Uruguay’s capital and by far its largest city, Montevideo is a vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life. Stretching nearly 20km from east to west, the city wears many faces, from its industrial port to the exclusive residential suburb of Carrasco near the airport. In the historic downtown business district, art deco and neoclassical buildings jostle for space alongside grimy, worn-out skyscrapersthat appear airlifted from Havana or Ceauşescu’s Romania, while across town the shopping malls and modern high-rises of beach communities like Punta Carretas and Pocitos bear more resemblance to Miami or Copacabana.
If you’re coming from Colonia or Uruguay’s northern beaches, Montevideo’s polluted air and honking taxis may feel a bit jarring, but stick around. The capital’s active and resurgent urban culture is a palpable force, and locals are justifiably proud to share it with you. In Ciudad Vieja, the heart of historic Montevideo, old buildings are being restored to make room for boldly painted cafés, hostels and galleries, while down by the port the municipal administration has spruced up the Mercado del Puerto to accommodate a new city tourist office and Carnaval museum. Montevideo serves as administrative headquarters for Mercosur, South America’s leading trading bloc, and the capital’s many embassies and foreign cultural centers add to the international flavor. Meanwhile, the city’s music, theater, art and club scenes continue to thrive, from elegant older theaters and cozy little tango bars to modern beachfront discos.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009