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Exploring Uruguay’s Capital

There are loads of interesting things to do in Montevideo, although it doesn’t attract as many visitors as it’s South American counterpart, Buenos Aires. The history, architecture, gastronomy scene, people, and overall culture are worth writing home about! Montevideo has a huge potential for being a major tourist attraction, and we hope it gets the attention it deserves in the future.

The downsides of Montevideo are the graffiti, the higher prices, and sometimes-ugly apartment buildings. However, these do not hold the capital city back in its glory, and we’ll show you why. Let’s get into the best things to do in Montevideo, Uruguay!

18 Unmissable Things to do in Montevideo

1. Tour the Legislative Palace 

This is the most underrated thing to do in Montevideo by far. We only stumbled upon this gem while scrolling around on Google Maps, and it did not disappoint! From the beautiful stained glass to the marble architecture intertwined with tons of national symbolism to crazy-detailed mosaics and paintings, you won’t want to miss this!

Montevideo Legislative Palace Tour

There are 45 minute guided tours which we highly recommend doing to learn about the building as well as Uruguayan politics. If you can’t make a tour, the senate and house sessions are open to the public (everyone can go – you don’t have to be a Uruguayan citizen!) as well as the building’s library, just remember to bring your passport to enter (you don’t need your passport for tours, only for entering the building for other purposes)!

The guided tours run Monday-Friday and cost 140 Uruguayan pesos or 3 USD. Spanish tours run at 11 am and 3:30 pm, Portuguese at 11 am, and English at 3:30 pm.

Palacio Legislativo Montevideo

2. Learn about Montevideo on a Free Walking Tour

Montevideo has tons of beautiful architecture and interesting tidbits of history scattered throughout it. As with any destination, we recommend doing this first and taking time to further explore attractions you didn’t have time for on the walking tour. Check out Curioso Free Tour if you’re interested!

3. Take a Day Trip to Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento is the oldest and most charming city in Uruguay. Its soothing cobblestone streets and colorful architecture makes this the perfect day trip from Montevideo. There aren’t tons of things to do in Colonia del Sacramento, but that’s the beauty. You can wine and dine, explore the history, hang out on the beach or just stroll aimlessly through the historic center. If you’d like to learn about Colonia del Sacramento from a local guide, and have transportation taken care of, we recommend this day tour. If you’re planning on visiting Montevideo before or after Buenos Aires, this is the perfect spot to visit in the middle – you can catch the ferry to Buenos Aires from Colonia!

Read about the best things to do in Colonia!

Colonia del Sacramento Day Trip Montevideo

How to Get to Colonia del Sacramento From Montevideo by Bus

To get to Colonia del Sacramento from Montevideo, you can take a two hour bus from the Tres Cruces Terminal. Lots of buses run this route; you can check all available buses and times on the Tres Cruces website. A one way ticket to Colonia del Sacramento should cost around 496 pesos or 13 USD.

If you’re heading onwards to Buenos Aires, check out our guide on how to get from Uruguay to Buenos Aires!

Colonia Best Day Trips from Montevideo

4. Try Mate

When you touch down in Montevideo you’ll immediately notice people sipping out of handheld cauldrons and carrying big insulated water bottles. They are drinking Mate, a tea with indigenous origins very popular throughout South America. Uruguayans drink the most Mate per capita of any country in the world, so trying Mate here is a must-do! Head over to Bar Facal, the oldest bar in the city center or Indoor Coffee Shop to taste Uruguay’s national beverage!

Where to Try Mate Montevideo

5. Visit the Andes 1972 Crash Museum

The Andes 1972 Crash Museum was one of the best museums we have ever been to. The museum celebrates the people lost their lives as well as those who survived the horrific plane crash in the -30 degree Fahrenheit Andes for 72 days! You could spend 2+ hours here reading all the exhibits, watching the touching film, and talking to the extremely passionate owner.

The Andes 1972 Crash Museum costs 300 pesos or $8 for adults. It’s open Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Andes Museum Montevideo

6. Take a Day Trip to Punta del Este

Punta del Este is called the “Miami of South America” and is a boujee, upscale city with tons of trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants. This is the place to be in the summer; parties, beach and shopping are the most popular things to do. We recommend renting a car if you’re doing a day trip here so you can easily get to Casapueblo (a must-do in this area), watch the sunset, and explore other areas. If you don’t want to rent a car, we recommend booking this tour which includes lunch and takes care of transportation!

Check out our post on how to spend a day in Punta del Este!

Casapueblo Uruguay

How to Get to Punta del Este

To get to Punta del Este from Montevideo, you can take a two hour bus from the Tres Cruces Terminal. Lots of buses run this route; you can check all available buses and times on the Tres Cruces website. A one way ticket to Punta del Este should cost around 403 pesos or 11 USD.

To get to and from Punta Ballena (where Casapueblo is) from Punta del Este take bus 20, and use the Moovit app to track the buses. Each ride will cost around 70 pesos (make sure to bring cash!).

Punta del Este Uruguay

7. Admire the Palacio Salvo

Palacio Salvo is an architectural marvel with heavy Italian and Uruguayan influence. This started off as a luxury hotel and has now turned into offices and residences, where you can even stay in one of the apartments! This building replaced an old cafe/bar where Tango was popularized and “Cumparsita” – the iconic Tango song – was written, and there is a Tango Museum here to commemorate this. The tour takes you through a few of the floors, including the top floor and the rooftop where you can see great views of Montevideo and the ocean, and wraps up with a visit to the Tango Museum.

To visit the top floors of Palacio Salvo and the Tango Museum, you must go with a tour. We recommend making your reservation in advance by contacting +59897734525. The tour costs 500 Uruguayan pesos or 13 USD. Here are the tour times:

English: Monday – Friday: 11 am, 3 pm, 4 pm, Saturday: 11 am, 3 pm
Spanish: Monday – Friday: 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm and 5 pm; Saturday: 10 am, 10:30 am, and 11:30 am
Portuguese: Monday – Friday: 2:30 pm; Saturday: 12 pm

Tour Palacio Salvo Montevideo Uruguay

8. Check Out the Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo

The Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo, or “Contemporary Art Space” is an art gallery in an old prison. This area also has some great murals surrounding it, so after you’re done visiting the gallery, take some time to walk the surrounding streets! Montevideo has a graffiti issue, and 95% of it is garbage, but this area has some of the gems!

The Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo is open from 1 pm to 7 pm from Wednesday-Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. When we were there in March 2024, it was closed for maintenance with no information about reopening, but hopefully it will reopen soon!

Espacio de Arte Comtemporaneo Montevideo

9. Visit Fortaleza del Cerro

Fortaleza del Cerro (also known as Fortaleza General Artigas) is a clean white fortress located outside downtown Montevideo on the highest hill in the city. This strategic location helped various occupiers defend against their enemies near and far. The neighborhood surrounding the fort isn’t the safest, so make sure to keep an eye on your valuables and don’t walk around alone at night!

This army museum is open 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday-Sunday.

10. Stroll Through Parque Rodó

Parque Rodó is a charming park where locals as well as tourists gather for a relaxing afternoon or evening. Explore the castle, take a ride in a paddle boat, visit the Visual Arts Museum or even place a bet at the casino! During Carnival season, they have traditional dances and shows held on the tablada (stage) in Parque Rodó.

Parque Rodo Things to do Montevideo

11. Explore the Odd Pittamiglio Castle

The Pittamiglio Castle is definitely one of the weirder things to do in Montevideo. This interestingly-designed castle with a half of a ship sticking out of it is smushed between two very urban buildings in downtown Montevideo. It was the home of architect and “alchemist” Humberto Pittamiglio, and this psychedelic/religious themed building is definitely worth visiting!

Visiting Pittamiglio Castle costs 300 pesos (about 8 USD) and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on your pace. It’s open from 11 am to 5 pm Tuesday-Friday, 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and closed on Mondays.

Pittamiglio Castle Montevideo

12. Walk or Bike La Rambla

La Rambla is a 14-mile (22km) strip along the coast where pedestrians and cyclists enjoy the windy but relaxing shores. There are a few beaches along the shore where you can surf or enjoy a beach day during Uruguay’s summer. Keep in mind that South America’s summer is North America’s winter, so don’t go to Uruguay in July expecting warm weather!

La Rambla Things to do in Montevideo

13. Shop at Mercado del Puerto

If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs or try the most popular traditional Uruguayan barbecue dishes, Mercado del Puerto is the place to be. A Parrilla (which directly translates to “grill”) is a restaurant offering tons of grilled meats, vegetables, and fish. Mercado del Puerto is mostly filled with these Parrillas, but make sure to try the empanadas at the entrance!

Mercado del Puerto is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

Mercado del Puerto Montevideo

14. Learn about Uruguay’s History at Museo de la Memoria

This is another free attraction in Montevideo that educates visitors on Uruguay’s troubled history. The museum details the human rights abuses such as torture, kidnappings, and murder done by the authoritarian military regime in Uruguay between 1973-1985. The dark history of the exhibit is contradicted with a nice garden which is also free to walk around. 

Museo de la Memoria is open from 12 pm to 6 pm Monday-Saturday and closed on Sundays. It’s free to visit!

15. Check Out the Juan Manuel Blanes Museum 

The Juan Manuel Blanes Museum is one of the best free things to do in Montevideo. It not only has a cool art museum, but also houses a quaint Japanese tea Garden. Even if you aren’t an art connoisseur, this is worth doing while you’re visiting Montevideo!

The Juan Manuel Blanes Museum is open from 12 pm to 6 pm Tuesday-Sunday and closed on Mondays. It’s free to visit!

Juan Manuel Blanes Museum Things to do Montevideo

16. Learn About (and maybe experience!) Carnival

Did you know Uruguay has the longest Carnival celebrations in the world? While the celebrations may not be as flamboyant as their neighbors to the north, they are definitely worth experiencing! Carnival celebrations happen at “tabladas” or small stages and other areas throughout the city. These happen between late January and early March, so if you can’t visit during Carnival, head over to the Museo del Carnaval to learn about their history!

17. Visit the (Free) Botanical Garden

Montevideo’s massive botanical garden isn’t overly impressive, but it’s worth visiting if you’re in the area! There are museums, a rose garden, a greenhouse, playgrounds, and it shares real estate with two soccer stadiums! Make sure to pop in for a quick stroll if you’re already nearby the Juan Manuel Blanes Museum, the Museo de la Memoria or Castillo Soneira!

Botanical Garden Montevideo Best things to do

18. Go to a Street Market

For a truly local experience, head to one of Montevideo’s street markets. On Sunday morning, Tristan Narvaja hosts a flea market where people come all over the city to sell their artisanal crafts, clothes, art, food and much more! 

On Saturdays there’s a farmers’ market here that goes for a few blocks on Dr Lorenzo Carnelli street. Here you’ll find cheap fruits and vegetables as well as a few food trucks!

Best Time to Visit Montevideo

The best time to visit Montevideo is during Uruguay’s spring and summer, which run from September to March. These months, especially December to February, are best for exploring Uruguay’s coast, getting in some beach time, and enjoying water sports!

Though we feel Uruguay is the most enjoyable in summer, winters there (June to August) are not unpleasant either! The weather in the winter months typically doesn’t get colder than 36 degrees Fahrenheit and can be as warm as 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, most of Montevideo’s attractions can be enjoyed year round, so it just depends on what kind of temperatures you prefer when walking around and whether or not you want to enjoy beach weather!

The last week of March is Tourism week, which is actually a terrible time to visit. Everyone in Uruguay goes on vacation and everything is closed, so avoid visiting Montevideo during this time!

Best Time to Visit Montevideo

Where to Stay in Montevideo

We recommend staying close to or in Montevideo’s old town when you’re visiting for the first time. This spot is full of fun things to do and is a short bus ride a way from lots of attractions as well as the Tres Cruces bus station. If you’ve been to Montevideo before and are mainly looking to spend time on the beach, the Pocitos neighborhood is a good option. For an upscale beach neighborhood, look no further than Carrasco!

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Where to Eat in Montevideo

There are tons of places to eat in Montevideo that we don’t cover, so make sure to explore on your own! However, we do highly recommend going to the places on this list. Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef and world traveler actually went to most of these places, which inspired us to check them out for ourselves. When in Uruguay, make sure to try the empanadas, chivitos (sandwiches), the parrilla (barbequed meat and vegetables), and the various fusion cuisines!

  • Mercado del Puerto: For Parrilla (BBQ) and more food. Alternatively, go to Mercado Ferrando, Casa Pastora, Mercado Agricola, or Mercado Williman for more diversity.
  • Chiviteria Marcos: Make your own sandwich here!
  • Escaramuza Libros: Bookstore with a charming café in the back – they have great cakes!
  • Bar Las Flores: Pizza, stuffed meat pies, beer, and a great ambiance!
  • Hoy Cocina de Abuela: Translates to “Grandma’s Kitchen Today” and has buffet style plates that are priced by weight. You can get great meat, classic barbeque side dishes, and pastries here! This is located inside Mercado Agricola.

How to Get to Montevideo

Montevideo is fairly easy to get to from both within the country and internationally due to the various nearby international airports. There’s also high quality coach buses with decent prices, which are great options as well.

How to Get to Montevideo by Plane

This is the most common and often the fastest way to reach Montevideo. Carrasco International Airport (MVD) is the main airport serving the city, with connections to major hubs in the Americas and Europe.

Book cheap flights with Skyscanner here!

How to Get to Montevideo by Ferry

If you’re coming from Buenos Aires, getting to Montevideo is extremely easy. You can take a quick flight, or you can opt for a scenic journey across the Rio de la Plata. The trip takes approximately 3.5 hours if you ferry directly from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, though we recommend ferrying to Colonia del Sacramento and spending a few hours there before hopping on the bus to Montevideo!

Buquebus and Colonia Express are the two most popular ferry companies that offer trips to Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo from Buenos Aires!

Book your Ferry Tickets on Bookaway!

How to get to Montevideo by Bus

Buses are a budget-friendly option for reaching Montevideo from other cities in Uruguay as well as it’s neighboring countries of Argentina and Brazil. While slower than flying, buses offer a chance to experience the countryside scenery and save some money!

Check out the Tres Cruces Terminal website to check out bus options and book your tickets!

How to Get to Montevideo by Shuttle

You can book private or shared shuttles with Bookaway. This is pricier than the buses, but is a great option if you prioritize comfort!

How to Get Around Montevideo

Montevideo is very walkable and public buses are a great, cheap option to go further distances. Ubers and taxis are great options as well! Biking is an easy way to explore the city, especially if you plan on cruising through La Rambla. For day trips, renting a car is always a great option!

Check out our post to learn about using public transportation in Montevideo!

Things to do in Montevideo: FAQs

Is Montevideo Safe?

Absolutely! Montevideo is the safest city in Latin America. We didn’t feel unsafe whatsoever and the people were extremely friendly. All of the activities and transportation methods we engaged in were also very safe.

Is Montevideo Worth Visiting?

Montevideo is definitely worth visiting. While it is often overshadowed by Buenos Aires, it has its own charm. There are tons of interesting things to do in Montevideo and we actually ran out of time trying to do them all! Montevideo has some great history, cuisine and day trips that everyone should experience at least once!

Keep Exploring Uruguay…

Our Favorite Travel Resources

Accommodations: We use for hotels and HostelWorld for hostels. We also use VRBO or TrustedHousesitters for longer stays.

Flights: We recommend using Skyscanner to find the cheapest and best flights.

Ground Transport: We use 12Go and Omio for buses and private transfers, and and Discover Cars for rental cars.

Activities: GetYourGuide and Viator are the best websites for booking organized tours.

International Medical Insurance: We highly recommend SafetyWing for Digital Nomads and HeyMondo for those not traveling full-time, or who frequently engage in higher-risk adventure activities.

eSIM: We recommend Airalo or Holafly for getting data internationally.

Check out our Travel Resources Page for more of our favorite travel-related products and services!

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