias are an integral aspect of the country's identity. Along with a taste for Asado (barbeque) and life in the saddle, visitors will come away with an intimate connection to Uruguay's culture.
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