Living in Montevideo, Uruguay is becoming increasingly popular for expats looking for an urban environment with a year-round menu of dining, entertainment, cultural events, and social opportunities.
However, Montevideo is a big city covering 200 miles with 62 different neighborhoods.
So where do you start when looking for a new place to live in Montevideo?
Below are the areas where most English-speaking expats decide to settle in Uruguay’s capital city: Ciudad Vieja and Centro, the Pocitos area, and Carrasco.
(Before you read on, take a look at the video I shot of the neighborhoods in Montevideo I write about below.)
Living in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old City) and Centro
The two oldest neighborhoods of Montevideo are Ciudad Vieja (Old City) and Centro. Ciudad Vieja was the original city of Montevideo when it was founded in 1730. Centro was the first addition to the Old City in 1861. Ciudad Vieja and Centro are Montevideo’s main business and cultural center. This is where you find historic architecture, the city’s original plazas and public monuments. This is also the location of the most hotels, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, and museums.
Ciudad Vieja has the highest concentration of government, financial, and professional offices in the city. Approximately 100,000 people come to Ciudad Vieja to work on the weekdays, while only 16,000 people live in the area. For this reason, there is very little happening in the evenings and on Sundays. The exception is the east edge of Ciudad Vieja, near Plaza Independencia and the Solis Theater, where there are fine restaurants and popular bars open at night. In Centro there is a lot going on, at night as well as during the day.
The biggest attractions of Ciudad Vieja and Centro for English-speaking expats living in Montevideo is:
- The opportunity to live in a renovated apartment in a historic building—either doing the work themselves or buying one already refurbished
- Being close to the city’s best dining, theater, and other cultural events
- The lowest average rents and property prices of the three areas discussed in this article
Living in Montevideo’s Pocitos area
The Pocitos area is a secondary and more modern city center comprised of the three adjoining residential neighborhoods of Punta Carretas, Pocitos, and Buceo. Outside of Centro, the Pocitos area has the most restaurants, hotels, and nightlife. All three of these communities have unique characteristics, but for the purposes of this overview, we will lump them together.
The attractions of the Pocitos area are:
- The largest selection of apartments to rent and buy in the city
- Two large shopping malls
- Lots of green space including two large parks and an 18-hole golf course
- A long sand beach good for sunbathing, swimming, and beach volleyball in the summer
- The largest community of English speaking expats and other foreigners living in Montevideo
- It’s the safest area in Montevideo
Living in the Montevideo neighborhood of Carrasco
A third area popular with expats is Carrasco. Carrasco is located on the western outskirts of Montevideo. It is different from Centro and Pocitos in that it has a much lower housing density. Most of the homes in Carrasco are large single-family homes and spacious low-rise apartment buildings with large yards. It is near the Carrasco International Airport (Uruguay’s main airport) and Zonamérica (an office park located in a free-trade zone).
The attractions of Carrasco are:
- The availability of large single-family homes on their own large lots in a suburban setting
- A long, wide sandy beach
- A large modern shopping mall and large box-type stores
- A Polo Club, which includes a renowned rugby team, and a lawn Tennis Club
While a part of the greater Montevideo metropolis, Ciudad Vieja, Centro, and the Pocitos neighborhood in the Pocitos area, are comprised of connecting neighborhoods with their own markets, butcher shops, hardware stores, and cafés. Things you need on a regular basis are usually just a short walk from where you live. This lends itself to a type of old-world living where you do not need a car, and you get to know the people who own and operate the small businesses and cafés in your neighborhood.
Ferias: Shopping in Montevideo
Most Montevideo neighborhoods have ferias (fairs). Ferias are farmer’s markets, which are set up once or twice a week. This is where people living in Montevideo get the freshest whole foods at the best prices. Some ferias also have venders selling a variety of goods as well as food. Some of the larger ferias have just about anything you can think of—from clothing to framed prints to hand crafted cookware; it’s all there, usually at below store prices.
Transportation in the City
The large majority of people living in Montevideo do not own a car. When they need to go beyond their own neighborhood, they take the bus or a taxi. There is regular and well routed bus service between all the areas discussed in this article. People from Pocitos regularly come to Centro and Ciudad Vieja for business at government offices, professional appointments, discount shopping, and for a variety of theater, music and cultural events. And people who live in Ciudad Vieja and Centro regularly come to the Pocitos area to go to the mall and the beach during the summer.
There are buses that go all the way across the city connecting Carrasco with the Pocitos area, Centro, and Ciudad Vieja. With that said, Carrasco is much more of a car culture, with the majority of homeowners driving to the places they need to go.
Where to Find the Hospitals
Most hospitals are located between Centro and the Pocitos area. There is regular bus service from the neighborhoods of Pocitos, Puntas Carretas, Centro, and Ciudad Vieja.
Montevideo is known for its good Spanish Language schools. For English-speakers new to living in Montevideo, Spanish lessons are recommended. The Spanish Language schools in Montevideo are in Ciudad Vieja, near the Centro area, and the Pocitos area.
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