If you’re headed to Montevideo (or if you’re already here) then you simply must eat at the Mercado del Puerto! This converted train station is now arguably the best barbeque spot in all of South America and is one of the true must-eats in Montevideo.
However, don’t show up unprepared! Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy a meal (or four) at Montevideo’s Mercado del Puerto.
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An Introduction to the Mercado Del Puerto
The Mercado del Puerto (the port market) is the best kind of market: one devoted entirely to sizzling, grilling, dripping meat. If you make your way through Montevideo’s Old Town to the port, you won’t be able to miss the place. The aroma is unmistakable, starting a few blocks away.
Make sure to give yourself a day or two or four to eat lunch here (unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case once would probably suffice).
The building dates from the 19th century and looks like an old British rail station (and it looks very similar to Montevideo’s abandoned rail station on the other side of town). Inside the place is chock full of restaurants which each have their bar and table area. Their menus are remarkably similar, and I ate at four of them over the week I was there. They were all amazing.
The food is centered around meat cooked over a wood fire on parrillas. Traveling by myself, I ordered à la carte items (the sausage was the best I’ve ever had in my life). However, I was a little jealous of the larger groups gathered over silver towering bowls of meat bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey.
I would have ordered one and taken back the leftovers, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask the waiter for enough food to feed the Uruguayan National football team.
Besides amazing barbeque, there are also seafood and vegetarian options. I tried seafood one day and it was excellent. If you only go once, I would suggest getting a signature meat dish. But if you will be there more than once, seafood is a great option.
Whether you get meat or seafood, prepare to be stuffed! If you’ll be headed out on a tour afterward you can walk off some of your meal. Alternatively, you can enjoy an afternoon nap back in your hotel before heading back out into the city.
Tips for Eating at the Mercado Del Puerto
Here’s what you need to know before your meal.
How to Visit the Mercado Del Puerto
Before you can dig into a delicious meal, you need to know how to visit! First, it’s only open from 10 am until 5 pm on Monday through Thursday, so depending on your schedule, you will need to visit here during lunchtime. If you want to enjoy dinner here, it’s open until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
You can come on your own or as part of a tour. The market is the last stop on this Montevideo walking tour so you can learn all about the market and then enjoy a meal here on your own or with friends you made on the tour. If you are traveling with anyone who has mobility concerns, check out this awesome Montevideo Wheelchair Accessible tour instead.
Where is the Mercado Del Puerto?
If you aren’t going to use a tour, then you can head there on your own. The official address of the market is Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 228, 11000 Montevideo.
English Usage at the Mercado del Puerto
While Uruguay is a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll find great English accessibility in businesses that focus on tourism like restaurants and museums. At the Mercado del Puerto, I found that every restaurant had at least one person who understood English, but even without it was pretty easy to communicate.
How Much Does a Meal Cost?
If you’re concerned about sticking to a budget, I found that the restaurants on the inside seemed a bit cheaper than the ones on the outside (although it was lovely sitting in the square). So while I ate at both kinds of places, I would stick to the inside of the market to pinch your pennies.
You can expect to spend between $20-$30 dollars on a meal for two and between $10-$20 on a meal for one since some dishes are cheaper when you can share.
Which is the Best Restaurant to Go To?
In my personal experience, each of the restaurants I tried was fantastic. Unless you are a true Uruguayan food aficionado, I doubt you will be able to tell the difference. What I did find was that every restaurant seemed to have their spin on the chimichurri sauce that goes with everything. Don’t skip the chimichurri!
Different locals and tour guides have different opinions about which one is “the best” but La Cabana Veronica is a popular choice. However, I just don’t think you can go wrong!
What to Eat at the Mercado del Puerto
Most of the restaurants in the Mercado del Puerto are Parrilla restaurants that use wood-burning grills to barbecue the dishes. The menus offer giant selections so it can be a bit daunting to order.
What to Drink with Your Meal
Of course, you can drink wine or beer with your barbeque. If you drink a lot of water (like I do), bring a bottle or two with you since they charge for water and the costs add up!
Can You Use Credit Cards at the Mercado del Puerto?
Yes, many of the restaurants take credit cards. While you generally want to tip in Uruguay, you can check to see if a service charge was included. Since most parillas usually include a service charge, you can skip tipping if you see one. Otherwise, bring cash to tip 10% to your waiter for good service.
How to Stay Connected During Your Meal
If you don’t pick up a local Uruguayan sim card, you’ll be happy to know that most of the restaurants provide free wifi.
What to Do Near the Mercado del Puerto
The area is great for wandering around during the afternoon. You can also pay a visit to The Museo del Carnaval (The Carnival Museum) next door, which you can cover in about thirty minutes. They have costumes and displays from the Uruguayan carnival.
More Uruguay Travel Resources
If you love street art, check out the best Montevideo street art.
5 Things to Bring to Uruguay
An Uruguay Guidebook guidebook for your trip. It’s hard to find a good English language guidebook to Uruguay since Lonely Planet hasn’t released one since 1999! Make sure to get one ahead of time like this Brandt guide.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Full-Sized Travel Towel for anyone taking advantage of Montevideo’s beaches (or…hostels…). This is the best travel towel in the world, and you’ll need it if you are staying in hostels or anywhere that requires you to bring your towel.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for South America because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Uruguay make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities like Montevideo where tourists can easily become the targets of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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