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Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Editor's Note: Jake Biddington makes an overnight, side trip from Buenos Aires to Uruguay in this November 2009 update of The Bentley.
A Weekend Trip near Buenos Aires
Situated in a strategic location where the Rio Uruguay and Rio del Plata flow together, Colonia del Sacramento was founded by the Portuguese in 1680. Because of its well-preserved Portuguese and Spanish colonial urban architecture, its historic district was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. Today Colonia is accessible via a 1-hour ferry ride from downtown Buenos Aires.
Fortified Gateway into Historic Colonia
Like Oz, the Buenos Aires skyline is visible from the waterfront in Colonia, but this tranquil town of rough stone streets feels a million miles away.
View toward Buenos AiresColonia has beaches--but no beach scene. Colonia has restaurants--but no lines. Colonia has brand-name hotels--but also traditional posadas with thick stone walls and silent patios. Colonia has a yacht club--but no helicopters. Crowds gather only to admire the sunset or to watch a beautiful bridal party leave the Iglesia Matriz.
In the center of town and near the exit from the ferry terminal, several vendors offer motorbike, bicycle, cart and car rentals. Using these means of transport, the visitor can explore the stone streets of the historic town and venture further afield along the "rambla" coastal road in the direction of the recently opened Sheraton resort.
This route traverses an area of small beaches where families gather so that dad can renew his primal male standing by grilling large chunks of meat over a wood fire. Children play freely and horses graze along the roadside. Uruguay is a land of cowboys and palm trees.
View from Rambla toward Colonia
Water sports include fishing and boating--both small motorboats and sunfish are available for rental. Uruguay is not rule intensive; it's assumed that you know how to pilot whatever you rent.
Pier in Colonia
Colonia's nightlife and cultural life centers on the Park Bastión complex with its theatre and visual arts presentations. At this venue, as well as at bars such as Blanco y Negro along Avenue Gral. Flores, the town hosts a jazz festival for two or three weekends in summertime. Around town, itinerant musicians work the bars and restaurants playing for tips.
Sculpture and Battlement Wall
in Bastión Park
Uruguay is a land populated by more livestock than people, so dining includes basic parrilla (wood fire grilled) meats such as sausages, beef steaks, chicken, lamb and goat. For a strictly Uruguayan regional treat try morcilla dulce--a blood sausage sweetened with raisins and nuts. Seafood fans will find the gambas (large shrimp) and the grilled fish corvino fresh and delicious.
Lunching Indoors at La Florida (left) or
Outdoors near the Marina
One of the many simple pleasures of Colonia is watching night fall.
Sunset in Colonia
Colonia, Uruguay Restaurants
Menu prices are rising in historic Colonia, and they do not always represent good value. The spots listed below vary in price, but offer quality food. The best inexpensive meal in Colonia can be found at the local restaurants outside the historic district where a chivito al pan, (the classic Uruguayo sandwich comprised of a thin steak, canadian bacon, egg, cheese, tomato and lettuce), can be found for around $5US.
La Florida--auteur chef Carlos Bidanchon has transformed an antique-filled house into a sophisticated restaurant where each room has its own special character and just one or two tables. The chef is as adherent to the "Slow Food" movement, so every dish is made to order featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients. This restaurant alone makes a trip to Colonia worthwhile. La Florida is located near the entry gateway to the old city on Calle Florida. Be advised that this, and other restaurants in Colonia, open and close on the whim of the proprietor.
El Rincon--simple parrilla along Paseo San Gabriel serving fragrant, sweetly spiced morcilla dulce as well as steaks and fish. Because the tables are mostly outdoors, the restaurant does not open in bad weather.
El Torron--for cocktails at sunset the end of Avenida General Flores.
Candelaria--the modest prices make this parrilla a favorite with local clients. Several wines from the nearby region of Cerros de San Juan are available here and well worth trying. Calle Ituzaingo near Avenida Gral. Flores.
Colonia, Uruguay Hotels
Colonia boasts many posadas--and more keep appearing. Visitors willing to take a chance, can arrive and look for space in an attractive spot. But tourist traffic continues to increase, so a reservation is advisable on weekends. Credit cards may not be accepted everywhere, but nearly every hotel, restaurant and shop in Colonia quotes prices in $US and Argentine pesos as well as in the local currency. ATM's are available.
El Capullo Posada--the sophisticated, stylish renovation of a old house makes this posada a special treat. Each room is different (in interesting ways) with two new ones opening directly onto the large back garden and pool. Calle 18 de julio 3 #219 near Calle Ituzaingo.
Posada Don Antonio--based on traditional posada, this relatively large hotel/posada on the edge of the historic district has expanded to include new nicely appointed rooms, a small pool and comfortable lounging area. Calle Ituzaingo off Avenida Gral. Flores.
Posada del Angel--in an old house, this traditional posada is intimate and quiet with a charming yard surrounding a small pool. Calle Barbot near Calle Florida.
Radisson--near the pier and adjacent to the casino. Calle Washington Barbot 283.
Sheraton Resort--on the Rambla Costanera about 5 kilometers from the old city, this handsome hotel has both golf course and spa facilities.
Colonia, Uruguay Shopping
Locally knitted lambswool sweaters, lamb slippers, leather coats and bags make for interesting shopping. A good variety of handmade sweaters with best pricing is available in the shops along Avenida Gral.Flores in the historic district. The long-time Colonia sweater shop Penelope now offers more manufactured-looking items for those with less rustic tastes.
Colonia's art gallery and gallery/cafe scene is expanding with exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography.
Colonia, Uruguay How to Get There
Ferries leave from the chaotic Buquebus terminal in downtown Buenos Aires. If possible, reserve and pick up tickets in advance. Arrive at the terminal at least one hour early--earlier on weekends--and be prepared to stand in several different lines. An alternative ferry service Colonia Express offers a more limited schedule with smaller craft departing from its own terminal near La Boca in Buenos Aires. Both ferry services offer good package deals that include hotel options. Colonia is a bite-size walking town, so a "city tour" is neither particularly useful nor enjoyable. For real peace and quiet in Colonia, visit Monday through Thursday.
More South American Destinations:
Mar del Plata, Argentina
Restaurant Guide to Buenos Aires--2009
Northern Argentina: Jujuy Province, Humahuaca & Tilcara
Northwest Argentina: Tucumán, Salta & Cafayate
Santiago & Valparaiso, Chile
Tigre, Argentina--Day Trip from Buenos Aires
San Antonio de Areco, Argentina--Weekend Trip from Buenos Aires
Colonia, Uruguay--Overnight Trip near Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires--Basic Guide
Travel Guide to Montevideo, Uruguay
Other Archived Destinations:
Madrid and Andalusia, Spain 2009
Visiting New York City 2007
Visiting New York City 2006 (Archive)
New Haven, Connecticut
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Touring in Lisbon
Touring in Milan
Touring in Antwerp
Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City
Tourism New York City 2003 Update
Tourism New York City 2002
Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Tourism Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey
ABOUT THIS FEATURE
Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums--or simply exploring the world's fascinating cultural diversity. In this article, Jake Biddington offers tourist information and descriptions of this interesting destination.
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