Uruguay

Sights

City centre

In the
Ciudad Vieja
is the oldest square in Montevideo: the
Plaza de la Constitución
or
Matriz
. On one side is the
Catedral
(1790-1804), with the historic
Cabildo
(1804)
, opposite. It contains the
Museo y Archivo Histórico Nacional
. The Cabildo has several exhibition halls. On the south side is the
Club Uruguay
(built in 1888), which is worth a look inside. See also the unusual fountain (1881), surrounded by art and antique vendors under the sycamore trees.

West along Calle Rincón is the small
Plaza Zabala
, with a monument to Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, founder of the city. North of this Plaza are: the
Banco de la República
 and the
Aduana
. Several historic houses belong to the Museo Histórico Nacional:
Casa de Montero-Roosen
,
Museo Romántico
,
first built in 1728, rebuilt by Antonio Montero in 1831, contains late 19th, early 20th century furniture, furnishings and portraits.
Museo Casa de Rivera
, is an 1850 mansion of the first president of the republic. Its rooms are dedicated to various stages of Uruguayan history. Another house belonging to the Museo Histórico Nacional in the Ciudad Vieja,
Museo Casa de Lavalleja
,
(1783) has historical mementoes and furniture. Also in the Ciudad Vieja is the
Palacio Taranco, Museo de Artes Decorativos
,
whose garden overlooks Plaza Zabala, a palatial mansion in turn-of-the-20th-century French style, with sumptuously decorated rooms, and a museum of Islamic and Classical pottery and glass. It was first built as a theatre in 1793; in 1908 it was bought by the Ortiz de Taranco family.

Three blocks north of Plaza Zabala are the docks and three blocks south is the Río de la Plata.
In the port (which can be visited Saturday after 1300, Sunday after 0800), the ship's bell of HMS
Ajax
is in an open-air museum on one side of the Port Administration building, while the anchor and rangefinder of the German pocket-battleship,
Graf Spee
, are on the other side. Both ships were involved in the Battle of the River Plate (13 December 1939) after which
Graf Spee
was scuttled off Montevideo.

If starting at the port, cross the Rambla to visit
Mercado del Puerto
and the adjacent
Museo Carnaval
, proceed south one block to Cerrito, east two blocks to the
Banco de la República
and church of
San Francisco
(1864), south across Plaza Zabala to Peatonal Sarandí (pedestrian street) and east to Plaza de la Independencia , stopping at the aforementioned historical sites as desired. Restoration efforts are slow but steady. Although safe by day, with many tourist police, common sense, even avoidance, at night is recommended.

Between the Ciudad Vieja and the new city is the largest of Montevideo's squares,
Plaza de la Independencia
, a short distance east of Plaza de la Constitución. Numerous cafés, shops and boutiques line Peatonal Sarandí. Two small pedestrian zones full of cafés, live music (mostly after 2300) and restaurants, Peatonal Bacacay and Policia Vieja, lead off Sarandí. Below his statue (1923) in the middle of Plaza de la Independencia is the subterranean marble mausoleum of Artigas. Just west of the plaza is
Museo Torres García
.
It has an exhibition of the paintings of Joaquín Torres García (1874-1949), one of Uruguay's foremost contributors to the modern art movements of the 20th century, and five floors dedicated to temporary exhibitions of contemporary Uruguayan and international artists. At the eastern end is the
Palacio Salvo
, built 1922-28. The first skyscraper in Uruguay and the tallest South American structure of its time, opinions are divided on its architectural merit. Currently it houses a mixture of businesses and residences. The famous tango,
La Cumparsita
, was written in a former café at its base. On the southern side is the
Casa de Gobierno Histórico
, with an exhibition of Uruguay's presidential history. Just off the plaza to the west is the splendid
Teatro Solís
(1842-69),
www.teatrosolis.org.uy. It has been entirely restored to perfection, with added elevators, access for disabled people, marble flooring and impressive attention to detail. Built as an opera house, Teatro Solís is now used for many cultural events, including ballet, classical music, even tango performances. Check press for listings. Tickets sold daily 1500-2000.

Avenida 18 de Julio runs east from Plaza de la Independencia. The
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
,
holds temporary exhibitions. The
Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda
,
was renovated in 2003. Museo de la Moneda has a survey of Uruguayan currency and a collection of Roman coins; Museo del Gaucho is a fascinating history of the Uruguayan gaucho and is highly recommended. Between Julio Herrera and Río Negro is the
Plaza Fabini
, or
del Entrevero
, with a
statue of
gauchos
engaged in battle, the last big piece of work by sculptor José Belloni. Beneath the plaza is the
Salón Municipal de Exposiciones
,
temporary exhibitions of
contemporary art, photography, etc. In the
Plaza Cagancha
(or Plaza Libertad) is a statue of Liberty. The restored
Mercado de la Abundancia
,
is an attractive old market with handicrafts, meat restaurants and tango on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The
Palacio Municipal
(La Intendencia) is on the south side of Avenida 18 de Julio, just before it bends north, at the statue of
El Gaucho
. It often has interesting art and photo exhibitions and there is a huge satellite image of t
he city displayed on the main hall's floor. The road which forks south from the Gaucho is Constituyente, and leads to the beach at Pocitos.
Museo de Historia del Arte
 is also in the Palacio Municipal.
Centro Municipal de Fotografía
 has photography exhibitions.

The immense
Palacio Legislativo
, was built 1908-1925 from local marble: there are 55 colours of Uruguayan marble in the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos, 12 types of
wood in the library. Other rooms are
beautiful. Not far, and dramatically changing
the city skyline, is the brand new 160-m high
Antel building
, with
a public terrace on the 26th floor for panoramic bay views.

Outside the centre

Museo Nacional de Antropología
,
has a small, well-presented anthropological collection in the hall of a superb, late 19th-century mansion, the ex-Quinta de Mendilaharsu .
Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes
,
in the ex-Quinta Raffo (a late 19th-century mansion) dedicated
to the work of the artist Blanes (1830-1901), and a room of the works of Pedro Figari (1861-1938), a lawyer who painted strange, naive pictures of peasant life and negro ceremonies, also other Uruguayan artists' work; has a room with paintings by Courbet, Vlaminck, Utrillo, Dufy,
etchings by Orozco and engravings by Goya.
Museo Zoológico
, is well displayed and arranged, recommended, great for children.

Museo Naval
,
small display of naval history from War of Independence onwards, documentation on Battle of the River Plate and sinking of the
Graf Spee
, and on the sailing ship
Capitán Miranda
, which circumnavigated the globe in 1937-8. This ship is now in the port (can be visited weekends), bus 104 from 18 de Julio.

In
Parque Batlle y Ordóñez
(reached eastwards of Avenida 18 de Julio), are statues: the most interesting group is the well-known
La Carreta
monument, by José Belloni, showing three yoke of oxen drawing a wagon. In the grounds is the
Estadio Centenario
, the national 70,000-seater football stadium and a football museum, an athletics field and a bicycle race-track (bus 107). The
Planetarium
, www.montevideo.gub.uy/planetario, is southeast of this park at Avenida Gral Rivera 3254.

From the Palacio Legislativo, Avenida Agraciada runs northwest to
Parque Prado
, the oldest of the city's many parks, about 5 km from Avenida 18 de Julio (bus 125 and others). Among fine lawns, trees and lakes is a rose garden planted with 850 varieties, the monument of
La Diligencia
(the stage coach), the Círculo de Tenis and the Sociedad Rural premises. Part of the park is the adjacent
Jardín Botánico
.
The largest and most popular park is
Parque Rodó
, on Rambla Presidente Wilson. Here are an open-air theatre, an amusement park, and a boating lake studded with islands. At the eastern end is the
Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales
, a collection of contemporary plastic arts, plus a room devoted to Blanes. Recommended.

Within the city limits, the
Punta Carretas
,
Pocitos
and
Buceo
neighbourhoods are the nicest, with a mix of classical homes, tall condos, wonderful stores, services, restaurants, active beaches, parks, and two major malls. Outside the city along Rambla Sur, the affluent
Carrasco
suburb has large homes, quieter beaches, parks and services.
Parque Nacional Roosevelt
, a green belt stretching north, and the international airport are nearby.

At the western end of the bay is the
Cerro
, or hill, 139 m high (from which Montevideo gets its name), with the Fortaleza General Artigas, an old fort, on the top. It is now the
Museo Militar
. It houses historical mementos, documentation of War of Independence and has one of the only panaramoic views of Montevideo. The Cerro is surmounted by the oldest lighthouse in the country (1804).

Bathing
beaches
stretch along Montevideo's water front, from Playa Ramírez in the west to Playa Carrasco in the east. The waterfront boulevard, Rambla Naciones Unidas, is named along its several stretches in honour of various nations. Bus 104 from Aduana, which goes along Avenida 18 de Julio, gives a pleasant ride (further inland in winter) past Pocitos, Punta Gorda and all the beaches to Playa Miramar, beyond Carrasco. The seawater, despite its muddy colour (sediment stirred up by the Río de la Plata), is safe to bathe in and the beaches are clean. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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