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Top Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento

Country Code – 598; City Code - 452

Altitude – 23 meters

Population – 21,744

In 1680, the Portuguese disembarked upon this small peninsula, successfully establishing Nova Colônia do Santíssimo Sacramento, the first European colony in what is now Uruguayan territory. Under the command of Don Manuel Lobo, their goal was to set up a strategic point of defense on the shores of the Río de la Plata, directly across from the Spanish colony of Buenos Aires. This naturally inflamed the Spanish governor in Buenos Aires, who sent troops to oust the Portuguese. And this was only the beginning. For over a hundred years, the Spanish and Portuguese fought for control of the colony, a dispute that lead to six treaties between the two nations. In 1828, Colonia del Sacramento was incorporated into the Republic of Uruguay, a few years after the nation’s declaration of independence.

Its Historic Quarter clearly illustrates this shared past. Its celebrated cobblestone streets are either clearly Portuguese or clearly Spanish – those with a drain running down their center are Portuguese, while those with drains running on either side are Spanish. The buildings themselves are also a testament to this dichotomy and bear a distinctly Portuguese or Spanish style – the former have pitched roofs, while the latter have terrace roofs. For its richness in history and architectural treasures, the Historic Quarter was named UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Among the highlights of the Historic Quarter, visitors will find the reconstructed city gates and drawbridge, the lighthouse with the adjacent ruins of the Convento de San Francisco, as well as the Basilica of the Holy Sacrament, the oldest church in all of Uruguay. A few kilometers away lies the Real de San Carlos, location held by the Spanish as they kept the Portuguese under siege. It now holds the derelict Plaza de Toros, the bullring that was abandoned just two years after its construction as bullfighting was declared illegal by Uruguay’s government.

The main economic activity is tourism, and it has been since the recovery of the Historic Quarter in the 1980s, an area that had been neglected for many years. Colonia receives a great deal of foreign tourists, the largest influx coming from Buenos Aires and neighboring Brazil. Colonia has the singularity of having a lot of hotels and hostels located in very historic, though renovated, buildings and in a wide range of categories from luxury to budget, the most popular being those within or close to the Historic Quarter, like the Posada del Virrey and Don Antonio Posada. Its restaurants are also typically very old colonial buildings, the oldest being La Pulpería de los Faroles, the first restaurant to open within the Historic Quarter and cater specifically to tourists.

The town’s narrow streets and irregular cobblestones make it a place that is best toured on foot. Its simple, yet stunning beauty may only be overshadowed by the warmth of its people, who are only too eager to share the history of a particular building while they invite you take a sip of their mate.


Other places nearby Colonia del Sacramento : Nueva Helvecia and Nueva Palmira.

By Claudia Pesce

Claudia Pesce was born in Buenos Aires, but started traveling shortly after her first birthday. Upon returning to Argentina at...

09 Jun 2011

Things to do in Colonia del Sacramento

Plaza de Toros

114546In the early 1900s, an Argentine entrepreneur decided to open a first-class tourist complex, just a few kilometers from the Historic Quarter, in the area known as Real de San Carlos. His complex ...
Historical Building
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Plaza Mayor

143327Also called Plaza 25 de Mayo, this was where military drills were practiced. It was founded with the colony, being the largest open area in it. Later on, gardens and paths were created and made it ...
City Plaza
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Basilica Del Sanctísimo Sacramento (basilica Of The Holy Sacrament)

143328Originally built in 1680, Basilica del Sanctísimo Sacramento is the oldest church in all of Uruguay. The first church was built out of straw and mud and suffered repeated attacks and reconstructions ...
Historical Building
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Old Wooden Wharf

143329The wooden wharf dates back to 1866 and was originally a lot longer with a perpendicular section where it ended over the river. Due to aging and weathering, it was partially lost, but later recovered ...
City Walk
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Bodegas And Wine-tasting

143330The Department of Colonia has an established wine route, which basically covers the four main bodegas in the region. AGT, the local tour operator, offers a full day tour of all four for $100 per ...
Other Activity
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Colonia's Beaches

143394Although Colonia is best known for its architecture and history, it has some five kilometers (3.1 mi) of beaches as well. Most of them are just a short walk or bus ride from the center of town. In ...
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Ruinas Del Convento De San Francisco And The Lighthouse

143395The secular ruins of the Convento de San Francisco Javier are the only remains of one of the oldest constructions in Colonia, dating back to 1683–1704. Visitors are free to wander the grounds for a ...
Historical Building
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Portón De Campo

143396For a dramatic entrance into the oldest part of Colonia del Sacramento go to the Portón de Campo, or the city gates. Originally dating back to 1745, from the time of the Portuguese governor ...
Historical Building
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay

Barrio Histórico

Colonia del Sacramento is best known for its history and architecture, dating as far back as the late 1600s. The barrio histórico, or Historic Quarter, is filled with visual delights of this kind, ...
City Walk
Colonia del Sacramento , Uruguay
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