Exploring Montevideo

In Travel Guides
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Palacio SalvoRambla Pocitos„What do you think is the best thing about your country?“ 

All of my Uruguayan friends have replied this question in the same way. The capital- Montevideo.
Montevideo. It is clear to me that a lot of people don´t even know about its existence. Because of my huge interest in South America, I am aware of it since my childhood. However, for a very long time it represented for me only the city with a strange name (it includes the word „video“) at the sea between Brazil and Argentina. Easily searchable in the map, just in front of Buenos Aires on the other side of the bay.
Now I know not only that it has nothing to do with videos and that it is not located directly at the sea but at Rio de la Plata (the estuary of the rivers Uruguay and Paraná to the sea) but also a loooot of other things.
Firstly, Montevideo is a very special city. It represents the best of the country for Uruguayans, a sort of oasis of peace and progress for people from other South American states, (…) for tourists. What can be written in the (…)?
Let´s see what does this city offer.

1. Rambla

If you ask me, and also anyone else interested, what is the best thing about Montevideo, you get the same answer: la rambla. Montevideo posses several beaches. Well, they are certainly not the best city beaches, that you have ever seen. Neither Copacabana, nor Barceloneta. But what is perfect about these beaches is the fact that they are lined with cute paths from which you can fully enjoy the gorgeous sunset without getting dirty from sand. La rambla represents the main local sporting facility – for runners, cyclists, and skaters, perfect romantic place for a date or a meeting point to have „maté“ with friends. This point can therefore be concluded with the sentence: “Definitely don´t forget to go there during your Montevideo visit”.

2. Old Town

The old town of Montevideo is a quite narrow term. The most important square of Montevideo – Plaza Independencia– can be considered for its dominant. It separates the downtown from the old town. This square offers several attractions. The first of them is Palacio Salvo, nice tall building with a tower, which is in my opinion after „Casa Pueblo“ in the town called Punta del Este the second most photographed building in the country. Another prominent feature of the square is the statue and the Mausoleum of General Gervasio Artigas. Artigas liberated Uruguay and Paraguay from the Spanish colonial rule. And Uruguayans are really grateful for it. Only few things in Montevideo are not named after Artigas. And even when my friend jokingly claimed talking to an Uruguayan boy that her name is “Kashe Artigas” (street Artigas in the Uruguayan Spanish), he didn´t find it strange.
The third thing you can see in this square are museums. I think it was the museum of presidents and the museum of the flag. Now I will change the topic for a moment. But..
Spending two months in Montevideo, me and my friend wanted to get to know the culture and history of the Uruguayan nation as much as possible- we visited: not only the two above mentioned museums, but also the museum of the Uruguayan currency, gauchos (very simplified – something like Uruguayan Indians), pre- Columbian civilizations, the gallery of the painter Juan Manuel Blanes, the museum of modern arts , the Artigas mausoleum, took a guide tour in the Solís Theatre,… and Montevideo has become the city with the most museums I have ever visited …
Back to the square. The last thing you will find on this square, is the official gateway to the Old Town- Ciudadela. Behind it, after passing lane with a few street vendors (although it could seem so, not all of them sell marijuana) you will find one more nice square with a huge church- Plaza España.
Except of these two squares and some main streets, you can see some interesting buildings in the Old Town: the National Bank, the pre- Columbian civilizations museum, Mercado del Puerto. Mercado del Puerto – a big indoor area with dozens of traditional restaurants – is a place definitely worth of visiting.

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3. Carnival

Unfortunately, I have not experienced it, but I am sure it is great. And I will share with you at least what I know from the Internet: the Uruguayan carnival has one specialty – musical theatre called Murga.

4. MERCOSUR

Do you belong among students of international relations or other fools who visit Brussels just to see the buildings of the European Union and NATO, or cannot miss the building of the United Nations visiting Manhattan? In Montevideo you will be satisfied. It houses Mercosur, the Common Market of the South, which seat occupies a very strategic position next to the park Rodó right at the beach.

5. Japanese Garden and Gallery Blanes

Jardín Japonés is a kind of imitation of Japanese landscaping. A quite nice park and gallery of the perhaps most important Uruguayan painter Juan Manuel Blanes are located next to it. Although Blanes belongs to the school of realism, which is not really my style, I liked the gallery very much. At the same time, also the exhibition of the world-famous Colombian painter Fernando Botero was taking place there, what pleased me a lot. If you should choose only one museum to see in Montevideo, I think that the Museo Blanes is the right option.

6. Intendencia Montevideo

I was living in front of Intendencia for two weeks. What could I say about it? Probably, the view from its top is definitely better than its architecture.         La Intendencia de Montevideo also known as Palacio Municipal is a bit functionalist-looking building with the role of the municipal office. And because it is very high and offers an excellent view of the city, I definitely recommend to reach its top.
PS: The list is not ordered from the best to the worst, but depending on what and when has come to my mind.

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