Let’s be honest: Montevideo isn’t going to win a beauty contest. The pavement looks like a French street after a demonstration when protesters have been throwing cobblestones at the riot police. There are graffiti everywhere, bars on windows and doors, and every roller shutter feature street art that probably wasn’t ordered by shop owners. There’s an inch thick of old posters on most walls—did you know James Blunt was coming to Montevideo? Do you remember the last general elections?—that are pretty much archives material by now. The colonial buildings in Ciudad Vieja are falling apart and most modern structures are plain, with air-conditioning units outside each window.
Oh, and there’s no must-see sight in Montevideo, unless you’re very into carnival—the Museo del Carnaval is for you!—or into marijuana—head to the Museo del Cannabis!
Montevideo looks seedy, dirty and grim but it’s not.
In fact, this is precisely why I like Montevideo. Uruguay’s capital is the anti-North American suburb with cookie-cutter housing and suburban strip malls—no street, no building, no shop, no door, no pavement tile looks alike. Hell, even the layout of the three or four TA-TA supermarkets along Avenida 18 de Julio are completely different, as if the Guide to Supermarket Psychology and the Best Set Up to Trick Customers had been interpreted by two dozen executives with opposite perspectives.
It probably drives neat freaks cray but I find it inspiring.
You can’t get bored in Montevideo. Just go out and look around you.
Montevideo is that place where old ladies say “aproveche my amor” when they see Mark eating churros. It’s that place where when you ask for some bread at the bakery, the employee shows you five different kinds and explains the different textures and flavours. It’s that place where when you ask a question, you’re offered the answer with context, explanation and recommendations. It’s that place where old couple and pot-smoking twentysomething sporting gang tattoos hang out together at the beach.
If you want old colonial buildings, narrow streets and a rough-looking barrio, take a walk in the aptly Ciudad Vieja. If you want fresh air, there are 22 kilometres of ramblas along the coast and the playas aren’t bad for city beaches. There are large parks and busy streets, endless avenues and cute blocks with everything you need.