Montevideo: South America’s Hidden Gem

If you’ve found yourself asking, “what to do in Montevideo in just one day?”, you’ve come to the right place!

Whether you’re passing through to other South American destinations or using Montevideo as a starting point to exploring the rest of Uruguay, use this guide as a blueprint to your Montevideo travels!

what to do in Montevideo

Montevideo is a great place for exploring the rest of Uruguay, with easy day trips to the beautiful Colonia del Sacramento and Punta del Este.

Montevideo is often overlooked, but well worth a visit. The architecture, delicious cuisine, and rich history make Montevideo a hidden gem in South America.

Let’s get into what to do in Montevideo in one day!

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What to do in Montevideo

8:00 am: Start Your Day Off With Some Mate

You can’t go far in Montevideo without seeing someone carrying a small cauldron with a metal straw in one hand and a thermos tucked under the same arm. This is Mate, a famous tea in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Southern Brazil. It’s a caffeinated drink with a calmer sensation than coffee that is enjoyed throughout the day.

You can buy a mate set on almost every corner in Montevideo, but there aren’t too many places to try Mate. One of the few places to try Mate is the famous Bar Facal. This is the oldest bar in the city center, and you can enjoy your breakfast here as well!

what to do in Montevideo: Try Mate

10: am: Visit the Andes 1972 Crash Museum

The Andes 1972 Crash Museum is one of the most interesting museums we’ve ever been to. After traveling full-time for over a year, that is saying a lot! 

The Andes 1972 Museum educates visitors on the horrific plane crash that killed most passengers, although a few passengers survived the -30 degree Fahrenheit weather for 72 days.

The owner is extremely passionate and loves sharing beyond the exhibits. If you want a good laugh, ask him his opinions on the Netflix remake of the plane crash!

The cost is 300 pesos or $8 and it is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Andes Museum Montevideo

11 am: Tour Palacio Salvo

Palacio Salvo is a magnificent luxury hotel turned apartment building that is available for tourists to enjoy. You can even stay in one of the apartments!

Palacio Salvo was built on top of the old cafe where Tango was popularized and “Cumparsita”, the famous Tango song was written. Although if you travel to Argentina afterwards, don’t tell this to any locals to avoid a full-fledged argument!


The tour takes you through a few of the floors, including the rooftop that yields 360-degree views of Montevideo and the ocean. If you like Palacio Salvo, check out Palacio Barolo, its twin building in Buenos Aires!

This costs 500 pesos or 13 USD, which is much cheaper than Palacio Barolo!

12:30 pm: Grab Lunch at Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto is Montevideo’s iconic market, boasting loads of traditional Uruguayan restaurants. Uruguay is famous for its parrilla, which is grilled meat and vegetables, which are absolutely delicious. While Mercado del Puerto is a bit of a tourist trap and you can expect higher prices, it is still worth doing! We had some of the best empanadas of our trip here!

what to do in Montevideo: Mercado del Puerto

1:30 pm: Stroll Through the Old Town

Montevideo’s Old Town has a few streets lined with outdoor cafes, more parrilla restaurants, and lots of souvenir shops. These are mostly pedestrian streets which are calm and quite the opposite of the hustle and bustle you’ll observe when sitting at Bar Facal! A few streets over north and you’ll see that Montevideo is truly a port city. A few streets south and you’ll see the start of La Rambla!

2:15 pm Walk or Bike La Rambla

La Rambla is 14-mile (22 km) running, walking, and cycling trail that hugs Montevideo’s coastline. There are various beaches, little parks, fishing spots, and street vendors. It can get windy, so check the conditions before deciding to rent a bike!

what to do in Montevideo: La Rambla

3:30 pm Tour the Legislative Palace

After strolling or pedaling La Rambla, head over to the magnificent Legislative Palace. You can take a bus, Uber or walk from La Rambla. If you choose to take a bus, check out our guide on How to Get Around Montevideo for tips!

Touring the Legislative Palace was our favorite thing to do in Montevideo. If you’re wondering what to do in Montevideo, or if it is even worth visiting, the Legislative Palace alone is reason enough. 

What to do in Montevideo: Palacio Legislativo

This architectural gem is lined with gorgeous stained-glass windows, marble interior, and a stunning old-fashioned library. If you can’t make the 3:30 pm tour, you can actually enter the library or any of the house or senate hearings! Make sure to bring your passport for entry!

This costs 140 Uruguayan Pesos or $3 USD, which is well worth it!

6 pm: Eat Dinner at Bar Las Flores

Bar Las Flores has the local homey-sports bar feel and is a great place to unwind for the night. Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef even graced this gem with his presence on his trip to Uruguay.

Bar Las Flores provides various delicious pizzas, stuffed pastries, and lots of beer and wine. Make sure to try Tannat wine, which Uruguay is famous for (and do a winery tour outside of Montevideo if you have time!)

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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Pros and Cons of Visiting Montevideo

Pros of Visiting Montevideo

  • Uruguay is the safest country in Latin America
  • You can explore most of Uruguay using Montevideo as a base
  • Uruguay’s culture is very similar to Argentina’s, so if you like Argentina, you’ll also enjoy Uruguay!
  • The food is great!

Cons of Visiting Montevideo

  • It is much more expensive than Buenos Aires
  • There is lots of graffiti on the streets
  • There are areas of Montevideo that are unsafe, just like any city

Best Time to Visit Montevideo

The best time to visit Montevideo is during South America’s spring and summer, which is 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!

We personally think Uruguay is the most enjoyable in summer, but winters there (June to August) are not unpleasant either! The weather in the winter months doesn’t usually get colder than 36 degrees Fahrenheit and can even be as warm as 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of Montevideo’s attractions can be enjoyed year round, so it just depends on what kind of temperatures you prefer when walking around!

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

How to Get to Montevideo

Montevideo is easy to get to from both within the country and internationally due to the various nearby international airports. South America boasts 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 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!

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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