Montevideo, Uruguay is a city of just under two million, containing roughly 60% of the country’s population. Located on the northern shore of the vast Rio de la Plata, it has seaside vibes with sandy beaches and wide waterfront promenades lined with luxury condos. It is not a tourism hot spot, which is both good and bad. (Most tourist to Uruguay seem to opt for the resort-heavy Punta del Este.)

I was inspired to visit after watching Anthony Bourdain’s Uruguay episode, where he talked about the incredible life here for expats. (Click here to read more about expat life in Uruguay.) After ten days in Montevideo, I can safely say it is a lovely city, one worth a visit. No, it is not loaded with must-see sights, but it is a pleasant place full of great food and warm people.

This guide will attempt to help you plan your Montevideo trip, whether as a stand-alone or – as in my case – an add-on to a Buenos Aires journey. Make sure to click the links throughout for more in-depth articles about specific neighborhoods and aspects to the city.

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Sandy beaches are part of Montevideo’s charm

Getting There

Montevideo’s Carrasco International Airport is about a half hour outside the city. As best as I can tell, there is no flight from North America, so if you fly here, you’ll have to connect at least once. (I flew back to California from Montevideo, connecting in Lima on LATAM.)

The more likely arrival method for American tourists visiting Montevideo is ferry from Buenos Aires. There are two ferry options, one from BA directly to Montevideo, or the cheaper ferry to Colonia del Sacramento and a bus from there down to the capital. This is the way I chose to arrive, and you can click here to read about the ferry experience.

The ferry from Buenos Aires

Getting Around

Montevideo does not have a subway system. What it does have, though, is perhaps the most comprehensive bus system of any major city I’ve visited. You can either pay on board or get a pre-loaded card, with which you get a small discount. If your bus is coming, hold your hand out as though flagging a taxi to ask it to stop. Once on board, press the button above the back door or stand next to the front door to request the next stop. When you buy your fare, you’ll get a receipt that you can use to transfer to another bus within the hour.

The buses in Montevideo are clean and modern

Within a neighborhood, walking is easy, as Montevideo is a flat riverfront city. However, between the two major neighborhoods of the old city and Punta Carretas is a several mile walk, so you are probably better off taking some other form of transportation at least one way, unless you specifically want the steps.

Uber exists here, as does Cabify. Cabify in Montevideo allows you to call for a Cabify (a private car) or a taxi. The taxi will be more expensive and will also charge you extras for the time, but will generally come faster.

Where to Stay

While there are hotels in the old city, my recommendation is to stay in Punta Carretas. Most US hotel chains’ outlets are here, and there are also a number of Airbnbs. The neighborhood is safe, full of restaurants, and has the best waterfront. From here, one can take a single bus to get to the edge of the old city, making it easy to visit. (Click here to read more about Punta Carretas.)

Punta Carretas

What to Do

Let’s start with the old city. There are three national history museums here, along with an awesome market, a museum of pre-Columbian art, lovely squares, and cool buildings. (Click here to read more about the old city and some of Uruguay’s history.)

Montevideo’s cathedral in the old city

If you are in Montevideo between late January and early March, you will be here for Carnaval, the second largest in the world. And if not, the Museo del Carnaval in the old city has some of the best costumes on display. (Click here to read about Carnaval in Montevideo.)

Museo del Carnaval

In the north of the city is the Prado neighborhood. It has a huge park, botanical gardens, and a museum dedicated to Juan Manuel Blanes, the country’s most famous artist. If you have an extra day, the area is worth a visit. (It’s also home to Uruguay’s President, so you know it’s nice.)

The Blanes Museum

And the most important thing to do in Montevideo: walk the waterfront promenade, called the Rambla. The city has sandy beaches along the Rio de la Plata, something lacking in Buenos Aires. Add the tip of Punta Carretas at the lighthouse for a perfect place to watch the sun set over the city.

Punta Carretas lighthouse

What to Eat

If you came from Buenos Aires, most of Montevideo’s food is similar. There’s amazing beef, good pizza, and plenty of empanadas. But for a uniquely Uruguayan treat, get a chivito, a sandwich that is the opposite of vegan. It is layered with beef, ham, cheese, and egg… and it is delicious. The best I had was at Bar Tinkal just west of Punta Carretas.

A chivito

Other Useful Information

English is not as widely used in Montevideo as in other Latin American capitals. Just know your basic Spanish phrases before arriving and you’ll be fine. (Likewise, museums don’t tend to have signage in English, but with wifi and Google translate, you can scan signs for translations.)

It can be tough finding restaurants open for a normal American-timed dinner. While certainly not as bad as Spain, most restaurants don’t seem to open until 7 at the earliest. Just be prepared.

A beautiful city!


I really enjoyed my time in Montevideo. What it might lack in must-see sights it makes up for in relaxed quality of life. You won’t regret adding this lovely city on to your Buenos Aires itinerary, or even to visit it as a destination of its own.

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