On my last, longer trip to South America, I had skipped Montevideo in favor of spending more time in Buenos Aires, it’s Argentinean neighbor across the river. I was looking forward to finally exploring Montevideo and a walk through the Old Town is a great introduction to the capital city! The old quarter is very compact and holds many of the most popular sights, making it easy to explore on foot. Follow along to find out about what top sights I recommend you see on walking tour of Montevideo’s Old Town!
A great place to start your tour is the Plaza Independencia at the heart of the old town – every taxi driver knows it, many bus lines are meeting there and it is on the edge of “new” Montevideo, making it easy to reach. The plaza is dominated by the Artigas Mausoleum and statue at the center, dedicated to the National hero. With wide walkways and plenty of greenery it’s a pleasant place to be. On the Eastern side you’ll find the most impressive building, the Palacio Salvo: Built in the 1920s and almost 100m high, it makes for a great photo opportunity. To the South is the Palacio Estevez, the former seat of the President and now turned into a museum. It showcases Uruguayan state history with many artefacts and details of past presidents, worth a visit! On the South-West corner, you’ll find another impressive historic building, the Teatro Solis, which is still hosting performances on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there were none during my stay and I didn’t get to experience a show!
On the Western side of the Plaza Independencia, the Puerta de la Ciudadela is the gate to the old town. It is the last remains of the citadel that previously stood in the plaza and was raised in 1829. Through the gate, you can stroll down the pedestrian street into the heart of the old town. You’ll soon reach Constitution Square with the Metropolitan Cathedral, the main Catholic church of Montevideo. It is the second iteration of a church in this place and was finished in 1804. Constitution Square is a lively place with lots of cafes and restaurants around, inviting to a break from your tour of the old town.
On Rincon Street nearby, you’ll find the excellent Museo Andes 1972. It chronicles the somber, yet inspiring story of a group of rugby players and their families to a game in Chile, who crash in the Andes in winter and their fight for survival. Stranded in freezing cold without food or proper winter clothing, they are determined to use the resources they have to stay warm, find water and food and plot a plan to escape. Two of them make the dangerous hike across the Andes to contact Chilean farmers and bring rescue to 16 of them. As somber as the memory of the 29 people who died in the crash, the determination of the survivors to go on and the tough choices they made in their quest to escape, are a story worth hearing!
After the museum, continue your stroll through the Old Town with its pedestrian streets, stores and galleries. On the edge of the water, you’ll find the Mercardo del Puerto, with its many food stands, stores and restaurants. It’s a bustling place that invites to sample some local specialties or just relax in one of the many indoor or outdoor restaurants. If you are lucky, you might catch a tango performance on the street in front of your restaurant – something you should try to see at least once in Montevideo.
The mix of historic buildings, museums and everyday-life in the walking streets, stores, markets and restaurants makes for a great place to experience Montevideo, where it comes from in history and where it is today. Even if you came to Uruguay for its beaches, it’s worth to consider a day in the Old Town to get insights into this city!