Montevideo is frequently rated as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. Uruguay, the smallest of the South American nations, is the most progressive. In 2013, Uruguay was the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, and homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1934.
The capital city of Montevideo is a great change of pace from speed that life goes by in other major South American cities.
This Latin city should be on every Gay Travelers bucket List!
A little about Montevideo
In 2016, it was classified as a beta global city ranking eighth in Latin America and 78th in the world. Described as a “vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life”, and “a thriving tech center and entrepreneurial culture”, Montevideo ranks 8th in Latin America on the 2013 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index. In 2014, it was also regarded as the 5th most gay-friendly metropolis in the world, first in Latin America. It is the hub of commerce and higher education in Uruguay as well as its chief port. The city is also the financial and cultural hub of a larger metropolitan area, with a population of around 2 million.
Montevideo enjoys a mild humid subtropical climate. The city has cool winters (June to September), hot summers (December to March) and volatile springs (October and November); there are numerous thunderstorms but no tropical cyclones. Rainfall is regular and evenly spread throughout the year.
Winters are generally wet, windy and overcast, while summers are hot and humid with relatively little wind. In winter there are bursts of icy and relatively dry winds and continental polar air masses, giving an unpleasant chilly feeling to the everyday life of the city. In the summer, a moderate wind often blows from the sea in the evenings which has a pleasant cooling effect on the city, in contrast to the unbearable summer heat of Buenos Aires.
Montevideo has an annual average temperature of 16.7 °C (62.1 °F). The lowest recorded temperature is −5.6 °C (21.9 °F) while the highest is 42.8 °C (109.0 °F). Sleet is a frequent winter occurrence. Snowfall is extremely rare: flurries have been recorded only four times but with no accumulation.
As of 2010, the city of Montevideo has been divided into 8 political municipalities (Municipios), referred to with the letters from A to G, including CH, each presided over by a mayor elected by the citizens registered in the constituency. This division, according to the Municipality of Montevideo, “aims to advance political and administrative decentralization in the department of Montevideo, with the aim of deepening the democratic participation of citizens in governance. The head of each Municipio is called an alcalde or (if female) alcaldesa.
Of much greater importance is the division of the city into 62 barrios: neighbourhoods or wards. Each barrio has its own identity, geographic location and socio-cultural activities. A neighbourhood of great significance is Ciudad Vieja, that was surrounded by a protective wall until 1829. This area contains most important buildings of the colonial era and early decades of independence.
Ciudad Vieja- The Old City
Ciudad Vieja was the earliest part of the city to be developed and today it constitutes a prominent barrio of southwest Montevideo. It contains many colonial buildings and national heritage sites, but also many banks, administrative offices, museums, art galleries, cultural institutions, restaurants and night-clubs, making it vibrant with life. Its northern coast is the main port of Uruguay, one of the few deep-draft ports in the Southern Cone of South America.
The Museums of Montevideo
The Montevideo Cabildo is the Museum of Decorative Arts of Montevideo and in 1975 it became a National Heritage Site.
The National History Museum of Montevideo is located in the historical residence of General Fructuoso Rivera. The Historical Museum has annexed eight historical houses in the city, five of which are located in the Ciudad Vieja.
The Museo Torres García is located in the Old Town, and exhibits Joaquín Torres García’s unusual portraits of historical icons and cubist paintings akin to those of Picasso and Braque.
There are several other important art museums in Montevideo. The National Museum of Visual Artsin Parque Rodó has Uruguay’s largest collection of paintings. The Juan Manuel Blanes Museum was founded in 1930, the 100th anniversary of the first Constitution of Uruguay,
….and many more. Montevideo has a very rich architectural heritage and an impressive number of writers, artists, and musicians.
Rambla of Montevideo
The Rambla is an avenue that goes along the entire coastline of Montevideo. The literal meaning of the Spanish word rambla is “avenue” or “watercourse”, but in the Americas it is mostly used as “coastal avenue”, and since all the southern departments of Uruguay border either the Río de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean, they all have ramblas as well. As an integral part of Montevidean identity, the Rambla has been included by Uruguay in the Indicative List of World Heritage sites, though it has not received this status. Previously, the entire Rambla was called Rambla Naciones Unidas (“United Nations”), but in recent times different names have been given to specific parts of it.
The Beaches of Montevideo
The Rambla is a very important site for recreation and leisure in Montevideo. Every day, a large number of people go there to take long strolls, jog, bicycle, roller skate, fish and even—in a special area—skateboard. Its 27-kilometre (17 mi) length makes it one of the longest esplanades in the world. Montevideo is noted for its beaches, which are particularly important because 60% of the population spends the summer in the city. Its best known beaches are Ramírez, Pocitos, Carrasco, Buceoand Malvín. Further east and west are other beaches including the Colorada, Punta Espinillo, Punta Yeguas, Zabala and Santa Catarina.
In 2005, the capital Montevideo became one of the few cities in the world to have a homomonument – a rose-colored granite in the shape of a triangle inscribed with the words: “To Honour Diversity is to Honor Life”. It’s tucked in a little plaza in the Old City of Montevideo (though the plaza is miserable and deserves a good make-over).
As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is home to a number of festivals and carnivals including a Gaucho festival when people ride through the streets on horseback in traditional gaucho gear. The major annual festival is the annual Montevideo Carnaval which is part of the national festival of Carnival Week.
Montevideo Pride – last Friday of September
It feels in keeping with Uruguayans’ lack of frivolity where politics and social justice is concerned, that Montevideo’s Pride is currently known as the Diversity March and takes place in the mercilessly cold month of September (ok, I exaggerate but you should be aware that September is winter in Uruguay).
The march –known as the Marcha por la Diversidad in Spanish– starts at the Plaza de Independencia and ends on the steps of the Intendencia of Montevideo. It’s held annually on the last Friday of September.
I remember joining the march around 2001 and we were a few hundred souls. Even ten years ago, marchers numbered less than a thousand. However the last decade has seen significant changes and when Uruguay become the first country in Latin America to pass marriage equality laws in 2013, the 2014 march was the most numerous ever with an estimated 30,000 attendees from all walks of life. It was something else.
This gay-friendly city has a relatively small number of gay bars and clubs making it easy to navigate for first-time visitors.
Be aware that nightlife starts very late in Montevideo. Doors may may not even be open at 11:30PM. Start the night like a true Uruguayan with a late dinner at any of Montevideo’s gay-friendly restaurants; many of them stay open until midnight or 1AM. If you have time to kill between dinner and the club of your choice, you can try Small Club. Known as a previa (pre-club before the main attraction) Small Club has drinks, various locations to mix and mingle, and live performances.
This capital city, Montevideo, is surprisingly easy to navigate. The city shoulders the coastline of the Rio de la Plata, and a 14 mile long stretch of waterfront (known as La Rambla) connects six neighborhoods of interest to gay travelers: Ciudad Vieja, Centro, Palermo, Punta Carretas, Parque Rodo, and Playa Pocitos.
The following is a short list of gay-friendly places to stay with easy access to museums, restaurants, and nightlife. Contrary to the stereotype of homophobic machismo, Uruguay is famous for its live-and-let-live attitudes.
Gay Friendly Resturants & Cafes
There is a huge Italian influence. Beef is plentiful. And the dinner hour starts at 8PM and extends well into the night.
Many of the gay-friendly food destinations in Montevideo include some of the city’s best fine dining establishments and simple places to grab a chivito, the big-and-tasty national sandwich of Uruguay.
Punta Del-Este – Uruguay
A must see if your traveling to Uruguay. It’s well worth your time, to take this excursion. With its many beaches, elegant seaside homes, yacht harbor, high-rise apartment buildings, pricey hotels and glitzy restaurants – Punta del Este is one of South America’s most glamorous resorts and easily the most expensive place in Uruguay. Extremely popular with Argentines and Brazilians, Punta suffered a period of decline during the Uruguayan and Argentine recessions, but has come back with a vengeance.
Punta del Este’s scenic coastline is divided into two regions: Brava (Spanish for “fierce”) and Mansa (Spanish for “tame”). The limit between the two marks the end of the Río de la Plata and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean, and split is signaled by the Mano de Punta del Este, which the sculptor designed to warn swimmers about the danger of rough waves. Beaches on the Mansa side feature thick and golden sand, while on the Brava side the sand is white and fine. Every beach of the peninsula has public access.
For Gay Travelers
Playa Chihuahua is where the boys are … and a large section of it is “clothing optional.” Chihuahua is about 20 minutes away by car from Playas Brava and Mansa and offers a great escape from the frenetic shopping and tourist activity of Punta.