Our next stop in Uruguay was the capital, Montevideo. Arriving at the bus station, our initial impression of the city was that it looked a little rough around the edges – even more so than Buenos Aires. The rainy grey weather most likely didn’t help but the impression stuck – Montevideo looked like a tired, run-down city.
For lunch on our first day we visited Mercado del Puerto, which you could smell long before you arrived. Vegetarians and the faint of heart beware. The market is basically a huge building filled with different parrillas with open grills, piled high with various types and cuts of meat, all vying for your business. We picked a random parrilla, sat at the counter close enough to feel the heat from the flames and watched the chef do his thing with an impressive amount of meat on the go. We weren’t sure if it was a tourist trap or not but we both agreed – it was the tastiest meat we’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately we enjoyed it so much we didn’t stop to get a photo…
With the weather a bit hit and miss, we did have one sunny day between the grey and wet which enabled us to jump on a bus and visit the beach suburb of Pocito. It was a really nice way to pass a few hours, and we enjoyed walking up the beachfront, watching the locals enjoying the sun sipping on their mate and the men fishing off the jetty, more than being in the centre of the city. Pocito is only a 15 minute bus ride from the centre of town and if we did end up back in this part of Uruguay, we would definitely stay here over central Montevideo.
It’s hard to be negative about a place and it’s important to clarify – this is our opinion only based on our short time here. Some places you love straight away, others take time to grow on you but you leave impressed, and others – well, it’s just not meant to be. And that’s how we felt about Montevideo – we can’t honestly say we enjoyed our time there. Maybe it was because we had read so many recent stories about the increase in petty street crime against tourists but something about it didn’t quite feel right. We stayed in the centre of town in a ‘nice’ part of the city but we constantly felt like we had to be on our guard, looking over our shoulders. And we have traveled quite a lot and don’t scare very easily. We have met a lot of people who really enjoyed Montevideo, so again, this is our opinion only based on our time there.
Since we left, we read that the local council have also been concerned about the rise in crime and in late 2013 over 100 CCTV cameras were installed throughout Montevideo, and they can now be seen throughout the city. Obviously this doesn’t put an end to the problem but will help in making the streets safer.
To end on a positive note – we’ve read a lot of great articles about the President of Uruguay, José Mujica – this one is my favourite if you’re interested. A politician with modern views who donates most of his salary, lives in a modest home and still drives around in his old VW is something Uruguay should be proud of.
A bit more:
When we visited: 3 nights early Feb 2014.
How we got here: 4 hour bus from Colonia del Sacramento
Where we stayed: Hotel Iberia. Nice place with lovely staff. We weren’t 100% comfortable in the location but it was very central if thats what you’re looking for.
Food & Drink recommendations: If meat is your thing, the Mercado is worth a visit.