Montevideans head to Buenos Aires when they want to go on an extra-special shopping excursion but there are attractions for visitors in the local stores. Quality and selection are decent here, and prices are lower than in Argentina. Most stores in Centro, along Avenida 18 de Julio, offer the usual selection of urban merchandise but there are some good buys in hand-crafted textiles and souvenirs. The truly fun shopping experience is to be found in the city's markets. Here are some personal selections starting with the downtown area.
Manos del Uruguay is a non-profit cooperative started in 1968 by five women which today offers high quality, slightly pricey, woollen sweaters, capes, scarves, shawls, blankets, rugs and tapestries as well as a variety of other hand-produced goods including leather goods and wood items. The Uruguayan wool is harvested, hand-dyed and crafted into the finished product by rural craftspeople. Visit one of the eight outlets in Montevideo, including all the major shopping centers, to peruse the inventory and select a piece for yourself. Similar products are found in the Tiendas Magdalena outlets which also dot the city.
Mercado de la Abundancia,( cnr San José & Yaguarón, centro Tel: 900-3834) in the city center, is an enjoyable regional food and clothing market open every day except Sunday. It's is also a popular and atmospheric spot for lunch or dinner. This is a smaller version of Mercado del Puerto. The high-ceilinged, open-floor space hosts six restaurants, serving everything from parrilladas to savory crepes, pastas and salads. Mercado de la Abundancia is busiest during business lunch when you are bathed in natural light filtering in through skylight windows. The popular tango school, JovenTango, is also located in a far corner.
The Artisan's Market (San José 1312) is a good place to get a true idea of what quality Uruguayan crafts include. Talented artisans offer all sorts of handmade goods, from leather and pottery to wood, wool and bronze items. Prices range from very inexpensive to quite pricey. Plan your trip to the market so that you have plenty of time to leisurely explore the many items, but remember the market's not open on Sundays.
Along Avenida 18 de Julio visitors will find a number of antique shops selling a wide variety of goods, from textiles and furniture to knick knacks and jewelry. If antiques are your thing, be sure to carve out a couple hours to leisurely look at the inventory that lines the shelves of these Montevideo antique shops.
Tristan Narvaja Market (Avenida 18 de Julio) is an exciting outdoor flea market, that opens bright and early on Sunday mornings, and serious shoppers would do well to be up and shopping early as the area gets quite crowded. Vendors sell everything from clothing, crafts and jewelry to fruits and vegetables. It is surprisingly extensive (could it be 20 blocks long and is good for people watching and exploring. There are crafts, old books, hardware, CDs, new clothes, fruit and vegetables, and just junk. This popular flea market has been in existence for over 50 years.
Plaza Constitution in the Ciudad Vieja is another perfect place to browse a fleamarket for unique goods for your collections of what-ever. It appeared that there were no cheap souvenirs for tourists but rather interesting antiques and things of the good old times.
Montevideo's Port Market (at Piedras and Yacaré in the Ciudad Vieja) draws people in with tantalizing smells, colourful sights and sounds. This open-air market is open late mornings, afternoons and weekends and offers guests a wide array of shops and eateries. At lunch you can sample authentic Uruguayan foods such as barbecued meats, seafood dishes and empanadas. Produce vendors and craft sellers also line the way as do street musicians on weekends.
Located some kilometres from the Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo Shopping Center (Avenida Luis Alberto de Herrera 1290) was the city's first and is still the area's largest. Shoppers can enjoy visiting over 180 shops that include chain stores as well as small boutiques. A nice mix of cafes and eateries also call the mall home as does a 10-screen theatre. The mall offers complimentary transportation to and from many area hotels.