Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay and only a 1 hour boat and 3 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires (BA). A lot of portenos (Buenos Aires residents) board the boat on the weekends to head to the beaches of Uruguay. We decided to head to Montevideo after discovering that it was a pretty simple trek from BA. You would think that with Uruguay being so close to BA they would be very similar but that was not the case. Uruguay has a very strong African influence and is bordered by Brazil on the west so there was a lot stronger Latin flavor to the city. The first night we arrived we heard drums down the street so we went outside to investigate and found a troupe of 30 drummers and 20 dancers heading towards us. Apparently they were practicing for Carnaval so we got to stand on the street with the local and get a sneak peak of the show.
Montevideo seems to beat to the rhythm of its own drum (see what I did there?) where the people set their own schedules lunch in the afternoon, dinners not until 10pm, and dancing at 4am. I now know how they can stay up until the sun comes up. They are continuously drinking a caffeinated tea called Yerba Mate. You see most locals carrying around thermoses and mate’s with bombillas sticking out of them. Mate’s are the vessels that the mate is served in and the bombilla is the straw. These three accessories are crucial to drinking Yerba Mate because the Yerba Mate is a loose leaf tea that you pour into your mate, add hot water from your thermos, and sip through your bombilla. The Bombilla is a metal straw with a filter at the bottom that filters your Yerba Mate. You also have to carry around a thermos because the Mate (cup you are drinking from) only holds a small amount of water and mate so you are continuously filling and emptying. The locals especially liked to sit by the river on La Rambla during the weekends and evening sipping mate.
Another Uruguayan specialty is the Chivito. The Chivito is the ultimate fat kid meal and a heart attack waiting to happen. We ordered the complete plate which consisted of a pile of French fries, potato salad, and a small green salad topped with a steak, ham, cheese, and an egg. It was delicious but I could definitely feel my arteries clog a little while eating it.
A similarity between BA and Montevideo was the love of grilled meat. The Mercado del Puerto is an awesome market that is filled with Parillija’s. You pull up a chair, sip some medio y medio (half white wine have sparkling) or litres of beer, and order delicious grilled meats and vegetables. The chorizo we had here was the best probably ever. The Mercado del Puerto is also great because it is surround by local artisans selling awesome crafts so you can eat your heart out and then wander around the city shopping and looking at the beautiful buildings and striking street art/graffiti.
Another market worth checking out is the newer Mercado Agricole there are some neat souvenir shops, a food court, brewery tasting, and Materia. Dan and I got the skinny on how to drink Yerba Mate so Dan could use his newly purchased mate and bombilla that he picked up at the Sunday outdoor market.
Dan and I didn’t end up staying up until the sun came up but we did check out a cool live music and tango venue Baar Fun Fun where we got to listen to some authentic music and tried uvita which is a sweet wine drink. They have different acts every night so it is worth checking out the schedule before heading over.
On our last day in Montevideo we stopped to check out the Museo de Andes 1972. This museum outlines and pays tribute to the survivors and casualties of the 1972 Uruguayan airplane crash in the Andes. The museum tells the story of how 15 people not only survived a plane crash they survived 72 days above tree line in the snow covered Andes. Their story is amazing. The plane that crashed was carrying a Rugby team and their friends and family. In order to survive that had to resort to eating the dead. It’s a great story and the museum was well done. Definitely recommended if in Montevideo.
Top 5 things to do in Montevideo:
- Eat Chorizo and sip Medio y Medio at the Mercado del Puerto
- Wander the colonial streets looking for street art and appreciating the architecture
- Sip Yerba Mate with the locals on the Rambla
- Visit the Museo de Andes 1972
- Try a Chivito at one of the local diners