Montevideo Free Walking Tour
The Montevideo Free Walking Tour is the best attraction in Montevideo. The tour is fun and informative. The guides are easygoing and friendly. The thing about free tours is that the guides put a real effort to be extra nice to the tourists since they work for tips.
The tour starts at the Independence Square. There’s no need for reservation. You just have to show up. From there you walk around the old city center stopping at the major tourist attractions. The tour starts at 11:00 AM and ends around 02:30 PM.
The Independence Square is the heart of Montevideo, dividing the old city center and the new city center. In the center of the square, it’s the statue of Gen. José Gervasio Artigas, father of Uruguay and hero of its independence movement. The underground mausoleum located beneath the monument displays his ashes.
The square is surrounded by interesting buildings: the Estévez Palace, the Palace of Justice and the Palacio Salvo. The Puerta de la Ciudadela, located behind the Statue of Jose Artigas, is the only thing that remains of the original Spanish citadel. During the times that Montevideo was a Spanish military fortification, the Citadel’s stone walls surrounded all the Old Town.
The Solis Theatre is the oldest theatre in Uruguay, founded in 1856 under the name of the Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis. Guided tours offer an opportunity to visit its beautiful interior without attending a show.
These mysterious colorful tiles keep appearing all over the city center. No one knows who is doing this or why. The locals say that it appears out of nowhere. One day it’s not there and on the next day voilà. Someone must be doing it in the dead of night.
The Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity, popularly known as the English Temple, was built in 1840 at the shore. During the construction of the Rambla, the church had to be relocated to the place it stands now.
The Rambla is the beachside avenue that links all Montevideo’s beaches from east to west. The Avenue is 22km long. During the tour, we visited a viewpoint at the Rambla Sur, in front of the English Temple. Besides tourists and beggars, there were not many people there. A different atmosphere from what I saw at the Rambla in Pocitos and Punta Carretas. I think this part of the Rambla is in desperate need of renovation.
Montevideo is located where the Rio de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean. Walking at the Rambla you may notice that the color of the water changes as you walk. The brown river water is mixed with the green ocean water. Sometimes the water looks green like the sea, other times it looks brown like the river. In special occasions, the water is a little bit of both, and you can see the portions of green and brown water.
The Constitution Square
The Constitution square, or Plaza Matriz, was the biggest square of the old Spanish citadel. It’s a charming square with a beautiful fountain in the center surrounded by antique sellers on the streets. Facing the square stands the Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, also called the Iglesia Matriz. On the opposite side of the square is the Museum El Cabildo and Club Uruguay.
The Iglesia Matriz is Montevideo’s oldest public building, dating from 1799. It was the only building we had time to look inside during the tour. After that, the guide pointed us to the best dulce de leche ice cream in town and gave us time to buy some.
The Sarandi Pedestrian Street
This is the main pedestrian street of the Old City crossing it from the Puerta de la Ciudadela to the Rambla. It’s a lively shopping street frequented by tourists and locals alike. The street is full of shops, art galleries, and street vendors. It’s a good place to buy a souvenir.
The Zabala Square
This square is dedicated to Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, who founded Montevideo in 1724. This is a quiet place with no street vendors, where kids come to play, and the locals come to relax on the benches under the trees.
Facing the square is the Palacio Taranco which houses the Museum of Decorative Arts. The palace was designed by the same French architects who designed the Petit Palais and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Charles Louis Girault and Jules Chifflot León.
The Republic Bank
The headquarters of Uruguay most important bank is grandiose, but it could use some renovation. The neoclassical building was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Veltroni. The sculptures of its facade are the work of Uruguayan sculptor Juan Zorrilla de San Martín.
The Port Market
The last stop of the tour is the Port Market or the Mercado del Puerto. We said goodbye to our wonderful guide after she showed us some good places to eat. We were all starving after more than three hours of walking.
Inside the market, the grills are covered with all kinds of meat. The air is full of smoke and the smell of barbecue. The waiters run like crazy everywhere to serve the customers. There are some tables, but people prefer to sit on the benches facing the grill, immersing themselves in the smoke. The market is full of tourists that come to taste the authentic Uruguayan parrilla. It’s a chaotic place to eat.
For a more sophisticated and calm atmosphere, the restaurant El Palenque is a better option. They have tables outside the market so you can enjoy the fresh air. The service is outstanding, and the food is delicious. Here I ate the best steak of my life! Before you leave, don’t forget to buy some Empanadas to take away for later.