Sights

Note that many Montevideo museums are known by their acronyms. Most exhibits are in Spanish only.

Activities

One of Montevideo's great pleasures is cruising along the walking-jogging-cycling track that follows the riverfront Rambla. A few kilometers east of the center you’ll reach Playa Pocitos, which is best for swimming and where you should be able to jump in on a game of beach volleyball. A couple of bays further along at Buceo’s Yacht Harbor you can get windsurfing lessons at the yacht club. The entire Rambla is a picturesque spot for a stroll and a popular Sunday-afternoon hangout.

Festivals & Events

Much livelier than its Buenos Aires counterpart, Montevideo’s late-summer Carnaval is the cultural highlight of the year.

At Parque Prado, north of downtown, Semana Criolla festivities during Semana Santa (Holy Week) include displays of gaucho skills, asados (barbecues) and other such events.

In the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October, Montevideo’s museums, churches and historic homes all open their doors free to the public during the Días del Patrimonio (National Heritage Days).

For 10 days in October, tango fills Montevideo’s streets and performance halls during the Festival 'Viva El Tango,' organized by Joventango.

Don't Miss: Carnaval in Montevideo

If you thought Brazil was South America’s only Carnaval capital, think again! Montevideanos cut loose in a big way every February, with music and dance filling the air for a solid month.

Not to be missed is the early February Desfile de las Llamadas, a two-night parade of comparsas (neighborhood Carnaval societies) through the streets of Palermo and Barrio Sur districts, just southeast of the Centro. Comparsas are made up of negros (persons of African descent) and lubolos (whites who paint their faces black for Carnaval, a long-standing Uruguayan tradition). Neighborhood rivalries play themselves out as wave after wave of dancers whirl to the electrifying rhythms of traditional Afro-Uruguayan candombe drumming, beaten on drums of three different pitches: the chico (soprano), repique (contralto) and piano (tenor). The heart of the parade route is Isla de Flores, between Salto and Gaboto. Spectators can pay for a chair on the sidewalk or try to snag a spot on one of the balconies overlooking the street.

Another key element of Montevideo’s Carnaval are the murgas, organized groups of 15 to 17 gaudily dressed performers, including three percussionists, who perform original pieces of musical theater, often satirical and based on political themes. During the dictatorship in Uruguay, murgas were famous for their subversive commentary. All murgas use the same three instruments: the bombo (bass drum), redoblante (snare drum) and platillos (cymbals). Murgas play all over the city, and also compete throughout February in Parque Rodó at the Teatro de Verano. The competition has three rounds, with judges determining who advances and who gets eliminated.

The fascinating history of Montevideo’s Carnaval is well documented in the city’s Museo del Carnaval. Another great way to experience Carnaval out of season is by attending one of the informal weekend candombe practice sessions that erupt around town throughout the year. Three of the best neighborhoods for observing these are Palermo, Barrio Sur and Parque Rodó. For a list of regular weekend practice sessions (complete with links to participating comparsas' Facebook pages), see www.descubrimontevideo.uy/es/candombe-por-los-barrios.

Sleeping

Montevideo boasts a growing number of stylish boutique and luxury hotels, a thriving hostel scene, and a host of dependable midrange options in the Centro. With more beds to choose from, competition is driving prices down; look online for the best deals.

Eating

Diners are spoiled for choice in Montevideo. The city offers everything from 19th-century cafes to trendy modern bistros, and from carnivore-centric parrillas to vegetarian- and vegan-friendly eateries, all interspersed with a wider choice of international cuisine than you'll find anywhere else in Uruguay. Ciudad Vieja's restaurant scene in particular is blossoming as old concerns about the neighborhood's security continue to wane.

Ciudad Vieja

For a relaxing break, join the crowds enjoying beer and snacks at the sidewalk eateries along Sarandí, facing Plaza Matriz.

Drinking & Nightlife

Montevideo offers an intriguing mix of venerable cafes and trendy nightspots. Bars are concentrated on Bartolomé Mitre in Ciudad Vieja, south of Plaza Independencia in the Centro and near the corner of Canelones and Juan Jackson where the Parque Rodó and Cordón neighborhoods meet.

Entertainment

Spanish-language websites with entertainment listings include www.cartelera.com.uy, www.vivomontevideo.com/cartelera, www.yamp.com.uy/agenda and www.socioespectacular.com.uy.

Live Music & Dance

Tango legend Carlos Gardel spent time in Montevideo, where the tango is no less popular than in Buenos Aires. Music and dance venues abound downtown.

Carnaval Drum Sessions

A great way to experience Carnaval out of season is by attending one of the informal candombe practice sessions that erupt in neighborhood streets throughout the year. A good place is in Parque Rodó, where the all-female group La Melaza gathers at the corner of Blanes and Gonzalo Ramírez and continues down San Salvador. Drumming usually starts Sundays around 6pm. Palermo and Barrio Sur are other good neighborhoods to see a session.

For a more complete list of Carnaval groups who hold regular weekend practice sessions in Montevideo's streets, see www.descubrimontevideo.uy/es/candombe-por-los-barrios.

Cinema

The three big shopping malls east of downtown (Punta Carretas, Montevideo and Portones) all have modern multiscreen cinemas.

Spectator Sports

Fútbol, a Uruguayan passion, inspires large and regular crowds. The main stadium, the Estadio Centenario, opened in 1930 for the first World Cup, in which Uruguay defeated Argentina 4-2 in the final.

Fanáticos Fútbol Tours offers personalized tours led by knowledgeable, multilingual fútbol aficionados; prices include tickets to a match of your choosing, plus hotel transport. Alternatively, check with Matias at Buenas Vibras Hostel about his informal outings to watch local league matches.

Theater

Montevideo’s active theater scene spans many worlds: from classical to commercial to avant-garde. Regular Spanish-language performances are staged at Teatro Solís, Teatro El Galpón (www.teatroelgalpon.org.uy) and Teatro Circular (www.teatrocircular.org.uy).

Shopping

Central Montevideo’s traditional downtown shopping area is Av 18 de Julio. Locals also flock to several large shopping malls east of downtown, including Punta Carretas Shopping, Tres Cruces Shopping (above the bus terminal) and Montevideo Shopping in Pocitos/Buceo.

Orientation

Montevideo lies almost directly across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires. For many visitors, the most intriguing area is the Ciudad Vieja, the formerly walled colonial grid straddling the western tip of a peninsula between the sheltered port and the wide-open river. Just east of the old-town gate, the Centro (downtown) begins at Plaza Independencia, surrounded by historic buildings of the republican era. Avenida 18 de Julio, downtown Montevideo’s commercial thoroughfare, runs east past Plaza del Entrevero, Plaza Cagancha and the Intendencia (town hall) toward Tres Cruces bus terminal, where it changes name to Avenida Italia and continues east toward Carrasco International Airport and the Interbalnearia highway to Punta del Este.

Westward across the harbor, 132m Cerro de Montevideo was a landmark for early navigators and still offers outstanding views of the city. Eastward, the Rambla hugs Montevideo’s scenic waterfront, snaking past attractive Parque Rodó and through a series of sprawling residential beach suburbs – Punta Carretas, Pocitos, Buceo and Carrasco – that are very popular with the capital’s residents in summer and on evenings and weekends.