Montevideo’s Old Town is blooming

Ciudad Vieja, the Old Town, is Montevideo's most socio-economically diverse barrio. Check out how neighbours are bringing locals - and visitors - together.
By Karen A Higgs
Montevideo Old City is blooming
Last updated on September 23, 2015
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Ciudad Vieja, the Old Town of Montevideo, or Old City as it is more correctly translated, was once all of Montevideo. But the walls protecting the city came down in 1829 and the city grew and now Ciudad Vieja is just one neighbourhood.

And it remains the most diverse and interesting.

The Old City is full of art galleries, antique shops, auction houses, enchanting book stores, quaint bars, historic cafes and most of the capital’s best restaurants.

And it has one of the most socio-economically diverse populations — the well-off rub shoulders with the poor, bankers with street people — like in no other neighbourhood in Montevideo.

The Old City Blossoms

With these social and economic differences in mind, a group of neighbours of the Old City organise events, especially for young people, to bring together locals—and tourists as well—under the banner Ciudad Vieja Florece, the Old City Blossoms or Flourishes.

This was last weekend’s event which started at midday and went on till 7pm.

It included art-deco arquitecture tours and tango dancing exhibitions in the Colonial Square, chess, art activities and a mobile lending library for little ones, carnival and drumming demonstrations and live music. The neighbours also organised a photography competition which received entries from all over Uruguay.

The live music included local tango star, Monica Navarro.

Live music in the Old Town

 

La Ventolera mix Uruguayan candombe songs and rhythms (check out at candombe drumming) with wind instruments. Most of the players come from classical music backgrounds!

 

Rumberos MVD play salsa and Cuban timba and really got the crowd going. If you are wondering, afro-Uruguayans make up 5% of the population. As I was working the stage area, this little video is an insider’s view!

Dilma Rousseff y Los Ocultistas

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2 Responses

  1. Hello,

    You blog is excellent, full of information. Better then any travel book!

    We are planning to stay in Uruguay for 10 days but it seems to be creeping up and up on us.(we have a very flexible schedual).

    Maybe you could help us out a bit?
    We are planning to spend 2 nights in Colonio, 1 in Montevideo, 2 in Cabo Polonio, 2 in PDD, 2 in La Poloma, and 1 more in Montevideo, in that order. Would you have any suggestions regarding that idea? Maybe spend more time in one place and skip another? Maybe we just need to spend another full week?!

    Thanks so much.

    Brad

    1. Dear Brad, it depends so much on the type of person you are. Though to me what makes Montevideo and Uruguay special is its laid back pace. And your schedule does not look so laidback! If you love the beach and nature, you could definitely spend another full week. I assume you are planning to hire a car. My advice would be to make a base at the beach – maybe Punta del Diablo or La Pedrera, and then visit Cabo Polonio and La Paloma from there. They are all short drives. You cannot take a car into Cabo Polonio, so you could plan on spending a few nights there, leaving the car parked on the highway. Or a day trip there is also nice. Montevideo merits at least 3 nights in my opinion. You don’t say when you are coming. If it is January, Montevideo is very quiet till carnival, but if you arrive once carnival starts, then I’d definitely say three nights. The rest of January, ok, you could get away with one night.. but you’ll just scratch the surface and probably not get the best impression – Montevideo needs a little time… I’d also advise Montevideo ideally on Thursday-Sunday. Hope this helps! My Travel Guide To Montevideo is out later this month! — Karen

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