As you sail on an MSC cruise to South America, Montevideo is the port for you. Founded in 1726 as a fortress against Portuguese encroachment on the northern shore of the Río de la Plata, it had an excellent trading position and, following a turbulent and often violent early history, its growth was rapid.
A shore excursion on your MSC South America cruise can be the opportunity to discover Montevideo. It may appear humble at first, but this is a seriously cool, confident city. If you’ve ever seen a fictionalized version of Havana on TV or film, it’s quite possible it was actually shot in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja, so reminiscent are its streets of those in the Cuban capital.
Dotted among the crumbling houses and cobbled streets are endearingly bizarre (and mostly free) museums and galleries, while the highlight is the glorious Mercado del Puerto. A good place to start a walking tour of the Ciudad Vieja is the Puerta de la Ciudadela, dating to 1746, marking the original site of the Citadel of Montevideo on the Plaza Independencia.
This square commemorates the emergence of Uruguay as a sovereign nation, and a 17m-high statue and mausoleum of José Artigas, the man credited with kick-starting Uruguay’s independence campaign against Spain and Portugal, stands aptly in the centre.
The area around the plaza contains eclectic architectural styles from different periods, from the Torre Ejecutiva where the president performs his duties, to the bulbous tower of the Palacio Salvo, built on the reported site of the first ever performance of tango. Tucked behind the plaza’s south-western corner is the celebrated Teatro Solís, the most prestigious theatre in the country, completed in 1856 and remodelled a few times thereafter.