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Where is the best place to stay in Montevideo?

Bar Bacacay by Jimmy Baikovicius
Bar Bacacay by Jimmy Baikovicius
Get a bite to eat at the Bar Bacacay, Ciudad Vieja after an evening show at the historic Solis Theatre directly opposite.

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)

Doors in Ciudad Vieja by Gonzalo Viera Azpiroz

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.

Thumbs up!

Mehhh

  • 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

Mehhh antidote

Punta Carretas

Punta Carretas by Jimmy BaikoviciusA smart upper-middle class residential barrio on the rambla.

Thumbs up!

  • 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

Mehhhh

  • 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

Pocitos Beach by Jorge GobbiPocitos is an upper-middle class neighbourhood close to the rambla dominated by highrise apartments. It adjoins Punta Carretas.

Thumbs up!

  • 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

Mehhhh

  • You will need to take transportation to sight-see
  • The high-rises have removed a lot of the character

Carrasco

Hotel Sofitel in Carrasco by Jimmy BaikoviciusThe 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.

Thumbs up!

  • 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

Mehhhh

  • 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

Mehhh antidote

  • 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

Centro

Plaza Entrevero in the Centro of Montevideo by Jimmy BaikoviciusThis 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.

Thumbs up!

  • 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

Mehhh

  • 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

Parque Rodo at Sundown by SuedeheadThere 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.

Thumbs up!

  • 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

Mehhhh

  • 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]

Photos: Jorge Gobbi (Pocitos), Jimmy Baikovicius (Punta Carretas, Carrasco, Ciudad Vieja picture at start of article), Suedehead (Parque Rodó), Gonzalo Viera Azpiroz (Ciudad Vieja)

7 Comments

  1. Liza Weissler

    July 13, 2017

    I’m planning to visit soon and have to say this is the most helpful website I have come across. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  2. Dariece

    January 16, 2017

    Thank you for your useful posts!

    We are wondering about restaurants not being open in the old town. is this an issue for dinner? We’re torn between a hostel on the border of Centro / Barrio Sur, about 6 blocks to the old town. Or, a hotel right in the Ciudad Vieja.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      January 16, 2017

      Hi Dariece, there are actually way more (and more varied) restaurants in the Ciudad Vieja (Old City) than there are in Barrio Sur. Note that only Sunday night has typically been an issue for finding a good restaurant open in the Old City. All the other nights there are great options. The good news is that now several great eateries are open in the Old City for early Sunday dinner including probably Montevideo’s best fish restaurant Es Mercat and the Montevideo Wine Experience has tapas on Sunday evenings till 9pm or later (they can also order dishes from Es Mercat and have them delivered to the winebar). La Fonda (see The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo) has just started opening on Sunday evenings.

      Also take into account, Montevideo is small, so it’s not time-consuming to go from one neighbourhood to another.

      For a great guide to the best restaurants in Montevideo, invest in The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. I have included six pages of recommendations, all annotated, not neutral lists like most guidebooks. All the Best — Karen

      Reply
  3. Marissa

    July 8, 2016

    Hello,

    Thank you for this article. It was helpful in deciding which barrio to stay in Montevideo. A few questions,

    -Do you have any other hotels to recommend in Ciudad Vieja, not picky about architecture, but we want it to be in a safe location and clean? (We’re two women traveling.)
    -We plan to take ferry from Buenos Aires – how far is this from the ferry?
    -We only have a day and a half, and would like to take advantage of seeing as much as we can. What would be the next recommended barrio and what other things would you recommend?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      July 8, 2016

      Hi Marissa – glad you found the article helpful.
      1. I would recommend my guesthouse Casa Sarandi which has excellent ratings for location and cleanliness in Booking, TripAdvisor, etc. Check out this video of our guests who was a solo female traveller and this review from a solo woman traveller from Seattle. If you are looking for a different price range, let me know.
      2. How far is what from the ferry? The ferry arrives in the port in the Old City itself so to get to say Casa Sarandi a taxi takes 5 minutes. You could also walk in about 30 minutes.
      3. A day and half is really not much and it depends so much on what you like to do. Fortunately Montevideo is smallish and easy to get around. I would recommend you check out my four day plan and choose some things to do that appeal. Also make sure you go out and see some live music – I post my own recommendations on the Guru’Guay Facebook page around midday most days. To have even more ideas, then The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo will give you TONS and you’ll be supporting this site at the same time.
      Hope this helps! All the best – Karen

      Reply
  4. Chris Boyce

    July 2, 2016

    We stayed in neat flat in BA, found one in the old town, what do you think especialy about heat as we come in 15 July
    Muchas Gracias

    Reply

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