International House London Institute

About Uruguay

Uruguayan culture, population, and way of living

Uruguay is a country located in the southeastern region of South America. It is home to about 3.5 million people, of whom 1.4 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population are of European descent.

Uruguay’s only land border is with Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to the north. To the west lies the Uruguay River, to the southwest lies the estuary of Río de la Plata, with Argentina only a short commute across the banks of either of these bodies of water, while to the southeast lies the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. Uruguay, with an area of approximately 176.000 km2, is the second smallest nation of South America in area after Suriname.

Colonia del Sacramento, one of Uruguay’s oldest European settlements, was founded by the Portuguese in 1680. Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold. Uruguay won its independence in 1811-1828 following a three-way struggle among Spain, Argentina and Brazil. It is a constitutional democracy, where the president fulfils the roles of both head of state and head of government.

Uruguay is the most economically developed country in Latin America, with a high GDP per capita and the 41st highest quality of life in the world, and first highest quality of life/human development in Latin America, when inequality is factored in. The economy is largely based on agriculture (making up 20% of GDP and the most substantial export) and the state sector.

According to Transparency International, Uruguay is rated as the least corrupt country in Latin America (along with Chile), with its political and labour conditions being among the freest on the continent.

It was the highest rated country in Latin America on Legatum’s 2010 Prosperity Index. In 2007, it became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage and different-sex civil unions at a national level. 

In 2009, Uruguay became the first country in the world to provide every child a free laptop and wireless internet as well. 

In 2009, it became the first country in Latin America to allow gay adoption.

In 2010, it became the first nation in Latin America to test hemp cultivation.

Between 2007 and 2009, it was the only country in the Americas which did not technically experience a recession (two consecutive quarters of retraction).
Uruguay has the lowest Income Inequality in Latin America, and second only to Canada in all the Americas. 
It is reimbursed by the UN for the majority of its military spending, because the majority of its military is deployed as UN Peacekeepers. 

*Most of the information on this page was collected from Wikipedia ®.

Uruguay NEWS

Cities & Tourism



Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city has the rare privilege of having more than twenty kilometers of beaches within the city itself, in addition to its beautiful parks which have turned it into one of the “greenest” cities in the world.

Uruguay is known for its hospitality and the cordiality of its people. Only two hours away from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and very close to Brazil, the country’s small size allows visitors to take trips of one or more days to beautiful nearby places, and offers an important cultural agenda and an active nightlife as some of its many attractions.

Montevideo, a European-styled city, has 1.300.000 inhabitants of a high educational and cultural level. The capital of Uruguay is a feast for culture lovers: museums, theatres, exhibitions, shows and popular festivals. There is an intense agenda all year round and the city itself is a collection of art and history.

Even though Montevideo is a modern city, it has the charm of its highly respected and well-kept historic district. The Old City keeps its old buildings intact and is the center of a great variety of cultural activities during the day. Its natural beauty shines at night, when the streets come to life with the music from restaurants and pubs congregating people of all ages and backgrounds.

Its residential neighbourhoods combine old houses with modern buildings, wide avenues and narrow streets with mature trees and beautiful parks with the modern shopping centres. Montevideo is a very safe city and it encourages visitors to go round in a calm atmosphere. 

Montevideo is an option full of possibilities for those who wish to study Spanish and learn about the South American culture in an environment of cordiality, natural beauty and security.

Punta del Este

This cosmopolitan city is one of the leading seaside resorts in the world and conjugates its exceptional natural beauty with an active social life, which makes it the centre of the international upper class. Beautiful ocean beaches and sumptuous residences among the pines are its unmistakable mark. In the evening, hundreds of discos, casinos and restaurants open their fascinating worlds until dawn.

Several luxurious hotels and restaurants, two airports and a yacht port which may accommodate up to 500 yachts, make Punta del Este the most important seaside resort in Uruguay and the centre of the international jet set.

Punta del Este has two types of coastlines: Brava and Mansa. This shows the end of the Río de la Plata (River Plate) on one side and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean, on the other side.

Every beach of the peninsula has public access. There are quiet and calm water beaches while others have strong waves, white and fine sand or thick and golden ones.

La Barra is popular for nautical sports and fishing during the day. At later hours, La Barra becomes a central attraction for the younger generation. Starting from the end of December through to the second week of January, this location becomes a place for the local people as well as tourist to gather in the night life festivities. Other areas include the resort of El Tesoro, Montoya beach, Bikini beach and Manantiales beach. 

These beaches are a favourite spot for the younger generations as well as for many famous Argentinian or Uruguayan TV personalities and top models.

Also the most conveniently located collection of surf breaks are in Punta del Este. The best spots are:

  • El Emmir (Península)
  • Los Dedos (Parada 1), La Olla (Parada 2),
  • Zorba (Parada 5),
  • La Plage (Parada 11) and Jose Ignacio.