Plaza Matriz - Montevideo´s first and oldest plaza

Fountain in Plaza Matriz
Like most places in Spanish America, the original development of Montevideo had a central plaza. This first central plaza was established in 1726. It still exists today in Montevideo´s Ciudad Vieja (Old City).

While the official name is Plaza Constitución, it is more commonly known as Plaza Matriz. This is because the plaza was not named after Uruguay's constitution, but after the first (and short lived) Spanish constitution of 1812.

For more than a century Plaza Matriz is where the people of Montevideo assembled for public ceremonies, celebrations, and, at times, public protests. In the 1860s the city expanded and Plaza Matriz was replaced by Plaza Independencia as the new location for state events and ceremonies.

Today, Plaza Matriz is one of the best places to get a sense of Montevideo´s history and culture.

Plaza Matriz taken from a balcony at the Uruguay Club
Plaza Matriz has grass areas, tall trees, benches, and a white marble fountain in the center.

The fountain was built by the private company that installed Montevideo´s first water system. It was designed by Italian architect, John Ferrari. The construction of the fountain was part of the water system construction order. It was inaugurated on July 18th, 1871 along with the City´s new complete water system. 

Left: Steeples of Iglesia Matriz    Right: Sarandí Pedestrian Street
On the west side of Plaza Matriz is Montevideo´s Metropolitan Cathedral, often called Iglesia Matriz, built in 1790. On the east side of Plaza Matriz is Montevideo's original Cabildo (government administration building and court) built in 1804. Today the Cabildo is a municipal museum and historic archives (Note: At the time of writing, this building is closed for tours due to an extensive renovation project underway.) Besides the cathedral and the Cabildo, the plaza is lined by a mix of both historic and modern buildings. 

On the south side of the Plaza is the Sarandí Pedestrian Street, for foot-traffic-only, lined with restaurants, a bank, and government offices. 

Antique and craft fair in Plaza Matriz
Plaza Matriz is a good place to see any time of the year. It is best to visit during the day on weekdays and Saturdays. (This is because the neighborhood is mostly businesses and offices, and is relatively empty at night, and on Sundays.) On most Friday afternoons and Saturdays there is an antique and craft fair set up in the Plaza and on Sarandi Street. 

Outdoor dining on the south side of Plaza Matriz


Explorer said...

When I visited Montevideo earlier this year I had occasion to visit this plaza several times, as I was staying in Ciudad Vieja. It really is a very charming park. At night it is quite empty, but it is very well lit with a very warm glowing yellow lighting - quite enchanting.

Can you tell us what the "Uruguay Club" is, from which one of the pictures was taken?

Thanks for the very nice article.

Paradise Uruguay said...

Thank you for your comment. The Uruguay Club is a private club. I believe its members play bridge and socialize. It has large spaces for dances, weddings, and other events.

I visited the Uruguay Club and got upstairs to take the picture on Dia de Patrimonio - a day when all government buildings and many private businesses in historical buildings are open to the public.

Although lovely as it may be, I do not recommend that people visit this area at night. It is much safer in the day when there are lots of people around.