Archive for the Montevideo Category

Montevideo – out and about in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , , on November 6, 2015 by gannet39

Please scroll down for a couple of other posts I’ve written on the Ciudad Vieja. Everywhere mentioned in the posts on Uruguay can be found on my Google map.


I came to Montevideo with the idea of having a couple of week’s holiday before starting a month’s work in Argentina. The original plan was to visit the old town of Colonia (UNESCO listed), go on the industrial heritage trail in Fray Bentos (home of corned beef and the Oxo cube) and hop up the coast as far as Punta del Diablo (a hippy beach resort).

Unfortunately though the weather wasn’t very good so, rather than endure a week of rain, I cut the trip short and went back to see friends in Buenos Aires. Moral of the story: stay flexible and pack a mac! The weather was okay for the first few days though, enought to allow me to get to know the capital city.

Travelling from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes about four hours on the fast ferry. Dominating the skyline when you arrive is the Administracion Nacional de Aduanas; an Art Deco monster that reminds me of the Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’. As you can see, the building was too big to fit in a single photo.


I love Art Deco so I chose to stay at the wonderful Hotel Don (234 Piedras St,, a small but perfectly formed Deco boutique hotel in the Ciudad Vieja (old town), just two blocks away from the ferry terminal.


It had been recently renovated while staying true to its Deco origins and I fell for it straight away. The rooms are a little on the small side but the bed, shower and general layout were great. The staff were all super friendly and on the ball and there was a sun terrace with a small pool at the back where I could kick back in the afternoon after hours of pounding the streets. Even the fruit salad at breakfast was Art Deco!


It’s also exactly opposite the Mercado del Puerto, more of which in my post on Eating in the Ciudad Vieja.


Montevideo was founded on a narrow peninsula which meant that the city could only expand inland. The oldest zone around the port (the Ciudad Vieja) is quite run down with lots of semi-derelict buildings and abandoned warehouses. However the atmosphere becomes more refined as you move inland, away from the port area and towards Placa Independencia, which marks the beginning of the ‘new’ town (see my post on the Centro and Avenida de 18 Julio).

Everyone was at pains to tell me to be careful when walking around, especially at night, and to stick to the main pedestrian streets, Perez Castellano and Sarandi, which run through the middle of the Ciudad Vieja. I didn’t ever feel threatened in the day time though and I walked around many of the backstreets without any problems.

On Perez Castellano there are a few old buildings with attractive door and window fittings.

I especially liked the pastel blue Art Deco police station at 2681 26 De Mayo.


I also love the old fountain in Placa Matriz (the city’s oldest square) with its water-spouting dragons and cherubs riding sea serpents. It was built to celebrate the first source of potable water in the city. There’s a small antiques market here in the mornings.

Culturally speaking, Argentina and Uruguay, and their capital cities, have quite a lot of common. The people of both countries are from similar stock and share a love of parrilla, yerba mate and tango.

The Argentinian flag (pictured), featuring blue stripes on a white background with a shining sun in the centre (a reference to the sun-worshipping Incas) was emulated by several other South American countries after independence from Spain. The Uruguayan version is virtually the same except the face on the sun is happier!


Things I’d do if I went again:

Try the Basque restaurants.
Visit a vineyard and try Tannat red wine.
Go to hear the Candombe drums in Barrio Sur at the weekend.
Walk around Barrio Reus which is famous for its colourful houses.
Visit the Agricultural Market (built in 1912).
Check out the beach, although the water from the River Plate looks pretty murky.
Take a rain coat!


Montevideo – Street Art

Posted in Montevideo, Uruguay with tags on November 6, 2015 by gannet39

A few murals and pieces of street art I stumbled across.

Please click on the images to get the best view.

Montevideo – museums in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , on November 5, 2015 by gannet39

There are heaps of museums in Montevideo.


Here’s a couple I went to in the Ciudad Vieja:

MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena), 279 25 de Mayo,

Open Monday to Friday from 11.30 to 17.30 and Saturday from 10.00 to 16.00.

I’m fascinated by the ancient abstract art of the indigenous peoples of South America so I jumped at the chance to see some local artefacts. The museum is smaller than its counterparts in Santiago and Mexico City (see my separate posts for those cities) but it has some nice pieces.

Please click on the images for a better view.

Museo de Artes Decorativos, 376 25 de Mayo,

Open Monday to Friday from 12.30 to 17.40.

I stumbled upon this place as I was walking down the road towards MAPI above and decided to have a look inside seeing as entrance was free. The building is a former family residence known as Palacio Taranco and is now a historical monument. The palace still has all the fittings of an upper class Uruguayan home and there are a few quirky paintings, including a couple of bizarre sketches by Goya.

Montevideo – eating and drinking in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2015 by gannet39

20141025_121454My hotel was conveniently located opposite the Mercado del Puerto, a dark atmospheric old shed constructed from cast iron sections shipped over from Liverpool. Nowadays it has been completely given over to parrilla restaurants, and one of these, El Estancia del Puerto (Intermediate B+) featured in the Uruguayan edition of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV series (six minutes in), so of course I had to go.

20141025_122336I had a lovely smiley chap serve me at the bar where I could get a good view of the parrilla itself. As in Argentina, the parrillero throws logs onto the fire at the top of the grill and rakes the embers down a slight gradient under the meat which is cooked quite slowly. Many of the grills in the market were piled high with several kinds of sausages and steaks, as well as cuts of lamb and chicken.

After weeks of eating vegetarian food in preparation for this carniverous onslaught, my unhabituated stomach wasn’t ready for the parrilla completo so instead I went for the Chorizo (A), Morcilla (B) and a section of Choto (intestine). Chorizos in South America contain no chilli, unlike those in Spain, but they’re still very tasty. The black pudding in this case was quite similar in flavour to what we have in the UK. The Choto started off very nice (A) but became less so as it got colder (C). I further flavoured the meat with liberal spoonfuls of Chimichurri (B+) and what people here call ‘Provencal’; a green salsa made with parsley and big chunks of garlic (B).

20141025_122320My preferred drink with this was a Chopp, the local name for a draught beer. Next time I might give the market’s traditional bevvy a whirl, Medio y Medio (half wine, half cider), although it doesn’t sound too pleasant.

On another occasion I went to Peregrino (Intermediate B+) outside on the corner of the market (Placa Castellano 1553), which has a good rep according to one of the hotel receptionists.

20141026_133804This time I had the typical starter of grilled ‘Provelone’ cheese, sprinkled with oregano, which was divine (A). Here it came served in a terracotta tray of small compartments, each containing a goblet of gooey gorgeousness.

20141026_134826I followed with two rump steaks with fries which were good but not spectacular (both B). As in Argentina, if you like it rare, you have to be very clear when ordering (vuelta y vuelta, muy jugoso). It will invariably arrive the next level up anyway, i.e. medium rare (poco hecho).

I wanted to try the famous local red wine Tannat, but was told that it was against the law to sell alcohol as it was Election Day. A good rule to ensure sensible decision making no doubt, but a bit disappointing for us non-voting tourists. The water came in a nice bottle though. With service and IVA this all came to 957 pesos, about £23.

20141026_132707In case you’re wondering, after a second round the election was eventually won by the Broad Front, the coalition of popular former president, Jose Mujica. Sadly the constitution did not allow this humble farmer and ex guerrilla to stand for a second time but his party still won.

Montevideo is also famous for its old cafes, many of which have a protected status (some more here). I particularly liked the look of Café Brasileiro with its dark wood interior and beautiful old bar. Lack of space and a bright sun prevented me from taking decent photos but it’s definitely worth a visit on a hot day for a glass of ice-cold homemade lemonade. The food looked ok too.


I also stumbled upon Café Misiones, at 449 26 de Mayo, with its beautiful green-tiled exterior. The inside is nothing special though (except for the ancient cash register) and the service isn’t great.


I also tried to go to the oldest bar, El Hacha at 202 Buenos Aires which is in a slightly edgy bit of the old town, but it was shut when I went so I can’t tell you what it’s like.


Montevideo – restaurants to avoid in Barrio Palermo

Posted in Montevideo, Palermo, Uruguay with tags , , on November 4, 2015 by gannet39

El Tinkal (Intermediate C), 853 Dr Emilio Frugoni

I came here for two reasons. Firstly to sit outside on their terrace (plastic chairs and tables, nothing posh) next to the grand promenade (South America’s longest at 42km) and watch the sun set over the Rio de La Plata.

Secondly I wanted to try the Chivito, Uruguay’s national sandwich, which is typically made with sliced churrasco beef, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayo and here with added ham, lettuce and a plate of chips on the side.

20141027_205736It was pretty greasy and horrible sadly (C) despite the fact that the Chivitos at this place are supposed to be the best in town, at least according to this website. However some reviewers did suggest the cooking here might not be as good as it once was.

I also tried a traditional dessert called Martin Fierro which despite the strange name, is just a local (and not particularly nice) cheese served with membrillo (quince jelly). I’ve had really nice manchego with membrillo in Spain but again this did not impress as it was overly sweet and there was just too much of it (C).

La Cocina de Pedro (C), 1493 Avenida Gonzalo Ramirez,

I really wanted to like this place with its dark (hence no pictures) and woody decor as it came well-recommended by the same website as above, but sadly the food just didn’t cut it for me. The complimentary bowl of indiscernible meat (tongue? luncheon?) that arrived with the menu was tasteless and remained untouched.

I was tempted by the starter of Rabas (tails) which in the north of Spain would be long thin slices of battered and deep-fried squid. In the end it turned out to be the usual bog-standard calamari rings which I tend to avoid in Spain. The batter certainly wasn’t a tempura as described and the portion was way too big and most of it stayed on the plate (C-).

The grilled Salmon came with a gloopy salsa of reduced balsamic and honey which tasted brackish and unpleasant, The timbale of veg was also pretty horrible (both D). Observing my unhappiness the waiter offered to change it for something else so I played safe and went for a mixed mushroom risotto. Even this though was sub-standard, with whole mushrooms the size of my mouth, and generally lacking in finesse (C-). The portion was huge once again.

Thankfully the Sauvignon Blanc was ok (B). It was one of five Uruguayan whites recommended on this blog. The waiter also cheered me up with a complementary limoncello although this would have been served warm (yuck!) had I not specified that I wanted it with ice.

I think that if you came here and ate meat from the grill your meal would be fine, but as I’d been a carnivore for the previous three nights on the trot I was really hoping for some decent seafood.

You might fare better at Es Mercat, at Colon 1550, very near the hotel. It’s recommended for its mariscos by the same pesky website though, so I wouldn’t count on it. It was shut every night I tried to go.

I’m going to rail more about the poor standard of non BBQ cuisine in South America in coming posts so I’ll leave it there on this occasion. Hope you fare better than I did.

Montevideo – Centro – Architecture

Posted in Centro, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , , , on October 31, 2015 by gannet39

Besides food, a big reason for me to come to Montevideo was to see the architecture. They have an abundance of Art Deco (which I heart), Art Nouveau (can be nice), Neo Classical (s’ok) and Rationalist (meh). As you move inland, away from the insalubrious port area and towards Plaça Independencia, the atmosphere gradually becomes more refined.

The Plaça marks the beginning of the (not so) ‘new’ town, as distinct to the Ciudad Vieja. At one end of the placa is the neo-classical Teatro Solis, constructed in 1856. At the other end the square is dominated by the top heavy Palacio Silva, completed in 1928. The 29 floor building’s highly eclectic design is the work of the Italian architect Mario Palanti, who used a similar design for Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires, more of which in a future post.

Like Palacio Barolo it was intended that Palacio Salvo would have a lighthouse at the top containing a parabolic mirror and that the light beams from the two buildings would intermingle over the Rio de la Plata, for reasons known only to their Freemason benefactors. Apparently it’s worth getting inside if you can, to get a glimpse of the maritime motifs and stained glass windows that decorate the interior.

Leading from Plaça Independencia, the main artery that runs through Montevideo is Avenida de 18 Julio. The Avenida and many of the side streets off it, are lined with architectural gems, many of which are famous landmarks while others are a bit harder to find. A Google search will throw up lots of suggested architecture walks. This is the walk I chose. I spent several hours taking photos and the pictures below are just a few of the buildings I saw. Please click on them for a better view.

Montevideo – Barrio Sur – Cementerio Central

Posted in Montevideo, Uruguay with tags on October 30, 2015 by gannet39

I do like a good cemetery and the Cementario Central, with its beautiful Art Deco and Art Noveau statues, is a particularly nice one.

Generally speaking Montevideo is like a smaller version of Buenos Aires and this applies to the cemetery as well which is very similar in style to the famous Cemeterio de la Recoleta. Please see my Recoleta post for pictures from there.

Many famous people in Uruguayan history are buried here, several of whom were Masons, Alchemists and Templars going on the heavy use of symbology on their gravestones.

‘Necroturismo’ is allowed but security asked me to first get a ‘permiso’ to take photos from the cemetery office, which you’ll find over on the far right hand wall as you enter. The guy there just grunted which I took to mean ‘Of course, why are you asking me?’ so I guess the security guard was just covering her back. She came to check on me later though but I’m not sure she wasn’t trying to chat me up! I do like a woman with a gun…

The opening hours are between 12 and 4 and they chucked me out on the dot. You’ll need a couple of hours to get round it all. Please click on the photos to go to a full-screen slide show.

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