In any of Montevideo's neighborhoods, you're never far from the water. Many of the best barrios (neighborhoods) are on the shores of the Río de la Plata, and it's easy to travel from one to the next by walking along the Rambla, the city's beachfront promenade. While some have great bar scenes and nightlife, in others, you'll find live Candombe music, extensive street markets, and quirky architecture. Whether you stay in a luxurious hotel or comfortable guesthouse, though, you're never too far from a museum or sandy coastline. Read on to learn about the personalities of the Uruguayan capital's top neighborhoods.
Cobblestone alleyways contain vintage clothing and antique shops, bookstores, and neocolonial mansions in Cuidad Vieja, the place where Montevideo began. Many of the city’s oldest and most famous structures like the Palacio Salvo, Teatro Solís, and the Puerta de la Ciudadela are located here. Some of these attractions offer art and cultural experiences, including opera shows and the Tango Museum, site of where "La Cumparsita" was first performed. Filled with famous restaurants and cafés, visitors also come to Cuidad Vieja to order asado (barbecue) at the Puerto del Mercado, then browse leather goods in the surrounding stalls. The whole of Cuidad Vieja is easily walkable, with all roads leading to the Río de la Plata, and it is a wonderful base for those visiting Montevideo for the first time.
A swanky neighborhood lined by high rises and the white sands of Pocitos Beach, Pocitos mixes resort vibes with eccentric sights, parks, and shopping malls. Popular year-round, Pocitios Beach is the place to go for a lazy day by the water or a long run on the Rambla. Right before the beach, wedged between two apartment buildings, the mysterious Castillo Pittamiglo beckons to those interested in mystery, magic, and absurdist architecture. Go north and you’ll find the Ombu Tree, the largest tree in the city with deep ties to Uruguay’s gaucho history. Accommodation here spans all budgets, from bright, airy hostels to one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, the Hyatt Centric Montevideo.
Both the name of the famous park and the surrounding neighborhood, Parque Rodó is known for its green space, tree-lined streets, Ramírez Beach, and good nightlife. Lots of activities for families and the area's university students give the neighborhood a fun, youthful feel. You can take a paddle boat around Parque Rodó’s large lake or enjoy a picnic on the grassy shores. Ride the Ferris wheel at its amusement park, visit the National Museum of Visual Arts, or play a game of volleyball at Ramírez Beach. At night, head to Maldonado or Canelones Streets to knock back a nightcap; if you stick around long enough, the bar will turn into a dance floor, the party inevitably lasting until the early morning.
One of Montevideo's most central neighborhoods, Cordón is full of cheap accommodation and craft breweries, including Brown Beer Craft Brewery and The End. Each Sunday, Feria de Tristán Narvaja, the most famous fair in the city, takes over several of Cordón's streets, with vendors selling handicrafts, clothing, curios, antiques, and more. Meanwhile, bibliophiles come here to search antique bookshops for rare finds; in fact, the neighborhood itself was the setting of the book "Cordón Soho," a novel about young angst by Uruguayan journalist Natalia Mardero. Cordón’s main square, Plaza Artola, runs parallel to 18 de Julio Avenue; should you venture inside it, look for the bronze statues of Albert Einstein and philosopher Carlos Vaz Ferreira seated next to each other, staring pensively into the distance.
Found between Pocitos and Ramírez Beaches, this hip barrio contains Punta Carretas Shopping, a popular mall that was once a prison, and Punta Brava, the southernmost tip of Montevideo and the best spot to see the sunset. Work on your long game at Club de Golf del Uruguay, or gaze out at the Río de la Plata from the top of the neighborhood lighthouse, Faro de Punta Carretas. Later, walk to the beachside Holocaust Memorial and find the stele signed by Elie Wiesel. Lots of new hotels and ample green space, including Parque de las Instrucciones del Año XIII, also serve to make Punta Carretas an attractive option to stay in while visiting Montevideo.
Barrio Sur and Palermo are the neighborhoods most associated with Afro-Uruguayan history—especially the birth of Candombe, a drum-filled music and the driving force of Carnival. Throughout Barrio Sur, comparasas (Candombe groups) practice each weekend in parade style, the performances free and open to the public to watch or join. Full of cultural centers focused on promoting community events revolving around music, food, the arts, and education, the neighborhood is a great place to learn more about Uruguayan culture. Barrio Sur is within walking distance to Teatro Solís, Ramírez Beach, and Parque Rodó, and offers hotels, hostels, and guesthouses ranging from budget to mid-range prices.