Arriving early from the north, I walked from the main bus station directly to the Plaza Independencia, the gateway to the old city of Montevideo. Here, tall palm trees were dwarfed by even taller buildings, some of which are quite interesting. On my left, Palacio Salvo, a unique building with a tower at the corner which is actually wider than the ground level; when it opened in 1927, the tallest building of the continent. At the opposite side of the square, a tall apartment building, which puts you on a wrong foot: it stands right next to the reconstructed old city gate of the old city. In the middle of the square, a larger-than-life statue of Artigas, fighter for Uruguayan independence, on a horse, with his remains in the mausoleum right under the statue. A little off the square, the Teatro Solís, looking almost new but anyway more than 150 years old. One block away: the old city gate, marking the entrance to the old city centre, or Ciudad Vieja.
Here, I started to wonder the narrow streets of the old city. Some are full of traffic, but most are almost dead. I was surprised by the abundance of different architectural styles here: art deco houses rub shoulders with neo-classicist buildings, and then of course there are the colonial style buildings as well. Small shops, with wooden panels all around, and adorned with elegant letter signs, slogans on the walls. Abandoned houses where decay has set in, but also proudly restored houses that are ready for the future. Small squares with statues and palm trees, lacking the grandeur of the Plaza Independencia, but with a much more intimate charm and peace. In the middle of the narrow streets, you might feel enclosed, but at the same time, the Ciudad Vieja was built on a peninsula jotting out into the Río de la Plata, and as such, the water is never far away.
After the hustle of Montevideo, it was nice to walk the quiet parts of the old city, where I barely saw a soul. The scene changed rapidly: I found small colonial houses right next to large, modern-looking buildings dominating some corners of the old city centre. I walked to the north-western side of the Ciudad Vieja, and from there, walked east. Without a map, I was trying to find the Mercado del Puerto, and wondered where it could be, as I did not see anyone around. Suddenly, though, I stumbled upon a square with a building that could only be a market. Inside, under an old wooden clock, I mostly saw parrillas where sausages and various slabs of meat were being fried over fire. After hours of walked the city, I deserved some empanadas; I did not have time for a real meal. From here, I continued cruising the streets of the Ciudad Vieja of Montevideo until my time in the city was up. I had a boat to catch.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Montevideo Old City (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Montevideo Old City.
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