These sister cities are only separated by a 3 hour ferry ride and share a lot of the same customs. Montevideo might suffer a bit from being overshadowed by it’s more popular and larger city but they’re both fantastically inviting and easy to get to. If you’re in one of these cities, visiting the other is so easy it’s basically a must. Here’s a 7 day itinerary to help plan your trip.
- Day 1 – Arrive in Buenos Aires
- Day 2 – Recoleta, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Teatro Coliseo
- Day 3 – La Boca
- Day 4 – Colonia del Sacramento
- Day 5 – Montevideo’s Old Town
- Day 6 – Beaches and Parque Rodo
- Day 7 – On to your next adventure!
Day 1 – Arrive in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has the larger airport so thus it’s easier to get to. Wherever you’re departing, you’ll have more options flying into Buenos Aires than to Montevideo.
Buenos Aires has two major airports. EZE and AEP. EZE is the major international airport and the airport you’ll more than likely fly into. AEP is basically a domestic airport and is much smaller but is located much closer to the city center.
Getting from either airport to the city is simple. Both airports have set up a taxi kiosk where you can choose your destination, be told the amount up front, and then driven to your destination. When you pick your destination, if your hotel doesn’t come up, you can just choose the nearest hotel or attraction. Once you choose your destination, a ticket will print out and you just walk out the doors with your ticket and wait in line. There will be a line of taxis there and you’ll be told which taxi to get in by someone working the stand. Just know that you’ll need to have cash to pay the taxi. Many taxis won’t take card payments or they may add a fee to use your card so make sure you go to the ATM before you get your taxi ticket.
In choosing your hotel or location to stay, I’d recommend staying more in the northern part of the city vs. the southern part. Although I didn’t feel uncomfortable walking around at night near my hotel, I was certainly warned to limit my time at night and definitely warned to avoid certain areas. The further south you go, the less desirable the neighborhood. You’ll probably want to stay more in the northern part of the Monserat area of the city. I stay at the Park Tower and you can see and read my review here.
Once you get into town, I’d say do what I always do and get the lay of the land. Figure out which restaurants or eateries are popular with the locals, find the best cafe for afternoon coffee, or look for a bakery close to your hotel for breakfast the next morning. You’ll find that Buenos Aires is first and foremost a food city and it centers around meat.
If you have the time, you may want to stroll around Puerto Madero since it’s a little out of the way from the city center. It isn’t far but if you’re walking from the city center, it’s a bit of a walk. It’ll be easier to just cross it off your list so you don’t have to criss cross the city.
For dinner, grab a steak. And order the thick cut steak that you’d normally order if you were celebrating your birthday or a promotion. Steak is served everywhere and because Argentina is such a large steak eating country, it is cheap and plentiful. It also helps that it’s absolutely delicious. I noticed that they like to cook and eat their steak on the medium side so you’ll have to let them know if you want it cooked rare (like I do).
Day 2 – Recoleta, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Teatro Coliseo
Hop on the metro and start by exploring Recoleta. Recoleta is a massive cemetery with its most famous resident Eva Peron, aka Evita. You’ll notice a stream of people coming to pay their respects to her and her grave is clearly marked. To find it, find her on the cemetery map and then make your way. Or you can just follow everyone there. It’ll be the only gravesite where there’ll be a line of people waiting to take their picture.
While you’re there, stroll around a bit and see the rest of it. The cemetery, for me, is nothing like I’ve ever seen and you can see how ornate some of them can be. It looked to me like everyone had the same amount of land to have their gravestone or vault built so a lot of modern families seem to be building down. It’s eerie and fascinating to see the intricate designs and to see how long some of the families have had their vaults there.
From Recoleta, walk over to El Ateneo Grand Splendid. This is a former theater turned bookstore and it’s easily the most grand bookstore I’ve seen. The stage was turned into a cafe and offers an interesting perspective to see what the performers see when they look out at the audience. You can even sit in one of the former private booths to read if you’d like. Sure, it’s a bookstore so you don’t really need to spend any amount of significant time here but it is cool to walk around. The bookstore is used to having tourists come in to take photos so it won’t be unusual at all
From the bookstore, it’s a few blocks west to Teatro Colon. This is where you can see the symphony, opera, ballet or other performing arts. It’s beautiful to see from the outside but if you have time, you can also do a guided tour of the theatre as well. Guided tours are available every day from 9am – 5pm and start every 15 minutes. Tours are obviously not available during performances.
From here, you’ll be right next to the main street of 9 de Julio, the main artery of the city and it’ll get you back to retiro train/metro station. You can take the bus here back to your hotel or enjoy the stroll back to where you’re staying. Although it’s a busy street, you’ll find a lot of bars, restaurants, and hotels along this street.
However, if you want to do some shopping as well, walk a few more blocks west and you’ll stumble on Florida St. This pedestrian only boulevard is lined with shops and you can pretty much shop until you run out of money.
One store I’d recommend you shop at is Prune. It sells leather goods (they also sell fake leather as well) and it’s a great place to buy gifts for people back home that are both stylish and reasonably priced. It actually isn’t that surprising to know that Buenos Aires sells leather goods especially when you understand their love for all things beef.
Day 3 – La Boca and the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires
Getting to La Boca is pretty simple since you can take the bus or a taxi. I think the easiest way is to take the Metro down to Plaza Constitucion and then take a quick fifteen minute bus.
La Boca is known for its artsy, tango dancing, vibe but I don’t understand why it’s so popular. It just seemed like it was just a major tourist trap. The area itself isn’t that large but you can’t deny it’s appeal with tourists. The whole area is about five blocks large and has cafes, restaurants, and tourist shops. I didn’t think it was particularly that interesting but considering it’s a major tourist stop, others clearly don’t feel the same way.
While you’re in the area, and if you’re lucky, you should try to go see a game at La Bombonera. It’s THE soccer stadium in Buenos Aires and might be one of the most famous in the world. If you’re lucky enough to be there when a game is being played, you should definitely go. I didn’t have that opportunity but I’ve met numerous people who’ve gone and they usually say that was the highlight for them.
After leaving the area, make you way up to Plaza de Mayo. It’s an easy metro ride and the station is right next to the plaza. At Plaza de Mayo, you can see the main cathedral, the presidential palace, and museums. At the very least, it’s an interesting place to walk around and it feels like you’re in the epicenter of the city.
Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace, is the big pink building at the end of the plaza. You can take tours of the building but you have to try and make an appointment and they’re only available on Saturdays. If not, you’ll have to stand a bit of a distance away to take photos. But it’s still a nice building.
At the other end of the plaza is the Cathedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires. The cathedral is great to tour and I actually think it would be a great place to go for mass if you were inclined. The cathedral is beautiful and a great place to take a break from walking around the city.
If you’re hungry, you should definitely stop by any bbq place and buy a choripan. This is just absolutely delicious and they’re sold everywhere. Think of it as the Buenos Aires version a brat. The chorizo has tons of spices and it’s just grilled over a flame and put in a plain roll. It’s usually served with a chimichurri sauce and it’s absolutely delightful.
Day 4 – Colonia del Sacramento
Leave Buenos Aires and head over to Uruguay! Take the first ferry available and head over to Colonia del Sacramento. You can take the direct ferry straight to Montevideo but it’s cheaper to take the ferry to Colonia del Sacramento and then take the bus to Montevideo.
Colonia del Sacramento is about a two hour ferry from Buenos Aires. Once you’re there, it’s small enough town that you can explore it in one day but if you wanted, you could certainly spend the night. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a really scenic, coastal town. You can stop and see the lighthouse and walk along the old cobblestone roads. It’s a really pretty town that’s worth the stop.
When you’re done seeing the town, head over to the bus station and buy a ticket to Montevideo. The busses run often so there’s no need to purchase a ticket early. You also shouldn’t purchase the ferry and bus combo ticket because then you’ll have to board your bus as soon as you get off the ferry. By buying them separately, you can choose when you want to leave. If you don’t know when the busses leave just head over to the bus station and check out the schedule. You can also drop your bags off there in a secure area and even grab money at the ATM in the bus station.
Once you’re in town, you’ll want to get to your hotel. You’ll want to decide if you want to stay closer to the old town or the southern part of Montevideo nearer the coast. However, any place you choose is ultimately fine because taking an Uber is really cheap. It’ll just depend on whether you want to be able to walk to the historic old town or if you want to take an Uber there. I stay at the Four Points Sheraton which was close enough to walk to the old town but far enough that it was within walking distance of places to eat in the city.
Day 5 – Montevideo’s Old Town
Walk down to the old town (ciudad vieja) which is a giant pedestrian walkway. It’s obviously pedestrian friendly and incredibly charming. Start at the Plaza Independencia, Montevideo Cathedral, and then work your way down to the Mercado del Puerto. Along the way, there are numerous churches, restaurants, bars, and cafes to stop and check out. Take you time strolling through the old town because it’s worth your time. If you’re really hungry, stop in the Mercado del Puerto and have a huge meat filled meal. You’ll know exactly where it is because you’ll smell the meat grilling blocks away. If you’re not in the mood for a meat lunch, there’s an excellent empanada store as well. It’s really popular with locals and tourists and there’s usually a line but it moved quickly and the empanadas are worth the wait.
If you’re walking around and want to find something local, pop into any sandwich shop or deli and order a chivito. It’s a massive sandwich with different types of meat and condiments but it’s delicious. Much like the choripan is the local dish in Buenos Aires, the chivito is the local dish in Montevideo.
Day 6 – Beaches and Parque Rodo on Sunday
This time, just down to the coast and stroll along the Rambla which is a road that runs along the coast. It’s a great place to jog or just stroll along to enjoy the views. As you walk toward the park, you’ll come across a beach where you can relax.
On the opposite side of the street is Parque Rodo which is a huge park in the heart of the city. It has a lake where you can rent a paddle boat but on Sunday, there is a massive market there that sells everything you could want. It doesn’t sell product but it sells all types of merchandise from clothes, leather goods, books, etc. If you’re looking for gift ideas, this is a perfect place to go. Unfortunately I believe it’s only there on Sundays.
If you’d like to go further and really see the picture perfect beaches, go a little further to Playa de los Pocitos. It’s a massive beach where you’ll the white sand beach typically seen on a tourism video.
For your final meal in Montevideo, you might as well finish with another steak. El Fogon is a great steakhouse with a huge fire grill and different cuts of meat, sausages, and other amazing delights on the menu. Although Montevideo isn’t as cheap as Buenos Aires, it’s still pretty cheap so you can eat like a king for not a lot of money. You’ll be forgiven if you order more food than you can eat if you just want to try as much as you can (I had no regrets).
Day 7 – On to your next adventure!
Take an Uber to Montevideo International airport (from my hotel at the Four Points, it was less than $20 USD for about a 45 min drive). Montevideo doesn’t have many flights so you’ll probably have a layover somewhere along the line but the airport is beautiful to sit in. If you’re a Priority Pass member, the VIP club is the only lounge there but it’s a beautiful lounge and really top notch.
Buenos Aires and Montevideo are similar but the cities are drastically different. If you’re looking for a huge modern city with a European flair, Buenos Aires is right up your alley. But if you enjoy walking through old historic buildings and churches, Montevideo is going to be more your flavor. Either way, when you’re in one, you have to visit the other because it’s so easy and quick to get to. Hopefully this 7 day itinerary will you plan for your trip to these sister cities.