Written by Kieran Proctor

48 Hours Exploring Montevideo Uruguay

Exploring Montevideo should be on every travelers list, when visiting either Buenos Aires Argentina or Colonia Del Sacramento Uruguay. With ...

Exploring Montevideo should be on every travelers list, when visiting either Buenos Aires Argentina or Colonia Del Sacramento Uruguay.

With only a weekend to spare in your itinerary, you can explore the often overlooked gem that is Montevideo. Here’s what I do whenever I visit Montevideo and what you can experience, in just 48 hours exploring Montevideo.

How To Get To Montevideo

Other than by air, there are two main routes to Montevideo. For those coming from Colonia Del Sacramento, it鈥檚 a two hour bus ride. Buses run every 30-60minutes from Colonia to Terminal Tres Cruces in Montevideo.

For those coming from Buenos Aires as part of a weekend getaway or visa run, there is the Terminal Buquebus in Puerto Madero. The Buquebus is a large high speed catamaran that takes a little less than 2 hours to reach Montevideo.

If like me you can鈥檛 be bothered with bureaucracy and paperwork, a trip to Uruguay on the Buquebus is the easiest method to renew your tourist visa for Argentina.

Return packages are available with onward travel to Colonia by bus, for those looking to spend longer in Uruguay and to see more, before returning to Buenos Aires.

Currency In Montevideo Uruguay

Uruguay鈥檚 currency is the Uruguayan Peso. If you are traveling to Uruguay from Argentina with its hyper inflation, you may be surprised by prices. You will get a lot of Uruguayan Peso for your USD or other home currency. But the underlying costs in Uruguay are significantly higher than Argentina.

Compared to Uruguay, everything in Argentina is a fire sale. For those travelers from the US, Canada or Australia, daily costs in Uruguay are about the same as Australia or cheaper cities in the US. There is no unofficial exchange rate, black market currency or dollar blue in Uruguay. The rates found on can be used as a guide.

Because there is no unofficial exchange rate or d贸lar blue in Uruguay, you should avoid using private money changers and currency exchange shops in Uruguay. And instead, use Banco Rep煤blica for cash withdrawals and something like a Wise debit card for your tap and go payments.

ATM鈥檚 will dispense Uruguayan Peso and USD in Uruguay. Banco Rep煤blica will be the best for foreigners looking to withdraw cash. It has no ATM or exchange fees for most travelers. Banks such as Rio Santander will charge largish ATM fees and give lesser exchange rates. For Australians like me, Banco Rep煤blica is definitely your best option for cash withdrawals while in Uruguay.

Where To Stay In Montevideo

The selection of Airbnb accommodation available in Montevideo is underwhelming. This is the same in Colonia Del Sacramento and most parts of Uruguay. In Uruguay, hotels are more often the better choice.

When choosing where to stay in Montevideo, I would recommend staying close to the centre of the city. The suburb of Centro close to Independence Square, is your best option for sightseeing. Because the bulk of the museums you outlined below, can be visited on foot.

The ‘Smart Hotel‘ is conveniently located in Centro. I’ve personally stayed here a couple of times now and I recommend it as an option. It’s my own first choice whenever I’m visiting Montevideo. The Smart Hotel has amazing sunset views out over the city, from its rooftop terrace.

The areas around Punta Carretas and Pocitos are also nice, with easy access to beaches and shopping malls. Though these areas are more suburban, with a smattering of foreign embassies. If you’re staying in Punta Carretas or Pocitos, you will need to budget for transport to and from Centro for sightseeing.

If you’re planning to stay a while in Montevideo, then Punta Carretas and Pocitos are the places to go on a weekend. As Centro and Ciudad Vieja (Old City) become ghost towns on the weekends.

Oddities In Montevideo

The aspect of Montevideo that seems to catch tourists off guard, is the way in which Montevideo empties on a weekend. Areas of the city such as Centro and Ciudad Vieja, that are normally packed full of people on a weekday, are completely devoid of life on a weekend. Even the street dogs vanish from the streets on a weekend.

On weekends the local Uruguayans flock to beaches, shopping malls and barbecues. They abandon the city in droves. For tourists wanting to avoid crowds, this makes the weekend a great time to explore the city and old town free of hindrance.

Some museums are closed on Saturdays and all are closed on Sundays. So, you should plan your museum visits ahead of time, if you’ll be exploring the city on a weekend.

Attractions In Montevideo Uruguay

For Argentinians visiting Uruguay, the major attractions seem to be Uruguay’s beaches and shopping malls. For everyone else, the main attractions are the country’s history and art.

The beaches in Uruguay, due to its location on the Ri贸 de La Plata, are brown. There are no white sandy beaches with crystal clear water in Uruguay. Just yellow sand with brown water.

The shopping malls in Uruguay are the same as those from Australia, the US or Europe. The shops in Uruguay are also priced the same as Australia, the US or Europe.

Stopping for lunch at a beachside restaurant, or grabbing a coffee on a weekend from outlets in or near a mall, is sufficient for most tourists to experience Uruguayan malls and beaches. Instead, time is better spent exploring Montevideo by wandering around Centro and visiting all its fabulous museums.

Some museums worth visiting are:

Museo del Autom贸vil Eduardo Inglesias

My personal favorite museum, was the Museo del Autom贸vil Edward Inglesias. Its home to a huge collection of classic cars.

Museo Hist贸rico Cabildo De Montevideo

My second favorite museum to explore in Montevideo, is the Museo Hist贸rico Cabildo de Montevideo. This museum documents the Uruguayan constitution and the history of Uruguay as a nation.

Pre-Columbian And Indigenous Art Museum

When I visited the Pre-Columbian and Indigenous Art Museum, it was running exhibits of Australian indigenous art. This was in part thanks to a grant from DFAT. As an Australian, it was an odd experience to see Australian art in a gallery in Uruguay, that I’d visited to see Uruguayan art.

Museo De Historia Del Arte

The Museo de Historia del Arte is one to visit if you have time. But this museum shouldn’t be a priority, as most of the works are cast copies of works held elsewhere in the world.

In between the replicas at Museo de Historia del Arte, you’ll find items donated to the museum. Such as the collection from Iran, donated by an ‘esteemed benefactor’ in order to get his name on the wall. Unfortunately for the museum, what this benefactor has donated came from an airport gift shop in Iran and the museum staff haven’t realized.

Museo Andes 1972

The Museo Andes 1972 is a privately owned museum that documents the Uruguayan Airforce flight 571 that crashed in the Andes in 1972, with a Uruguayan rugby team onboard. The museum has a lot of artefacts from the crash and those made by survivors during their ordeal.

The owner, J枚rg P. A. Thomsen, is also a very interesting chap. He reminds me of a very particular breed of government officer.

Things To Do In Montevideo Uruguay With 48 Hours?

With 48hrs in Montevideo, it’s possible to see 3-6 museums without rushing. As each museum takes about 2hrs to see in full. Most museums and tourists attractions don’t require much effort to explore in Montevideo.

When charting a course between museums you should stop off at the Plaza Independencia and Puerta de la Ciudadela. There is also a great coffee shop at Palacio Salvo, along with a tango museum and a set of wrought iron sculptures outside.

For lunch, the restaurants in Punta Carretas and Pocitos are your best options. For dinner, the restaurants near to the Buquebus terminal in the tip of Ciudad Vieja are a great choice.

When in Ciudad Vieja, you’ll find that there are a lot of really interesting street art murals tucked away in all the side streets. And it’s worth venturing off the main thoroughfare to explore. Some of the murals are incredibly intricate and all are worth admiring.

On sunset or after dinner, you should take a stroll along Montevideo’s miles long waterfront promenade that rivals Cuba‘s Malecon. The locals begin gathering along the waterfront in the early afternoon, to drink mat茅 and watch the sunset.

As in most countries, one of my favorite things to do is to just go for a stroll in the late afternoon or early evening and watch as the city lights up. Wandering along the waterfront and listening to the waves crash into the seawall, is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon in Montevideo.

If you would like to see more of Uruguay, you can check out our article on exploring Colonia Del Sacramento Uruguay or view the Uruguay archive. And if you’re planning to take the Buquebus across to visit Buenos Aires, read my Buenos Aires City Guide.

A walking tour of Montevideo Uruguay that I filmed in 2023.