Club Atlético Peñarol was established under the name Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club, or CURCC, back in 1891. In the years that followed, the sports club placed a focus on football, rather than cricket and subsequently adopted its current name in 1913. Several different surveys of public opinion over the years have named the team as the most popular football club in Uruguay. Historically, they have also been the country's most successful team in terms of their total number of league title wins.
A rivalry has existed between Peñarol and Nacional since 1900, making it one of the sport's oldest derby matches. Known as the Uruguayan Clásico, the games between the two are regarded as the most significant in the entire country. At present, Peñarol have the superior head-to-head record.
The club first enjoyed domestic success during Uruguay's amateur era, with their first league title coming in 1900. In total, Peñarol amassed eleven titles during this era, which is tied with the total managed by their rivals, Nacional. However, since the professionalisation of the country's football league, the team have enjoyed even greater success. Their league title win in 2012–13 brought their number of professional titles up to 38 and their total number of Uruguayan titles up to a record 49. Peñarol have also enjoyed success on the international stage, winning the Copa Libertadores five times and the Intercontinental Cup three times. Five of their international trophies came during the 1960s.
Some of the most notable players to have worn the Peñarol jersey include Alberto Spencer, who is the Copa Libertadores' all-time leading goalscorer; Fernando Morena, who was the team's star of the 1970s, and Néstor Gonçalves, who currently holds the record for most appearances for the club.
Peñarol currently play most of their home games at the Estadio Centenario. Recognised as one of the world's classic stadiums by FIFA, the venue first opened in 1930 and is able to hold 65,235 spectators.