One Day in Beautiful Montevideo

With my parent's South America cruise quickly coming to an end they only had a few more stops on the trip. After their incredible experience with the penguins on the Falkland Islands they arrived in Montevideo. 

Located on the northeastern banks of the Rio de la Plata, Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay, and the southernmost capital city in the Americas. It is home to over one million people making it the largest city in the country.

The port of Montevideo is one of the continent's largest. The city was founded in a bay that offers ships natural protection from waves and weather.

Today, the port has grown to include many import and export businesses, naval activity, and plays host to visiting cruise ships (like my parents cruise ship, the Zaandam!). In this part of the world, the only other port that can compete is Buenos Aires, which is located across the Rio de la Plata.

Montevideo has been rated as having the highest quality of life in any city in Latin and South America and it's easy to see why. This city is a major commerce and education center in Uruguay. The University of the Republic is Uruguay’s largest and most prestigious university and has seen many distinguished Uruguayans graduate. Public and private schools are available throughout the city.

Montevideo contains an urban core that consists of a cultural and financial hub. The city is rich in architecture, libraries, museums, galleries, and is home to many artists, writers, dancers, and singers.

During the 1900s, the city was nicknamed the “Atenas del Plata”, meaning the “Athens of the Rio de la Plata” because of the high numbers of resident writers, including Carlos Vaz Ferreira, Delmira Agustini, and Eduardo Galeano.

The film industry in Uruguay is home to many actors and directors, like Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, who have gained international recognition for Uruguayan cinema. The city is reportedly full of amateur, commercial, documentary, and experimental filmmakers and has dozens of cinemas and theatres. If Los Angeles is referred to as Hollywood, and Vancouver, my current home, is referred to as “Hollywood North”, then I think Montevideo should certainly be called “Hollywood South”!

The layout of Montevideo is quite similar to city structure in Europe. This isn’t surprising because Montevideo was fought over by the Spanish and British, with some input from the Portuguese, French, and Brazilians.

I find the city squares especially appealing with their blooming and green parks that usually house a monument, statue, or fountain of some sort in the center. Endless street cafes line the streets.

Similar to several fountains and bridges found in Europe (the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy comes to mind), Montevideo has it’s own version of a “love lock” fountain. At this fountain, lovers can seal a lock with their engraved initials and throw away the key, symbolizing their eternal love for each other.

Plaza Indepedencia is Montevideo’s most important city plaza because it is located right between the downtown and the old town of Montevideo. Historic buildings, such as the Solis Theatre (the country’s oldest theatre), and the Uruguayan President’s office building line the plaza.

In the middle of the plaza is a statue of Jose Artigas, a Uruguayan soldier that fought for democracy and became a national hero. His guarded remains are located in the mausoleum beneath the statue. The mausoleum is free for visitors.

At one end of the plaza is this gate, which is called Ciudadela, the Spanish word for “citadel”. Ciudadela separates the downtown and old town areas of Montevideo. This structure is the last remains of the wall that used to surround the oldest part of the city. The wall was torn down in 1829.

Besides being a major cultural and economic capital city, Montevideo is also drawing a more liberal and progressive crowd. It was recently named the tenth most gay-friendly city in the world and the first in South America. In 2013, Uruguay was the second Latin American country to legalize same sex marriage. Homosexuality has been decriminalized here since 1934.

This is Montevideo's Palacio Municipal or city hall. A bronze replica of the statue of David stands tall outside the building.

Near the back of the building there is an elevator for visitors to reach the 22nd floor. My parent's took the elevator up to get a better view of the expansive city.

Looking at the photographs of Montevideo, I can’t help but compare it to some European cities, especially Barcelona. Some of the unique houses remind me of the tall, skinny buildings constructed by the artist Gaudi.

The Ciudad Vieja or “old town” was the earliest part of Montevideo to be established. This vibrant area is home to many heritage buildings, beautiful colonial architecture, restaurants, cafes, museums, galleries, and businesses.

A major tourist attraction is the Mercado del Puerto, an indoor and outdoor market in the Ciudad Vieja.

The indoor portion is in an old building that sells all kinds of grilled meats from beef, chicken, chorizo, sausages, etc.

As my parents walked through they found it to be very smokey from all the grilled meats on the BBQs.

During their market visit, some locals performed a dance and drumming number similar to what would be found during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. A female dancer wearing a thong bikini had all male eyes on her and her alone!

The National Library of Uruguay was one of my parent’s favorite stops during their day trip. They were fascinated by how large and lofty the building was and that it also housed several art exhibits.

The library had on a really cool interactive exhibit where visitors could "hang" from a building. There's my mum above!

Next up, the last port stop on the South America cruise: Buenos Aires!

Next: Buenos Aires: Evita's Final Resting Place

Previously: Penguins of the Falkland Islands: A Photo Essay