Roberto lived a nomadic life in high finance and the international banking world for twenty years. This year he gave it all up to host travellers in Montevideo’s Old City.
Roberto Gelber was born and brought up in Montevideo. However after graduating in finance he left Uruguay in 1999 on a career path that took him to Suriname, Curaçao, Amsterdam where he ran a large European trading desk and finally to New York City.
While in the US in 2011, a personal and family crisis came during 2011. Back then, he decided to give a different focus to life, mainly to give his small daughter a different example of what is important.
He returned to Uruguay in 2013 and finally left the banking sector this year.
Back during his nomadic years, he’d bought a run-down 1920s three-storey French-style building on Sarandi street. Sarandi (pronounced sa-ran-DEE) is the main pedestrian street through Montevideo’s Old City.
The renovation process took a year but now Nomade Suites is open to guests and getting great reviews like:
In the heart of the Old City, the South American version of Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighbourhood, or Berlin’s Neukölln, you will find the raw and real city vibes. The Old City is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, with a lot of nice spots to discover! Roberto’s apartment is in a very cool renovated old house, close to the old harbor area. He gave the house a special touch by combining new style with the old interior.”
It breaks my heart to give away such secrets, but this is a great hideout in the old town with unbelievable roof top views.”
Why choose the Old City?
Roberto fell in love with the Old City on his return to Uruguay. In fact he lives there himself just around the corner from Nomade Suites. He loves the fact that it is surrounded by water and full of historical buildings and museums.
As well as being the historic part of Montevideo, the Old City – known as the Ciudad Vieja in Spanish– is the heart of import and export, finance and government so it’s bustling during the week and quiet on weekends.
“Nomade Suites is in a more residential part of the Old City,” says Roberto. “So at night it’s very peaceful, except for Saturday evenings for an hour around sunset when the local candombe troupe parades down Sarandi complete with drummers and dancers.”
Peace and quiet is one of the big reasons Roberto gave up a career on Wall Street to focus in more free time for himself and a better quality of life.
“I am Uruguayan and I was lucky enough to be born in Uruguay,” he smiles.
“Uruguay’s remarkable because it is quite a developed country but globalisation hasn’t really reached here yet. There’s space, there’s peace and quiet. People are moving here from elsewhere but very slowly. Hopefully they won’t for the next fifty years!”
Roberto’s secrets of Ciudad Vieja
When the big cruise ships dock in the port of Montevideo on the north side of the Old City, thousands of passengers flood off the ship and as if on auto-pilot make their way up Colón street (the stress is on the last syllable, co-LON, before you ask), a street named after Christopher Columbus.
Clearly a huge urban planning fail. Colón is probably the ugliest street in the whole of Montevideo.
But, says Roberto, it’s home to two little-known gems.
Es Mercat – the best fish restaurant in Montevideo
So says Roberto who recommends putting yourself in the hands of the owner, also called Roberto, and letting him choose your dishes. Savvy TripAdvisor reviewers also recommend the same. You won’t regret it.
Es Mercat Colón 1550, Ciudad Vieja. Open seven days a week for lunch from noon till 6pm, Thursdays-Sat noon till midnight
Ex-Kiosco – an atelier of five of Uruguay’s most avant garde artists
Just knock on the glass door and if Sebastian Sáez or Fabio Rodriguez, two of the five contemporary artists who share this collective workspace, are around they’ll take you on a tour of the atelier and show you current work. The space was formerly a gallery called Kiosco, and “may change name, or may not”.
Pictured above is a recent work by Sáez from the Montevideanos series which portrays notables from the local cultural scene.
Ex-Kiosco Colón 1459, Ciudad Vieja. No official opening times but feel free to tap on the door any time from around 10am till apx 7pm
Best place to watch the sun set in the Old City
Roberto recommends a visit to the Escollera Sarandi (prounced es-koy-ZZHHeh-ra sa-ran-DEE) – an old stone jetty jutting out from the far end of the Old City peninsula. You just follow Sarandi street right to the very end, that’s where the jetty starts.
The escollera (see photo above) is the haunt of numerous amateur fishermen and women. From it you have a wonderful view of the Old City and the bay of Montevideo.
Staying at the Nomade Suites
The Nomade Suites are six eclectically-furnished rental units each with separate bedroom, kitchenette and private bathroom. The four superior suites over Sarandi are particularly charming with picture windows onto the pedestrian street below.
The supreme glory is the roof-top deck. “The skies in Uruguay are completely awesome,” says Roberto.
All suites have access to the roof top. It has sun beds, a typical Uruguayan parrilla (barbecue) and views right across the Old City and of the River Plate.
Amenities include free wifi, Smart TV with Netflix Movies, air conditioning, and housekeeping on request. Roberto’s always accessible to help with tips and suggestions for things to do.
Guru tip A group of three couples or a family can comfortably rent three units and take the entire floor.
Prices range from 70-90 USD per night per suite. There are discounts for stays over 2 weeks.
10% off for Guru’Guay readers
Our readers get a 10% discount when you book directly with Roberto at Nomade Suites using the promo code “Guru’Guay” in the subject line. Email Roberto at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Website coming soon.
More reading on Ciudad Vieja
Best neighbourhoods to stay in Montevideo Check out the Guru’Guay analysis of Ciudad Vieja and see if it’s the perfect barrio for your stay
Safety in the Old City The Old City is nowadays one of the safest neighbourhoods in the entire of Montevideo
Gourmet food and drink in the Old City Great little restaurants like Sin Pretensiones and wine bar Montevideo Wine Experience are just seconds from Nomade Suites and have special offers for Guru’Guay readers
Sunset over Montevideo Given that Montevideo’s coast mainly faces south, there are not very many locations from which to watch the sunset over the water. I have my own sunset recommendation which is from Playa Ramirez, the beach in Parque Rodó.
Photos: Guru’Guay, Montecruz Foto, Roberto Gelber