Uruguay may be small but it’s still packed with culture, history, and activities. You’ll find most of the action in the capital of Montevideo, which is home to castles, museums, art galleries, parks, and wineries. Here’s how to make the most of three days in Montevideo.
Day 1: Discover the Historic Center
Plaza Independencia is the gateway to the city; its home to both the Estévez Palace; Executive Tower; Solis Theater; Palacio Salvo; and a statue of José Gervasio Artigas, Uruguay’s national hero. Also nearby is the Old Town, home to historic buildings, cobbled streets, and Mercado del Puerto, a great spot for lunch. Visit all of these must-see attractions and more on a tour that transports you by bus, bike, or foot—tours ensure you don’t miss out on important historical and cultural context, while some private tours can be specially tailored to your particular interests. Another good option for independent travelers is a hop-on hop-off bus tour, which allows you to create your own sightseeing itinerary.
In the evening, soak up the culture of Uruguay’s most famous export, tango, with a dinner-and-show package. Opting for a combo bundle saves you the hassle of making separate reservations.
Day 2: Discover the Region’s wine country
Long in the shadow of its Argentine neighbors, Uruguayan wine is gaining popularity. Learn more about Tannat wine and sample varietals you may not have heard of on a tour of a family-run winery. You can also visit Bodega Bouza—a French chateau-style winery built in 1942 that offers wine tasting accompanied by cold meats and cheeses—which is home to a classic car collection. A little farther north, in Canelones, you’ll find the well-known wineries of Ariano Hermanos and Juanico Winery, one of the country’s largest wineries. Some guided tours from Montevideo visit more than one winery and include lunch for a great value package. Taking a tour lets you avoid the hassle of driving, leaving you free to indulge in great wine.
Day 3: Explore Punta del Este
On your third day, swap the city streets for the glitzy coastal resort town of Punta del Este, which is a scenic 2-hour drive east. Day trips from Montevideo typically cover the Mediterranean-style villa and art gallery of Casa Pueblo, which was designed by Uruguayan painter and sculpture Carlos Páez Vilaró; the fishing town of La Barra del Maldonado; and the beaches of Playa Mansa and Playa Brava—the latter best-known for its famous sculpture, by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázaba, of five fingers emerging from the sand. Day tours from Montevideo typically include hotel pickup and drop-off, and let you skip the hassle of navigation and car hire.
Back in the capital, head back to Ciudad Vieja for dinner. Options include Café Brasilero, which has been serving meals since 1887, and La Pasionaria, a clothing and arts and crafts store with attached café known for its vegetarian and vegan dishes.