Where should I stay in Montevideo? I am often asked where is the best place to stay in Montevideo. Of course this depends on the type of person you are, the type of holiday you like and the type of experience you are looking to have.
Montevideo is a small city of 1.5 million people and easy to get around. So really you could stay wherever you want, distance-wise.
However Montevideo’s neighbourhoods –or barrios— are all really different one from the other, and where you choose to stay can make a real difference to your time in Montevideo.
Here I cover the principal ones where most hotels are located and where as a visitor you are likely to want to stay. You’ll notice that they are all strung along the 25 kilometre rambla (promenade) except for Centro. Also check out my article about safety in Montevideo.
Ciudad Vieja (the Old Town)
The Ciudad Vieja is Montevideo’s historic centre and was once ALL of Montevideo. It is the heart of government, finance, import-export so is bustling during the week and quieter on weekends. It is in a process of renovation and there are grandiose mansions next to pockets of poverty. This is no shiny for-export historic reconstruction – it is for real.
- You are in the heart of the historic area
- You can walk absolutely everywhere
- The Colonial Square and outstanding architecture
- Packed with historic cafes, theatres, live music, museums, galleries, auction-houses, antiques and old book stores
- The best restaurants in Montevideo, especially the lunch-time options
- Home to some of the most original hotels and accommodation (see my article on architecture for hotel recommendations at the end)
- Right on the rambla, you can see the water at the end of every street – it’s a peninsula with the River Plate on three sides
- The only really integrated neighbourhood where rich rub shoulders with poor
- Lively bar scenes on Bartolome Mitre and on the intersection of Ciudadela and Canelones streets.
- May feel deserted on Saturday after 2pm when most businesses close, Sundays and evenings – you need to have a plan (see “antidote” below)
- The area around the port –like port areas all over the world– is dodgy after dusk. Simple solution: if you need to go there, take a cab, they are cheap
- Plan to visit other neighbourhoods on Sunday
A smart upper-middle class residential barrio on the rambla.
- Close to the rambla for walking and running
- Lots of restaurants, cutesy teahouses appearing
- Lots of new hotels
- 15 minute walk to Pocitos Beach
- Large shopping centre for those who need their mall fix
- You will need to take transportation to sight-see
- The barrio’s charming houses are being knocked down to make way for high-rises
- Not a great deal of character in the newer hotels, you could be anywhere really
Pocitos is an upper-middle class neighbourhood close to the rambla dominated by highrise apartments. It adjoins Punta Carretas.
- Has a very nice beach with fine white sand (by regular city beach standards – it’s not Rio of course)
- Close to the rambla
- Lots of restaurants, cutesy teahouses, some craft beer spots
- Exploring further inland old Pocitos has some charming labyrinth-like streets
- 15-20 minute walk to two malls
- You will need to take transportation to sight-see
- The high-rises have removed a lot of the character
The ritzy area of Montevideo which is primarily residential with low-level buildings and lots of greenery. It is closest to the airport on the rambla, which is dominated by the historic hotel pictured above. I’ve heard it joked that the children who grow up there are more familiar with Miami than they are with the centre of Montevideo.
- Has its own little microcosm with a main street, shops and restaurants
- Sleek hotels
- Has an extensive beach
- On the rambla
- All low-rise buildings with lots of green leafy streets
- Just 5-10 minutes drive from the airport
- Far from “real Montevideo” and any of the sights
- Long cab ride to the city centre (we’re talking apx 30 USD one-way)
- The beach is not cleaned off-season and typically covered with washed-up debris between May and November
- You can take a bus into the city centre, but it’s not easy to see the point of staying in Carrasco if you are on a budget
This is the downtown area dominated by the main avenue, 18 de julio, which bustles day and night. On either side of the avenue there are lots of two and three star hotels.
- Bustling mid-week and on Saturday mornings
- Close to the Ciudad Vieja where many of the sights are
- Standard hotel accommodation tends to be cheapest here
- The most urban part of Montevideo though still tree-lined with some trash issues
- 18 de julio is not an attractive street until you look UP – and then there is the most amazing arquitecture
- Can be a little sketchy on side streets at night. Walk 18 de julio to avoid problems or take the cheap cabs.
Parque Rodo, Palermo and Barrio Sur
There are not as many accommodation options in Parque Rodó, Barrio Sur or Palermo, the three areas located next to each other between Ciudad Vieja and Pocitos, so I’ll group them together.
- Charming neighbourhoods filled with character and characters
- Mainly low-rise buildings on leafy tree-lined streets though Palermo has seen a recent boom in high-rises
- Parque Rodó has the Playa Ramirez (Ramirez beach) – very shallow it is ideal for small children
- Parque Rodó has two nostalgia-inspiring parks with fairgrounds for small children and overgrown!
- There’s a booming pub and bar scene in Parque Rodó and several popular spots emerging at different points on Maldonado and Canelones streets.
- Barrio Sur is the heart of Afro-Uruguayan culture
- Drumming comparsas are out and about any night around 8pm in all three neighbourhoods throughout the year in preparation for carnaval
- Most hotels are in the Barrio Sur neighbourhood which is a little sketchy though improving. Take simple precautions to avoid problems.
- Pubs and bars tend to be spread-out and difficult to find. Make sure you have done your research and know where you are going to avoid disappointment.
The Guru’s final analysis of the best places to stay in Montevideo
|I want …||Choose|
|Authentic Montevideo||Ciudad Vieja, Barrio Sur, Palermo|
|To be able to walk everywhere||Ciudad Vieja|
|The beach||Pocitos, Parque Rodo and Carrasco*|
|Great restaurants||Ciudad Vieja, Punta Carretas, Carrasco|
|Minimal cultural differences**||Punta Carretas, Carrasco|
|Closest to the airport||Carrasco|
* Beaches are accessible anywhere in Montevideo – Punta Carretas and Palermo (10-15 mins walk), Ciudad Vieja, Barrio Sur and Centro (30-45 minutes walk along the rambla to Ramirez Beach in Parque Rodo or 5 mins by taxi)
** Am I being flippant? Maybe 🙂
[Last updated: January 16 2017]