Montevideo, Uruguay

Photo: Ana Raquel S. Hernandes via flickr

Your itinerary for Uruguay is nearly complete. You plan to drink wine, eat steak, and lounge by the pool in Carmelo. You want to drink clericó, eat seafood, and soak up the sun in Punta del Este. You might even stop in Garzón for lunch and, yes, more wine at a new, modern winery. But what about Montevideo? You aren’t planning on bypassing the capital, are you?

It’d be easy to skip the southernmost capital in the Americas—yup, even Buenos Aires is farther north. Since Carrasco International Airport is located northeast of the city, you could head northeast to the beaches or northwest to the wineries without ever heading south into Montevideo. But that’d be a mistake.

The city along the Río de la Plata was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, when Spain and Portugal were fighting over the area. A walled settlement and colonial architecture soon followed. Today, Montevideo offers the highest quality of life in all of Latin America. There are plazas full of palm trees, a promenade with water views, and churros stuffed with dulce de leche. It’s gay-friendly, high-tech, and obsessed with football. Most of the old, pastel buildings in Ciudad Vieja (the oldest part of the city) are now run down. Many are in the process of being renovated. One is already a boutique hotel.

Photo: Alma Historica

It feels like you’ve stepped back in time—to the 1920s, to be exact—when you enter the townhouse across from Plaza Zabala. Alma Histórica Boutique Hotel has a grand staircase, an antique-filled library, and chandeliers hanging in the tea room and lounge bar on the first floor. While upstairs rooms are named after famous Uruguayan artists, musicians, and athletes. But that’s where the vintage flair ends. The Don José Luis room, named after a sculptor, has a sparkling white bathroom with a polished concrete floor. A jacuzzi, lounge chairs, and potted ferns dot the rooftop terrace. Ipads and local smartphones are even available for you to borrow downstairs. Add a genuinely caring and helpful staff, and it feels like nothing has been overlooked at Alma Histórica.

So you should definitely listen to their suggestions. Of course, you want to see the green parrots in Plaza Zabala. You want to walk in the sun, drink mate, and people-watch along the Rambla. But you should also wander around Palacio Taranco, an old palace that’s home to grand architecture, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and beautiful French furniture. You’ll find the best deals in La Feria Tristán Narvaja Flea Market on Sunday mornings. Plus you should eat dinner at Jacinto, a seasonal restaurant on a nearby pedestrian street.

Oh, and you definitely shouldn’t skip Montevideo. Though it seems like you’re already realizing that.

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