Uruguay is a Cultural Well Kept Secret
Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo may not be an internationally renowned hotspot for tourism, but what it lacks in name recognition, it makes up for in charm. Considering the country was discovered by the Europeans in 1516 and the capital wasn’t founded until 1726, the relatively short history and rich cultural heritage are well-represented in Montevideo’s many museums, architecture and neighborhoods.
While the best time to visit Uruguay is undeniably during their summer months of November to February, an enjoyable trip can be had any time of the year. A beach vacation (or an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming in the chilly Atlantic) might not be as desirable in winter, however there are plenty of cultural sites, outdoor activities and opportunities for adventure during any season. If business takes you to Uruguay and you find yourself wondering what there is to do, here is a list of great things to keep you busy in South America’s smallest country.
Begin in Montevideo. Explore the beautiful neighborhood of Ciudad Vieja on foot. This oldest part of the city is known for the Citadel Gate (Puerta de la Ciudadela), pictured left, which is the last remaining piece of the wall that once surrounded the city, and Plaza Independencia, the most important square which connects Ciudad Vieja with downtown Montevideo.
The Tango Museum of Montevideo, dedicated to the history of Uruguay’s fascination with Tango-dancing, is located on the ground floor of the beautiful Palacio Salvo, pictured left. While here, take time to appreciate the building’s stunning architecture. Built in 1928 and standing at 330 feet high (with the antenna), this was once the tallest building in Latin America.
Also, in Montevideo, visit the Palacio Legislativo, which is made from almost 30 different types and colors of marble and was completed in 1925. It is still the meeting place of the General Assembly of Uruguay and home to their legislative branch of government. The best of Uruguay’s gastronomy can be found in the Mercado del Puerto. Located near the harbor, this large market offers a feast to the senses. Breathe in mouth-watering savory aromas and see chefs preparing food on open fires throughout the building. Chock full of restaurants, choose one (or four!) to give your taste buds the treat they’ve been begging for. Stroll through the popular Parque Rodó. It is home to the National Museum of Visual Arts and a little vintage amusement park. Carrasco Beach is not only a fabulous choice for a sunny beach day, but it is also a beautiful place to visit year-round. Set in the most affluent area of the city, this is a fabulous place for a nice walk.
Looking for something to do on a Sunday evening? Joventango offers a café-concert with a dance show and live music, followed by open dancing (known as tango milonga).
Relax in mineral-rich hot springs. Take an overnight trip to visit the Daymán Municipal Thermal Park. Located about 300 miles north of Montevideo, this establishment consists of seven pools plus some dedicated to children. You can either drive or easily take a bus from Montevideo. This is a budget traveler’s dream. If money isn’t an issue, the nearby Altos del Arapey is a true 5-star resort hotel with its own thermal pools, spa, and an 18-hole golf course. Expensive for the area, the rates are rather good by American standards.
Other interesting and fun things to do around Uruguay include spotting sea lions in Cabo Polonio, taking a whale-watching excursion, and hiking in one of the many parks.
Whatever you do, do not leave Uruguay without trying chivito. As the national dish of Uruguay, it can be found just about everywhere. This delicious sandwich of tender churrasco (beef steak) along with mozzarella, mayo, tomatoes, olives, bacon, eggs and ham all served on a bun, is delicious. See for yourself why it is so popular!
For dessert, try arroz con leche rice pudding. Warm or cold, this comforting sweet treat will have you coming back for more. If this is the case, here is a recipe to make it for yourself!
4 ¼ cups milk
½ cup of white rice
2 egg yolks
8 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Rinse rice with cold water in a colander.
Place the rice in a saucepan, add milk, vanilla and half the sugar. Heat on high until boiling, reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked.
While the rice is simmering, beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar.
Remove saucepan from heat and stir the mixture of egg yolk and sugar into the rice.
Add in some cinnamon, honey, or chocolate, if desired.
Serve warm or cold.
By Lisa Osborne Blalock
Footloose Travel & Tours