Weekend Getaway to Montevideo, Uruguay

Let me start off this travel blog post by being WAY too open with the internet (when am I not, tho??). This past weekend, July 5th through the 7th, Andrés and I traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay. What happened in Montevideo, however gruesome and unfortunate, is not staying in Uruguay because really, I wish someone had told me in the 15-20 blog posts I read about traveling to Montevideo.

So here it goes: DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER!!!!! I live in Buenos Aires and have NEVER had a problem with the tap water. I drink it every day! I’ve never gotten sick from drinking it. So….imagine my surprise when I visit BA’s neighboring capital city and spend the weekend with soul-wrenching stomach cramps and an abnormal amount of time in the bathroom. I’m writing part of this on my way home from Montevideo on the ferry and my stomach STILL HURTS. I described it to Andrés like this: you know when you clean off a table with a wet cloth? First, you run it underwater. Then you twist it up and ring the excess water out. That is what is happening to my stomach. I realized what was happening Saturday afternoon and stopped drinking then but man, Saturday was too late. Andrés did not get sick like I did but let’s go ahead and figure it’s his strong Latin American stomach coming in clutch. 

Okay…now…back to a travel blog post rather than a WebMD question forum. To get to Montevideo from Buenos Aires, you have a few options: if you have a car you can drive, you can take a bus all the way there, or you can take a ferry to Colonia and then a bus to Montevideo. We, of course, did the later. The ferry ride from BA to Colonia is about an hour. The bus ride to Montevideo from Colonia is somewhere between 2-3 hours. We learned that it’s between 2-3 hours because our bus driver on the way back to Colonia from Montevideo really booked it. Our ferry on Friday morning left at 8:15 in the morning and we got to Montevideo around 12:30. As soon as we got to the Tres Cruces bus terminal, we withdrew some Uruguayan pesos and took an Uber from the terminal to our Airbnb in Ciudad Vieja. 

To be very honest, this trip mostly centered around this AMAZING Airbnb. This post might as well be “The Airbnb to Stay at in Montevideo” rather than “Things to do in Montevideo.” We LOVED it so much. The suite is one of three in one large apartment. Each suite is completely separate from one another and while we were there only one other suite was occupied. The hallway connecting the suites was decked out in vintage everything and I loved it SO MUCH.

Inside, we had a couch, a TV (that we didn’t use), a bed with so many lovely blankets, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Most importantly, however, there was a heater. Montevideo is colder than Buenos Aires and I was freezing. But don’t be fooled: these days, “freezing” to me is anything less than 60 degrees. Our host was also amazing! Now that I am hashtag employed, part of my job is tutoring kids in the U.S. So even though I was off Friday, I was not able to reschedule my tutoring session. While we were out having lunch, however, I realized I didn’t see the correct outlets at the Airbnb. I frantically texted the host and asked if there were adapters for Argentine plugs. Nope. She asked if I needed one and I explained why. By the time I got back home to do my session, an adapter was hanging on the door to the apartment. My day was saved!  

The apartment was located in the most famous building of all of Montevideo: Palacio Salvo (which, interesting fact, has a sister building in BA called Palacio Barolo!). Until the early 1900s, Palacio Salvo was the tallest building in Latin America. Today, it stands out as one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. In its first life, it was a luxury hotel. There was a restaurant, a theater, even a hair salon! Now, it’s a residential building with floors dedicated to several businesses, including a recording studio and radio station. How did I learn all of this you ask? The tour, ya nerd! On Sunday morning, after checking out of the very same building, we went back in with a tour company called Mañanas en El Salvo, which is also connected to the Museum of Tango. The tours start at 10:30 AM and go on throughout the day until 4:30 PM. The real reason we were interested in the tour was that you get to go up to the 25th floor to the lookout. I thought said lookout would be outside but it is, in fact, inside. We still got some awesome views but that was about it. Half the tour was “we’re taking you inside one of the apartments so you can see what it’s like.” Said apartment was also a…gift shop. So was the tour worth the 250 pesos per person ($7ish) we paid? Not so sure. 

Back tracking slightly, I will return to what we did on Friday. El Mercado del Puerto was on allll the blog posts I read. It’s basically a food court for tourists where the restaurants serve parrilla (meat) and seafood. We walked around for a LONG time before we picked one. The hosts try and talk to you every time you walk by. TBH, it was annoying. Most of the restaurants there (and throughout the city) also charge you for sitting at the table. The restaurant we finally decided on was El Peregrino. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great for the price. Andrés got chivito (apparently the only food Uruguay is “known for”) and I got seafood pasta. You can get better in Buenos Aires for cheaper but that is partly because Montevideo is SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than BA. 

Overall, I wasn’t super impressed with El Mercado del Puerto. In fact, we didn’t even take photos. The market is located near the port. You get there by walking through the old city (Ciudad Vieja). We mostly explored the old city on Saturday, however, since I was so rushed on Friday to be back in time to teach. 

That night for dinner I found a Korean place near our Airbnb and convinced Andrés to try it out (this was his first time eating Korean food and he wanted to make sure it was at least good Korean food). The place we went to is called Myeong Ga Restaurant. It wasn’t the best Korean food I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t bad for Uruguay.

Saturday morning we slept in and ventured out around 11. We hit the following sites: the arch ruins from the original city, Más Puro Verso (a book store), the Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Solís Theatre. From there, we went back to the “newer” part of the city to walk around and look for a place to eat. Montevideo was pretty disappointing as far as restaurants come. We ended up eating at McDonald’s because at least Mickey D’s is usually reliable.

Andrés had a migraine in the afternoon so we returned to the Airbnb to sleep it out. That night we ATTEMPTED to explore the ONE thing I wanted to do while there: Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo. It’s a contemporary art museum housed in an old prison. At some point I had read it closed at 8. As we were lost and asking for directions, I checked it on Google Maps and it closed at 6:30. We were too late. I was pretty bummed but we still saw Uruguay’s Parliament building and the Mercado Agrícola. We got some great pictures as the sun was setting.

On Sunday, we thought our day was going just dandy. That was until we got to the bus station at 3:30 to catch our 4:30 ride back to Colonia. Turns out the ride at 4:30 was the ferry from Colonia back to Buenos Aires and the bus that took us back to Colonia had left at 1. We lost $80 having to buy new bus and ferry tickets, but it could have been much worse.

Before that happened, however, we spent the day doing the aforementioned tour, exploring the Punta Brava Lighthouse, part of La Rambla, and eating delicious Armenian food at a restaurant called Erevan.

Overall, our first impressions of Montevideo (especially when coming from Buenos Aires) were that it was cold, small, there wasn’t much to do, it was more expensive, and the food was not great. The best part was very clearly the Airbnb. While we won’t be back Montevideo, I do love that Airbnb.

(Also remember you can use my Airbnb code to book your first stay and get money off! I get money too which means more travel, more Airbnb, and more blog posts! Referral code: https://www.airbnb.com/c/rachelb9590?currency=USD)

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