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Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Step back into history in this resort and colonial town!


Colonial Houses in Colonia del Sacramento

Colonial Houses in Colonia del Sacramento

Steve Allen / Getty Images
Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay's province of Colonia, is steeped in hisotry. It was the only Portuguese settlement along the Rio de la Plata. Founded as Nova Colonia do Sacramento in 1680 by Manuel de Lobo,and as such was the focus of struggle between the Spanish, who founded the settlement at Montevideo in response, and the Portuguese over control of the area. For years it operated as a contraband port, evading the strictures imposed on trade by the Spanish crown. Today it is a resort city, a port, and the trade center for a rich agricultural region.

Built in Portuguese style of houses and cobblestoned streets, the historic portion of Colonia is reminiscent of old Lisbon. Winding streets and colorful houses are laid out in a pattern different from Spanish colonial cities, and a delight to explore. The historic quarter, Barrío Historico, on a small peninsula jutting out into the river, was named a UNESCO heritage site in 1995. Photos.

Colonia del Sacramento is across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, and is the main water thoroughfare for visitors from Argentina to access any part of Uruguay. Many travelers stop to enjoy the excellent restaurants, art and craft shops, museums and a large yacht harbor. map, from Expedia,

Getting There

  • By air:
    • Aeropuerto Internacional de Colonia Laguna de los Patos is located 6 km from the city center for smaller airplanes and helicopters.
  • By land:
    • From Buenos Aires, by bridges Puentes Zárate-Brazo Largo and Internacional Libertador General San Martín
    • From Salto, via Puente Concordia to Paysandu and then on
    • From within Uruguay, by road.
  • By water:
    • From Buenos Aires, the choice of the Buquebus or Ferry bus
  • Within the city and the province, taxis and bus service are available

    When to Go

  • Uruguay's pleasant climate makes any season a good time to visit Colonia, one of South America's least visited treasures, but high season during the summer months may make reservations harder to get
  • Check today's weather.

    Things to Do and See

  • Puerta de la Ciudadela, also called Puerta de Campo, is a drawbridge built in 1745 by the Portuguese governor to safeguard the walled city as the only entrance. Restored, it marks the beginning of the historic district, with thick fortified walls and tile and stucco buildings
  • Bastion del Carmen, today a theater and cultural center, was once a factory and wharf
  • El Faro, the lighthouse, was constructed in 1857 from stones from the ruins of Convento de San Francisco, and is a highlight along the Rio del Plata.
  • Museo Portugues on Plaza Mayor is a look at Portuguese architecture, furnishings and military uniforms, standards and other items from the period
  • Museo Municipal, also on Plaza Mayor, is a combination of Portuguese and Spanish items with furnishings and other items illustrating colonial life
  • Museo Español eshibits more of colonial life, with replicas of pottery, clothing, maps and more
  • The Plaza de Toros or bull ring, in nearby Real de San Carlos, was built in 1910 and saw only 8 bullfights before bullfighting was prohibited in 1912. The bullring was part of an huge complex inclduding a jai alai court, a hotel and racecourse. Only the racecourse is still functioning.
  • Swiss immigrants founded Colonia Suiza which soon became the dairy and wheat providers for the rest of the country
  • Boat tours of the Parana river leave from Carmelo, northwest of Colonia Shopping, Dining and Lodgings
  • Dine at one of these restaurants
  • Camping Municipal de Colonia near the Balneario (beach) Municipal has good facilities
  • Handicrafts, food and live music at La Casona del Sur
  • Many small shops and boutiques in the historic district
  • The Sunday market in the Plaza Mayor

    Have you been to Colonia or anywhere else in Uruguay? If so, write us a review!

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