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Where to live in Montevideo, Uruguay

By David Hammond
Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay | image by David Hammond
Which city offers the highest quality of life in South America?

According to Mercer, it's Montevideo, Uruguay.

When you come to Montevideo, you'll find its population of 1.4 million spread across 62 distinct neighborhoods covering more than 200 square kilometers.

So, which Montevideo neighborhoods offer the best quality of life?

My top four picks are...

  • The Pocitos Area--Modern urban living 
  • Carrasco--Upscale and roomy 
  • The Old City and Centro--Historic architecture and cultural events
  • Parque Rodó--A small community with a lot going on

The Pocitos Area - modern urban living

Montevideo's Pocitos Beach | image by David Hammond
The most popular area to live in Montevideo is comprised of three adjoining communities: Pocitos, Punta Carretas, and the west side of Buceo.

These three communities, together, are often referred to as the “Pocitos Area” or “Pocitos”.

In the Pocitos Area you find modern apartment living, convenient shopping, a wide range of cafes and restaurants, and several multiplex theaters.

Let's look at each of these three communities more closely, starting with Pocitos. 

Pocitos
Pocitos
Pocitos is known for its long sand beach on the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver). The community started as an independent town, which eventually merged to become part of Montevideo.

The growth in Pocitos continues by removing single family homes and replacing them with 10-story residential towers. Today, Pocitos is the most densely populated community in Montevideo.

But even though it's built up, Pocitos maintains a neighborly atmosphere. That's because most people in Montevideo do not own cars and do their everyday shopping in the many small neighborhood businesses.

For example, if you live in Pocitos, the chances are good you'll find a small local bakery, produce stand, butcher shop, market, pharmacy, hardware store, and cafe within a 10-minute walk from your apartment. 

And once you've visited a place a few times, people remember you. 

Pocitos Beach and first line apartments | image by David Hammond
In Pocitos, you find apartments in modern buildings (from the 1940s to the present) as well as modern single-family homes.

Note: An "apartment" in Uruguay is the same as a "condominium unit" in the US or Canada. It can be either owner-occupied or rented. 

Apartment lined avenue in Pocitos | image by David Hammond

Punta Carretas

Punta Carretas
Bordering Pocitos on the west, is the Montevideo neighborhood of Punta Carretas, known for it's urban green spaces.

Here you find Parque Villa Biarritz, a spacious park where a farmer's market sets up on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You'll also find a large waterfront park with a lighthouse.

On the west side of Punta Carretas is the Club de Golf del Uruguay, an 18-hole golf course.

Also, in Punta Carretas, you'll find the area's finest shops--many of them in and near the four-level Puntas Cerretas Shopping mall.

North of the mall is a leafy residential neighborhood with many unique restaurants mixed in.

Apartments across the street from Parque Villa Biaritz in Puntas Carretas
image by David Hammond

Buceo
Buceeo

Montevideo World Trade Center
Just east of Pocitos, on the west edge of Buceo, is another shopping mall (Montevideo Shopping).

Near it, is Montevideo's World Trade Center towers and a selection of upscale restaurants and nightspots.

Along the Buceo waterfront, you find a small-boat harbor and a sand beach.

Buceo boat marina | image by David Hammond
Buceo offers a variety of modern apartments and some single-family homes.

First line apartments (across from the street from the coastline) in Buceo
image by David Hammond
Within the Pocitos Area, you find a variety of property types and price ranges--from high-end units overlooking the river to more affordable studios more than six blocks from the shoreline.

Carrasco - upscale and roomy 

Single family homes in Carrasco | image by David Hammond

Carrasco
On the east side of Montevideo is Carrasco, a large upscale community with a long sand beach fronting the Rio de la Plata.

It developed as a beach resort that evolved into an upscale residential community as the city grew.

In Carrasco, you find the city's top private primary and secondary schools and the prestigious Carrasco Lawn Tennis Club.

In the low-density downtown area (on Avenue Alfred Arocena), you find a selection of restaurants with open decks--filled with diners during the spring and summer months.

Most homes are spacious single-family houses set in their own well-groomed yards. You'll also find a selection of roomy apartments in low-rise buildings in low-density neighborhoods.

First line homes and beach in Carrasco | image by David Hammond
East of Carrasco's city limits, you find the Carrasco Polo Club and large private communities with lakefront homes and golf courses.

Ciudad Vieja and Centro - historic architecture and cultural events 

Plaza del Entrevero in Montevideo's Centro (also called Plaza Fabini)
image by David Hammond

Ciudad Vieja
Ciudad Vieja
“Ciudad Vieja” translates to Old City. It's a 8-by-12-block neighborhood, which used too be the entire city of Montevideo when it was founded in 1730.

Here, you find the city's earliest architecture, original plazas, monuments, museums, and art galleries. You also find a broad selection of good restaurants and the city's two large performance theaters: the Solís Theatre and the Sodre.

Throughout Montevideo's history, Ciudad Vieja remains an important business district. It's the location of the Port of Montevideo, the main branches of most banks, and a high concentration of logistic, professional, and financial service offices.

Each weekday, more than 100,000 office workers commute to Ciudad Vieja. 

Aside from theater events and nightclubs on Bartolomé Mitre Street, the nightlife is limited compared to other parts of the Montevideo. Just a few restaurants stay open for dinner--mostly on Ciudad Vieja's east side.

Pedestrian Street in Montevideo's Ciudad Vieja
In other areas of Ciudad Vieja, things are generally quiet, both at night and on weekends. So, if you want to see Ciudad Vieja when it's lively, come during a weekday.

In decades past many vintage buildings in Ciudad Vieja were left empty as the population shifted to new suburbs, like Pocitos.

However, things are changing. And Ciudad Vieja is experiencing a gradual revival as more and more buildings are restored. 

The most popular places to live are units in Ciudad Vieja are in restored apartment buildings on plazas and the Sarandi pedestrian street.

Centro
Centro
Centro was the first addition to Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja.

The architecture in Centro is a mix of Eclectic, Art Deco, and modern.

 Together, Ciudad Vieja and Centro make up Montevideo’s cultural center. It's where you find the largest concentration of professional offices, hotels, live performance theaters, museums, galleries, and tourist attractions. 

Apartments on the main avenue in Centro
image by David Hammond
The most popular places to live in Centro include apartments on high floors on Avenue 18 de Julio near plazas, as well as apartments on streets up to a few blocks south of Av. 18 de Julio.

Centro's Plaza Fabini | image by David Hammond

Parque Rodó - a small community with a lot going on 

Outdoor roller skating rink in the Montevideo community of Parque Rodó
image by David Hammond

Parque Rodó
Parque Rodó is a large park named after José Enrique Rodó, a renowned Uruguayan writer. It's also the name of the small community bordering the park.

It's just northwest of Punta Carretas. However, unlike the Pocitos Area, which started as independent communities, Parque Rodó was a part of the city expansion. So, much of the architecture is older than in Pocitos or Punta Carretas.

In the park, you find monuments, playgrounds, and a pond with paddle boats. Just south of the park is an amusement park, a large amphitheater (Teatro de Verano), a sand beach (Playa Ramírez), and a water-front roller-skating rink.

While most of the city's museums are in Cuidad Vieja, one exception is the impressive National Museum of Visual Arts, located in the Parque Rodó neighborhood.

While Parque Rodó has its own neighborhood attractions, it's also conveniently located between "the old Montevideo" and "the new Montevideo".

360-degree aerial video of Parque Rodo and Ramirez Beach by uruguaydesdeloalto.com

In Parque Rodó you'll find apartments in both pre-modern and modern buildings as well as attached single-family homes.

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