Montevideo is the most important city and the capital of Uruguay. It is also the southernmost capital of South America. The city welcomes about half of the entire population of Uruguay. Located on the north bank of the Río de la Plata, Montevideo is located just over 200 km as the crow flies west of Buenos Aires. Montevideo bay is the largest and most important natural and commercial port in Uruguay.
Montevideo is a lively and vibrant city, which has a rich architectural and cultural heritage. This city today is the hub of Uruguay’s trade and economy. The architecture of the city reflects its history. In fact, there are colonial, neo-classical, art deco buildings and numerous modern buildings.
According to tradition, the name of the city derives from an exclamation made by a sailor from the Magellan expedition who was surprised to see a hill in such a flat area. The exclamation was “Monte vide eu!” (I saw a mountain!), the name of the capital of Uruguay can be traced back to this curious episode.
Montevideo was founded in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala. Zabala was the Spanish governor (capitán general) of the province of Río de la Plata, today’s Argentina. He in 1724 decided to build a fort to counter the expansionist aims of the Portuguese, who controlled Brazil, and who in 1680 had occupied the region around Motevideo by founding the city of Colonia del Sacramento (Colónia do Sacramento).
Around the original fort, already from 1726, some settlers settled. The new outpost was called San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo. This settlement, which developed into the city of Montevideo, was the Spanish control center over the Oriental Band (present-day Uruguay), and was later elevated to the status of capital of Uruguay.