Eclectic and multicultural, Montevideo is a port city located on the north bank of the broad Rio de la Plata. From sampling local fare and browsing colorful markets to marveling at architectural details, learning to tango, and listening to live music, there are a multitude of things to do in Montevideo.
From lively neighborhoods to quiet beachside and rural respites, the city’s diverse collection of districts and its surroundings offer anything you could want from a South American vacation.
View Famous Landmarks in the Plaza Independencia
Montevideo’s main square is a popular attraction where you’ll find several points of interest. It also serves as the starting point for the old city section of Montevideo. Upon entering the plaza, your eyes will be drawn to the bronze General Jose Artigas monument placed directly in the middle, surrounded by stairs. This statue and mausoleum pay homage to the man who is considered the father of Uruguay.
Take in the neo-gothic architecture design on the soaring Palacio Salvo, a unique structure created by an Italian architect, spanning 26 stories. When it was built in the 1920s, this was the tallest building in all of South America.
Admire the country’s oldest theater too; Teatro Solis was constructed in the 1850s as a cultural meeting place, and remains an iconic landmark in Montevideo’s old town neighborhood today. Plaza Independencia is a must-see and top Montevideo attraction.
Feast at the Mercado Agrícola de Montevideo
Visit this bustling market housed within a renovated cast-iron 20th century structure, a favorite of locals and visitors alike. The Mercado Agricola de Montevideo is nicknamed “MAM” and serves as the perfect place to immerse yourself in the cuisine of Montevideo.
Located just north of downtown, this destination is a feast for the senses. Browse stalls selling local produce, alluring street food, and culinary specialties. You’ll find more than 100 vendors, their stalls piled high with fruits, vegetables, gourmet cheeses, and meats, as well as colorful floral arrangements.
Sample foods like empanadas, calabaza (squash), chivito sandwiches, Uruguayan beef, and a savory or sweet bizcocho pastry. Top it all off with a craft beer from the onsite microbrewery. If you’re lucky, one of the agricultural market’s famous events will be happening during your visit; live music, dance performances, and culinary workshops are a regular occurrence.
Stroll the Peatonal Sarandí
The Peatonal Sarandí is the city’s main pedestrian street, and a popular place to explore and people watch in the center of Ciudad Vieja, or old town. Feel the buzzing energy of Montevideo’s Sarandi, lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, and vendors. The street spans from the old Gateway of the Citadel, a piece of the ancient city wall, all the way to La Rambla, on the water’s edge.
Along this famous thoroughfare, you’ll pass many architecturally impressive buildings, as well as the Plaza Matriz and museums like Museo Torres Garcia. Find a souvenir at one of the boutiques, marvel at the intricate design of the Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, and stop for coffee, watching the world go by.
Relax at a Café in Plaza Matriz
Plaza Matriz is one of the popular destinations along the Peatonal Sarandí, where architecture admiration and people-watching come together in the old part of the city. Relax at one of the square’s cafes with a maté, a type of herbal tea, or a coffee, and take in the sights and sounds of the vibrant Plaza Matriz, adorned with neoclassical and art deco design.
Also known as Plaza Constitucion, the square is host to the city’s oldest public building, Iglesia Matriz, constructed in the late 1700s. Another important highlight includes the Cabildo, a former government building and now a museum. Peruse souvenirs at the plaza’s vendor stalls, listen to live music, and watch street performers; Plaza Matriz is the place to watch the heart of Montevideo come to life.
Try the Chivito Sandwich
Food can serve as a portal into a destination’s culture and Uruguay is no exception. Experience the culinary side of Montevideo with one of the city’s favorite sandwiches. This is the country’s national sandwich. A mountain of delicious steak topped with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg is all tucked into a buttered roll.
This large concoction is usually shared with your dining partner due to its massive size, and served with french fries or salad. It won’t be hard to come across the Chivito while exploring Montevideo as this celebrated sandwich is a favorite throughout the city.
Sip Wine at a Country Vineyard
You don’t have to venture too far outside of Montevideo to reach sprawling vineyards with world-class wines. Head to Spinoglio Winery to sip wine varieties like Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and the local Tannat, the widely-loved national wine of Uruguay.
This particular variety is made without the use of pesticides and thrives in the country’s climate. Tour the property, learning about how each wine variety is produced and try some of the estate’s vintages at a tasting. For the ultimate food and beverage experience, enjoy a pairing of multiple wines with fresh, locally grown dishes such as lamb stew and pickled vegetables.
Watch a Tango Show
Montevideo is considered the “city of tango”, said to have its roots in Uruguay, although Argentina also lays claim to the origins of the dance, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Whether you watch a live tango show, or try to learn some steps yourself, this sultry dance style is an authentic experience while in Montevideo.
Although you’ll find establishments where tango comes alive throughout the city, Baar Fun Fun is one of the most popular, with a long history of the iconic dance. Tango isn’t the only thing that made this watering hole and performance venue famous; the Uvita and Pegulo drinks created by founder Don Augusto Lopez helped bring this lively nightclub into the spotlight. Let the music and dancing entertain and delight you for the quintessential Montevideo experience.
Go Bird Watching at the Santa Lucia Wetlands
Birdwatching enthusiasts will uncover a rich and diverse array of species within the Santa Lucia Wetlands, located half an hour outside of Montevideo. These protected wetlands are host to an expansive 50,000 acre property at the mouth of the Santa Lucia River, with an ecosystem including streams, islands, and wildlife such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Tour the wetlands on foot or aboard a boat, traveling through hidden channels and to beautiful beaches. Spot some of the 140 species of resident birds such as American Oystercatchers, herons, Pampa Finch, Long-tailed Reed Finches, and Green-Barred Woodpeckers. For nature lovers, this is one of the top things to do in Montevideo.
Enjoy Montevideo’s Botanical Gardens
Discover a natural oasis in Montevideo’s Prado neighborhood. The Jardín Botánico de Montevideo is a sprawling display of flora and fauna and an oasis in Montevideo’s urban setting. Explore the myriad paths through the lush and well-manicured grounds, which include dedicated areas, such as the Japanese garden. Marvel at exotic blooms, from aquatic plants to indigenous flora, mosses, and fungi. After your visit, call into the museum to learn about the various species through educational exhibits and informative material.
Visit a Historic Soccer Stadium
Visit the first stadium to ever host the FIFA World Cup. The Estadio Centenario in the Parque Batlle Neighborhood of Montevideo is a must visit for soccer fans. Constructed in 1930, the stadium’s name pays homage to Uruguay’s independence, which at the time of opening, had been for 100 years. To make it even more special, Uruguay won their first World Cup title against Argentina in their new home stadium.
When visiting this historic monument, you can explore the Museo de Futbol to learn about the history of the sport in Uruguay. View photographs, trophies, news articles, and other artifacts related to soccer and the World Cup Championships. This is one of the top Montevideo attractions for sports enthusiasts.
Wander La Rambla
Don’t leave Montevideo without taking a quintessential stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, known as “La Rambla”. Stretching more than 10 miles, this sidewalk is a popular destination for those looking to walk, bike, or simply people-watch at the edge of the Río de la Plata.
The boardwalk stretches from the historic Ciudad Vieja district to the Bay of Montevideo at the Punta Gorda neighborhood. Take a photo in front of the iconic “Montevideo” sign, stop at Playa Verde or Punta Gorda Point beaches, and enjoy the views from what is certainly one of the most memorable Montevideo attractions.
Relax on the Beach
Take advantage of Montevideo’s location, perched on the Rio de la Plata near the Atlantic Ocean, with a visit to one of its incredible South American beaches; some have an almost South Beach vibe, while others are quieter, pounded by Atlantic surf.
Bask in the sun on one of the city’s most popular stretches of sand, Playa Verde, just east of the city. Here, you’ll find a broad sweep of white sand, backed by grassy banks and palm trees, the promenade lined with restaurants and bars.
Play sports (or just watch) at the action-packed Pocitos Beach and enjoy refreshments at one of the enticing waterside cafes. Try surfing at Honda Beach, a favorite of locals and tourists alike for its big breakers, white sand, and beautiful views.
Discover Uruguay’s exciting capital city through its cultural, culinary, historical, and nature offerings. A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience the best things to do in Montevideo.
From tasting authentic foods and learning about customs in local museums, to dancing the tango and admiring waterside views, there’s much to explore here. Browse our luxury cruises to Montevideo itineraries and book your vacation to Uruguay today.