Montevideo is southermost capital of Americas, hosts the longest carnival in the world, ranks first in quality of life among Latin America’s capitals, and is the fifth gay-friendly city in the world.
If you are curious where its name originates, here is one theory:
Monte VI De Este a Oueste = Mountain sixth from east to west
Old town in Montevideo is small and ideal to explore within free walking tour. I must admit it was my first free walking tour, but it was not outperformed yet. Our guide was Jorge and his knowledge, tips and gossips about city were abundant. Everything he said turned into funny story. He caught my attention so much I forgot to take photographs. Curioso free walking tour is no.1 in Montevideo. Besides Old town tour, they do also Parque Rodó and Punta Carretas.
Located on Plaza Independencia, this eye-catching structure was supposed to be a hotel. The idea was unsuccessful and the palace serves as an apartment and office building. But there is also Museum of Tango available for public. The palace is 95 metres high and certain period it was the highest building in South America.
Plaza de Zabala
Montevideo was established by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala in 1724 and on this square is his statue. The plaza is cosier and quieter than others, ideal to sit down and hide under the trees, and Mercado del Puerto is behind the corner.
Walk of fame on Sarandí
Montevideo has its own Walk of Fame next to Puerta de la Ciudadela. On the tiles are Uruguayan notables, except two. First is Nelson Mandela as a representative of African culture. That is understandable. But the second, Rolling Stones, no one knows.
Mercado del Puerto
In the past times Mercado del Puerto (Market in port) served as main meat and produce market. Nowadays, you can find under its roof restaurants with typical Uruguayan food.
Mercado Ferrando is like Mercado del Puerto a place with lot of restaurants with a look of warehouse from outside and fresh modern design inside. Market offers gourmet and street food delicacies, like burgers, pizza, quesadilla, waffles, or sweet and rich churros.
Street market on Acevedo Díaz
The only place where I saw fruits and vegetables for affordable prices was the open-air market stretched between the blocks on Acevedo Díaz street. I am not sure how many days in week it is open (it was Saturday), but you could find fruits and veggies of all colors and tastes, and overall, they were selling fish and seafood. Brilliant.
Dilapidated former gas company is probably not on the list of regular tourist, but abandoned buildings always catch my attention. I could not get inside legally, but I found out it was opened for one day a month after my visit. I also found a website with winning projects intended for reconstruction of the estate. Check them here, they are awesome.
A few steps from former gas company stands out an old gasometer. Construction stored produced gas and regulated the pressure necessary for its circulation through the city’s pipes. Gasometer is a symbol of industrial Montevideo, but locals would rather get rid of it. Due to extension of Rambla it was moved and in 1956 reconstructed. From 2004 the gasometer is not in use and is in decay. The walls of oval construction turned into mural gallery in honor of local painter Alfredo De Simone.
Impoverished neighborhood and the epicentre of candombe in Montevideo. Some compare it to favelas in Rio, but it is not really true. Barrio Sur was plumed with murals, people were sitting in front of the houses chatting, and the kids played the games. It was safe area, I was just recommended to put the camera in my backpack.
Invited to the house...
When I was taking picture of a mural in Barrio Sur, señor Edmundo came to me and explained that I am looking on important people of candombe. What is candombe? African-driven rhythms played on drums and dance. While we were standing there, his friend señor Fabio stopped by. They both invited me to the house of Asociación Cultural Tangó where they could share more about candombe.
It was not a museum, nor dance school. The main goal of the Association is to preserve candombe as an art and part of culture. It also serves as a refuge for people from this area, but it is open to everyone. You will see tourists less than rarely here, because they don’t know this place. I got here accidentaly, too.
Señor Fabio came here for couple of weeks to help with project whose aim is to make association international. During my visit everyone was cleaning up and preparing for carnival’s Las Llamadas, so everybody with healthy hands and legs was helping out. Even señor Fabio was cutting the trees.
The icon of candombe is Uruguayan dancer and writer Martha Gularte which would have had hers 100th birthday last year. They had her dancing shoes in the showcase, her photographs, dresses, and paintings on the walls.
I stayed with these lovely people almost two hours talking and learning about candombe and the activities they do to keep candombe alive.
Punta Carretas and new Montevideo
On southern tip lies Montevideo’s posh neighborhood – Punta Carretas. Not only it stretches between two best beaches in the city, but there is Parque Rodó, tiny castle, yachting club, and a long piece of rambla. There’s also Holocaust memorial.
Playa de los Pocitos
Largest and most popular beach in Pocitos neighbourhood. On its further end is Montevideo sign where you can take a picture with the ocean at the background.
Between the ocean and Parque Rodó lies smaller but as much popular Playa Ramírez which is perfect for watching sunset. Every cloudless evening hundreds of people are walking on rambla or sitting on the benches waiting for evening sun play.
Broad avenue used as rest area and sport zone along the coastline in Montevideo. At a length over 22 uninterrupted kilometres, it’s the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. The land across the rambla, on the side of the beach is owned by state and is regulated to prevent ruining the view. Sidewalk is ideal for jogging, strolling, cycling, fishing, sunbathing, or drinking mate with friends.
While enjoying the walk on Rambla Gandhi, this castle stuck to the residence house will leap out at you. But it wasn’t always like this. The truth is, that residence house is stuck to the castle which used to stand out over the houses decades ago. The castle was designed by alchemist Humberto Pittamiglio as his house, and built in 1911. After his death, municipality omitted the building and the castle was ransacked. Nowadays its interiors are opened to public for a guided tours.
Park is named after Uruguayan writer José Enrique Rodó and is a small oasis in the middle of scorching city. It has its own castle with lake where you can rent a boat. Palm alley will lead you to fountain and Playa Ramírez.