Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America and is located along the South-East coastline of the continent. It is sometimes overlooked due to its size and proximity to its two massive neighbors – the cultural powerhouses of Brazil and Argentina – but has found a way to carve out its own place on the continent, creating a modern and vibrant culture that shines through with its people. No place is this better on display than in the capital city of Montevideo, which is where close to half of its citizen’s call home.
When it was established in 1724, it was first known as the City of San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo and was built in a strategic location along the eastern riverbank of the Rio de la Plata. It was constructed in the middle of the Spanish/Portuguese battle for influence in South America, which has greatly influenced the culture of the country, while still remaining distinctly Uruguayan. The city was built on a peninsula and centered around the Old City (Ciudad Vieja), and grew out eastward from there. There is a wonderful mix of the modern alongside neoclassical construction and colonial Spanish architecture.
Montevideo would be the last city we visited on our 6-week trip across South America, so our visit was a little bitter-sweet. We had traveled across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, spending an afternoon in Colonia de Sacramento before taking the 2-hour bus to the capital. We would have only two and a half days to explore and we planned to make the best of our time. It is an easy city to get around, with walking distances not being too excessive and a very good transit system for traveling long distances. We ended up renting bikes and spending one day riding them around the old city and along the Rambla, a long seaside promenade that circles the city on the coast.
The city is regularly voted as one of the best cities on the continent; the quality of life here is very good. The locals are extremely friendly, and many went out of their way to show us some amazing hospitality. Locals businessmen walk the streets with a gourd of mate in one hand, a thermos under their arm, and a briefcase in the other hand, stopping regularly for conversation. The country is funky, modern and has a very laid back vibe. It is a country that marches to the beat of its own drum.
The art scene was very good, and the city streets are picturesque, with lots of tree-lined streets and public parks scattered throughout the city. There are several beaches that the locals and visitors flock to when the weather is nice. We enjoyed spending one of our afternoon in the city walking around Rodo Park and visiting the National Museum of Visual Arts. It is a photographers dream destination.
The food here was quite spectacular, with many small restaurants creating inspired dishes which were very memorable. When visiting Montevideo, one thing you cannot miss out on is the steak; I remember hearing someone say that the cows in Uruguay outnumber people four to one. Exporting this beef is a major part of the economy, but Uruguayas keep the best for themselves. We experienced this firsthand at the Mercado Puerto, which is famous for its BBQ. It was one of the best meals that I have ever had.
This was the last stop along our South American journey, and we missed out on so much of the country outside of the capital, so we are already planning our eventual return. Uruguay should not be overlooked when planning your trip across South America. We enjoyed our three days in the country and loved the pictures we ended up with.
City Skyline at Sunset. 2017.
Plaza de la Independencia. 2017.