The city of Colonia del Sacramento is an old colony founded by the Portuguese in 1680. It changed hands several times, between Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. It has been a part of Uruguay since 1828. Colonia makes for an easy and popular day trip from Buenos Aires by ferry.
Colonia is not a place that has knockout attractions – the historic town itself is the attraction and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spending a day wandering through the charming cobblestone streets, sipping coffee or having lunch at one of the many outdoor restaurants, and enjoying the scenery is as good as Colonia gets. It’s the type of place where time passes by extremely slowly.
You can enter the city through Portón de Campo, the city gate and drawbridge on the old city wall. The wall runs all the way to the Río de la Plata to form Bastión de San Miguel.
Portón de Campo opens onto Plaza Mayor. Around the plaza are a couple museums, Museo de Portugues and Museo Municipal. I didn’t visit either.
There are also a few sets of ruins. Bastión de la Bandera, once part of the fortifications, is on the northeast corner. Casa del Virrey (Viceroy’s House) is on the northwest corner.
The ruins of Convento de San Francisco, dating back to the 17th century, is on the southwest corner of Plaza Mayor. Behind it is Colonia’s 19th century lighthouse. Admission is ARG$12 to go up to the top for a panoramic view of the entire town.
Off Plaza Mayor, there are several streets to stroll through and admire the scenery. The most famous and scenic street in the entire town is Calle de los Suspiros (Street of the Whispers).
A few steps north of Plaza Mayor is Plaza de Armas. The center of the plaza has a walkway and interpretive panels about the foundations around it.
On the north end of Plaza de Armas is the former Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, now Iglesia Matriz. It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1680. The present structure dates back to 1810 and is one of the biggest structures in town. It’s also considered one of the oldest parishes in Uruguay.
There are several restaurants and shops nearby the church. The one directly across the street has converted two antique cars into somewhat of a tourist attraction. One of the cars is its own dining room and the other one is full of plants and flowers.
On the western end of town, Paseo San Gabriel makes for a pleasant walk along the Río de la Plata. Along it is the Museo Azulejo, featuring antique tiles, and a gigantic flag of Uruguay on the far southern end. There’s also a chance to see a breathtaking sunset if you’re there late enough in the day.
I’ll leave you with a few images of the enchanting streets of Colonia del Sacramento.