Our Montevideo City Travel Guide is live and we’re excited to present this city and Uruguay’s surrounding beach resorts to the world. I have fond memories of visiting Uruguay, first on my own about 12 years ago and later again with my partner and some other Australian backpackers we met along the way.

Everything about this low-lying river settlement seemed wonderfully exotic to me: the cheerful groups of friends with their flasks of mate and silver straws, the colorful cafés that double as art museums and the classic cars parked on the well-worn cobblestoned streets under neat rows of trees in Colonia. Some of those cars had been turned into little romantic restaurant seats for 2 people and others were overgrown with plants. These types of quirky, arty decors are now trending in cafés and restaurants all over the world, but back then it was very unusual.

Because I’m originally from the Netherlands, the land of soccer legend Johan Cruyff, everyone wanted to talk soccer with me. I soon learned that the Uruguayans are even more passionate than the Dutch about this game. In a tiny souvenir shop, I found myself cornered by curious locals who asked me a hundred questions about Cruyff, Van Basten and Bergkamp. I remember feeling ashamed because I could not name any of their heroes!

Even in the more touristy historic town of Colonia del Sacramento, the locals were so pleased to see foreign visitors that we were received with open arms wherever we went. For most people, the Calle de los Suspiros is a favourite. It feels like a discovery tour when you duck into tiny heritage houses to find hidden art galleries, wine cellars or courtyard cafés where friendly waiters serve delicious food made from purely locally sourced ingredients.

Back in the day, exploring Uruguay felt like stumbling upon a hidden gem, because I had never heard anyone talk about Uruguay and I certainly didn’t know anybody who had been there. All that has surely changed now, because thanks to its pleasant vibe, relaxed beach resorts and liberal-minded locals, Uruguay attracts visitors from all over the world to their beach condos. It’s slowly but surely turning into one of South America’s tourism hotspots.

From Buenos Aires, it’s only a short ferry trip across the River Plata, which is why many travellers who visit the Argentinean capital just go there for the day. That’s a shame, because Uruguay is a destination in its own right and, although culturally similar to Argentina, has its own distinctive vibe.

While most visitors spend their time browsing the picturesque streets of Colonia, the capital Montevideo is also great to explore. It’s a progressive city with a gripping history and the combination of colonial buildings and modern architecture is just stunning. I loved the lively Mercado Central the most and I remember literally following my nose to get there. It led me to write this final sentence for the Montevideo City Travel Guide: “Every time you feel a sea breeze, get a whiff of a smoking grill, or see the shimmering outline of a setting sun….you will think of Uruguay, and smile.”

This is a Tourism Media production for Expedia’s series of City Travel Guides.

The Uruguay film shoot was arranged by Rohan Trundle & Sandra Wilkinson, while the camerawork is by Jon Reid (Colonia & Montevideo) and Mark & Jan (the coastal towns). The script was written by Barbara Winters, the music composed by Daniel O’Brien & Jacquie Joy and the video was edited by Sawyer.