Country Code â€“ 598; City Code - 452
Altitude â€“ 23 meters
Population â€“ 21,744
In 1680, the Portuguese disembarked upon this small peninsula, successfully establishing Nova ColÃ´nia do SantÃssimo 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 RÃo 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 nationâ€™s declaration of independence.
Its Historic Quarter clearly illustrates this shared past. Its celebrated cobblestone streets are either clearly Portuguese or clearly Spanish â€“ 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 â€“ 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 Uruguayâ€™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 PulperÃa de los Faroles, the first restaurant to open within the Historic Quarter and cater specifically to tourists.
The townâ€™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.
Claudia Pesce was born in Buenos Aires, but started traveling shortly after her first birthday. Upon returning to Argentina at...