The first caveat here is that my views on Montevideo are solely based on a day trip I took from Buenos Aires. Total time spent in Montevideo : 10 hours. Don't any of you all come at me with but oh there is so much more to Montevideo, oh you don't know - the beauty lies within, oh you dont know how it is in the rest of the country blah blah blah. Yeah I get it. This is a commentary on the surface; I ain't no guru on Uru.
Having said that, here goes.
Montevideo is almost exactly like a quaint old Italian town. If you have travelled around Italy and been to places like Genoa, you cant help but be reminded of it when you walk around Montevideo. Many of the buildings are grand, constructed clearly in an effort to replicate the homeland of the Italians who set sail to settle in these lands centuries ago. Although many are now in need of repair, its easy to look at the buildings and sense the love and vision these early immigrants had had. It's almost like you can touch their hopes and dreams.
We came in via the port, armed with intentions to cover as much ground as possible in the short amount of time we had at hand - and the best way to do this is the hop of hop off bus. They pick you up from right in front of the exit of the port and then its about a two hour trip all around. They cover the Prado, the different monuments and even driive down the whole length of the beach. It's a beautiful drive. The audio narration is sub par, but you do pick up interesting things here and there. Like how they have a square dedicated for people to gather to protest human rights violations. I would have never known that otherwise, unless I thoroughly read up on the history and architecture and urban planning of the city which sadly never happens.
The hop on hop offs stop running at 5. After that Uber as usual served us as always. Love that company.
Plaza Independencia is the heart of the old town with all the monuments to see. It's surrounded by these old arched beautiful walkways which take you back to Italy in an instance. Do we all try to recreate our homeland where we go? Only if we really loved it I suppose. Do we all eventually only remember the fond memories, no matter how horrible it was when we were there? Perhaps only if we don't encounter any better? Hmm :-/
Mercado Argicolo is a cool food market where one can test the local "chivito", a burger which has a slice of meat instead of a meat patty, and the local produce. It's airconditioned and quite pleasant to just be in. Ice cream / helado also on point. A short drive will take you to Marcado Artisanal. Full of women enterpreneurs and artists, its a great place to pick up some crafts.
I also wanted to make it to this shopping mall which was a former prison where state dissidents were tortured, but never made it. What a crazy idea, but honestly - I am all for introducing positive energy to places which come with none. Why not.
A short walk from the port will get you to Marcado de Puerto. Chalk full of shoppers and diners, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the vast variety of great food on display. The restaurants are essentially tables set up around enormous grills / parillas. With the fire blazing, meat of a thousand different kinds being expertly grilled by husky men who have no time to talk or take orders. Find yourself a waiter, they will find you a seat and even guide you through what to order. The food is scrumptious. You can't go wrong, but we went for the Asado (ribs) and Pollo al Ajillo. I could have licked the plates clean. I can't confirm that I didn't try. I tried to order a sauce on the side but the waiter vehemently disagreed and refused to take the order. I like people like that; people who know their shit and are passionate about what they do. This whole trip I would say was worth it on the sole basis of this gastronical experience alone.
Medado de Puerto is also a great place to pick up some suveniers. Most of the shops are run by women, and women enterpreneurs are my jam.
I read online that Cafe Brasilero is the bosscafe in town, and I have to agree. Wood lined interiors, huge brass chandeliar, old men drinking their cortados...mmm, I could totally spend a whole afternoon here sipping on my cup and finishing my book. Its a short walk from the port, don't miss it if you can. Plus they take cards, what more can one ask for.
There is a palpable sense of peace here in Montevideo. Evidently they embraced marriage equality a few years ago and also legalized marijuana. I saw quite a few rainbow flags while walking around Plaze Independencia and felt so happy for the existance of a group of people who so strongly believe in live and let live. The city, country, is not very developed. No chain stores and brands at every corner and definitely with people who live in simple conditions, but perhaps the definition of development is what is wrong. Everyone is covered under the state health plan, the air is clean, people have time to enjoy their cortados and mates, there is dulce de leche.... It's easy for me to see why people are so happy here.
As a tourist, it's very likely not true, but in my 10 hours in Montevideo, I felt like I had seen most of it. It's not a place I will prioratize on my "must visit again" list, but hey - its a changing world. Who knows whats ahead.