Montevideo’s relaxed daytime atmosphere gives way to lively milongas (open tango saloons), alternative music clubscapes, and late-night restaurants where city residents and travelers stay up until sunrise,
telling stories over bottles of Tannat and eating chivitos (Uruguay's national dish). A typical night out will look something like this: dinner around 10 p.m., then previa (pregame) drinks at a bar around midnight, and finally, going to a club around 3 a.m. Conveniently, the lines blur here between restaurant and bar and bar and club. Some establishments function as all three in one. Expect most people to be friendly, the dance floors generally small, and the party to go later than you may be used to
Montevideo’s bars range from relatively new craft beer joints to bars that are older than the country of Uruguay itself. Montevideo is craft beer happy, but wine will always be the city's first love and an excellent choice should you not know what to order.
- Historic Bars: Once a general store now a bar, Tango Bar El Hacha has a tango space, bowling alley, and a decent amount of celebrities coming to drink and dance. Punta Carretas’ Bar Tabare was originally a general store turned fishermen’s bar opened in 1919, Tabare still has its original bar where diners sip cold draft beer and mellow local wines. Choose from a variety of dishes like pork with kimchi or grilled salmon, and save room for the white chocolate and red
- Cocktail Bars: Sip watermelon and gin concoctions or Negronis with bottled smoke on Manazanar's outdoor patio. Baker’s Bar serves classics like an Aperol spritz, but it’s their signature cocktails like the Me Mataste with white wine, ginger, passion fruit, and orange juice that made them famous.
- Wine Bars: For wine cocktails, highly knowledgeable bartenders, and a prime location by the Port Market, go to Montevideo Wine Experience. For wine with the occasional Wednesday night tango class and live music every night, Museo del Vino is where to go.
- Craft Beer Bars: One of the first craft beer companies in Uruguay, Choperia Mastra has multiple locations in Montevideo where they serve sweet beers like banana blondes and chocolate stouts. Montevideo Brewhouse serves up strong stouts, hoppy IPAs, and a decent bar menu of burgers, steaks, and fries.
- Neighborhood Bars: Check out Fun Fun Bar for tango shows and some uvita, the house-made liquor. Groove with hipsters listening to vinyls in La Ronda. Knock back pints with expats to the soundtrack of Irish music at Shannon Irish Pub. Head to speakeasy-style Monroe in a bookstore to discover a world of EDM and packed dance floors.
Clubs starting bumping at 3 a.m. in Montevideo. You can come earlier, but arriving anytime before 1 a.m. will be pretty slow, as most everyone going clubbing will still be at the bar.
For a bar-restaurant-club, go to El Pony Pisador for pop hits and cumbia. Music purists will want to go to Phonotheque where DJ Koolt and Uruguayan DJ royalty spin a hypnotic soundscape of underground music, and patrons don’t talk, only listen to the beats.
The LGBTQ+ crowd and friends turn up at Il Tempo for comedic drag shows while Cain Dance Club offers two dance floors and theme nights. Salsa dancers practice their moves in La Bodeguita del Sur, and well-heeled club-goers go to party in Lotus Club, where they groove to house and electronic tracks.
Tango began on the banks of the Rio de la Plata (shared by Uruguay and Argentina), and Montevideans dance it on the streets and in bars, markets, and cultural centers. Go to a milonga to learn basic steps and watch pros as they quick-step twirl around the floor. Most open around 9:30 or 10:30 p.m., but don’t expect the dance floor to really start moving until midnight while many continue until the early morning hours. Expect to pay a small entrance or class fee at the door of most.
- Joventango: For a big dance floor plus classes for beginner and intermediate tango dancers, go to Joventagno on the top floor of the Mercado de la Abundancia. A live tango band plays Saturdays, and on Sunday’s you can catch a professional show before the milonga.
- Oh mar Got!: This small, friendly milonga welcomes all-levels of dancers and stays open until 3 a.m. You’ll feel more like you’re in someone’s house than a club.
- Plaza Liber Seregni: Milonga Callejera hosts street tango in this plaza during the summer months (December to February) from 8 p.m. until sometime after midnight. Expect a much more relaxed dress code than other milongas (e.g., jeans and tennis shoes).
Late Night Restaurants
Order a chivito, the massive Uruguayan steak sandwich at Bar Ancocena in Carrasco. Open 24 hours, it's one of the cities most famous spots for late-night munchies. Nearly 100 years old, be sure to ask staff about the stories of rockstars, kidnappers, and other characters who’ve passed through its doors.
For something a little more posh, check out Sinergia Design, a hip multi-space with food stands serving pizza, sandwiches, cocktails, and more from afternoon to midnight.
Events and Activities
Throughout the year Candombe practice sessions can be heard in the streets of Montevideo, especially in Palermo, Barrio Sur, and Cuidad Vieja. Comparsa groups practice on the weekends
and onlookers are welcome. Expect a ceremonial fire to heat the drums at the beginning, then a short parade through the streets with the drummers leading the march. Ask around for where groups in your area practice or simply follow the sound of drumming when you hear it.
Dress up in your 80’s best and head to Nostalgia Night on the eve of August 24 when the radio waves play music from the 1970s to '90s. Bars, clubs, restaurants, and even nearby vineyards open for people to listen to music from the past and dance until dawn.
Horse racing enthusiasts should come in the summer, when the Ramírez Prize thunders out of the gates of Maroñas Hippodrome on Jan. 6. The equivalent of the Kentucky Derby in Uruguay, races begin in the afternoon and continue into the night.
- Carnival: From January to March, Uruguay has the longest Carnival celebration in the world, the epicenter of which is Montevideo. For 50 days, the streets pulse with candombe drumming, battling murgas (Carnival dance, drum, and theater crews), and costumes of face paint, sequins,
and colorful feathers. Check out Desfile de Llamadas in Barrio Sur and Palermo for one of its biggest events.
- Pride: Montevideo holds its LGBT Pride parade, also known as Marcha por la Diversidad (Diversity March), on the last Friday of September. Attendees dance in the streets while DJ-toting floats bump tunes and rainbow flags fly high.
- Primavera O: This one-day music festival features international acts like Patti Smith, the Gorillaz, and Iggy Pop in Teatro Verano each November.
- Festival Viva El Tango: The oldest tango festival in the world takes over the city for 10 days in October with classes, demonstrations, and milongas.
Tips for Going Out in Montevideo
- The last call will vary from bar to club. Some clubs will stay open until sunrise, while some bars close at 12 a.m. Expect most places to stay open until at least 2 or 3 a.m. on the weekends.
- There is no public transportation between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. You can easily take a taxi, Uber, or remis (chartered car) during this time.
- If you had good service tip 10 percent of your bill. Don’t feel obligated to tip if the service was poor. For a taxi ride, a tip is optional but not expected. Ten percent is sufficient if you do.
- Uruguay has no open container law. You can drink on the street, in parks, at the beach (although it’s not allowed on some beaches, the policy isn’t heavily enforced).
- Do not drive after drinking—no matter how little. Uruguay has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. You will be charged a fine and your license will be confiscated. If you are from the U.S., your license will not be returned until you are back in the U.S.