Although Montevideo was once a fortified city with majestic walls and a grand stone entrance, the colonial citadel was demolished in 1829. All that remains today is the stone gate, called the Gateway of the Citadel.
The fortifications serve as a key example of Spanish military architecture in South America. Construction started around the mid-1700s and took more than 40 years to finish. The walls of the citadel were constructed with 19.6-foot-thick (6-meter-thick) granite and once housed 50 cannons. There were four bastions, which held artillery fortifications, and originally, there was a large, deep moat. It wasn’t until 1829, four years after the country’s declaration of independence, that a decision was made to tear down the fortifications, and the city was then able to expand. The demolition of Montevideo’s fortified walls made room for Plaza Independencia, or Independence Square.
The Gateway of the Citadel was dismantled and rebuilt by the School of Arts and Crafts in its original location in 1959. The fortified section of Montevideo was called Ciudad Vieja, while the expansion project was dubbed Ciudad Nueva.
Today, Ciudad Vieja is considered by many to be the nightlife area of Montevideo. It also hosts the Port Market, which is a great spot to try traditional Uruguayan food and drinks. Despite its popularity as a nightlife area, the most beautiful and historic colonial buildings are found here.
To see Montevideo’s Gateway of the Citadel, enter the west side of Plaza Independencia on Sarandi Street in Ciudad Vieja.