Colonia del Sacramento. Published by


A Refuge by the River 

By Elizabeth Levy Sad. Translation: David Epstein

Colonia del Sacramento - Uruguay

Intimate, peaceful, overflowing with secrets.
Colonia del Sacramento is a place to open the senses, away from noisy cities, far from the cobweb of shopping malls, distant from heavy traffic jungles. 
Lying by the Río de la Plata bank, the widest river in the world, and
located less than 200 km from Montevideo (Uruguay’s capital), this magic city harmoniously mixes history with nature; that is why I chose it as a weekend refuge and I visit it several times a year.
From Buenos Aires, or from Montevideo, you can get there by ferry or plane. If you have only one day available, you can hire the tour offered by ferry lines, which includes a pretty complete route and a lunch, for less than US$30.

Colonia was declared “World Heritage City” by UNESCO; however, it is not a massive tourist destination; it is quiet during the whole year. The city’s magnet its Barrio Histórico (old, or historic neighborhood) where
constructions from the 17th and 18th century are preserved untouched. Colonia has been dominated alternatively by the Spanish and the Portuguese. You can recognize the typically Portuguese construction with its stone buildings, while the Spanish ones, are made of bricks.

In order to know its Barrio Histórico, the Calle de los Suspiros (the street
of sighs), is a good option to begin with. It is a narrow street paved with
wedge stones and you can observe the typical popular houses of the first
half of the 18th century, with roofs made of hard wood and canes tightened with braces, mud and tiles. By the river bank, a lovely 17th century lighthouse awaits us. Together with its five museums, its old Bullring and its beautiful churches, they are a whole history lesson.
Another interesting site is the “Puerta de la Ciudadela” built in 1745 by
Portuguese governor Vasconcellos, to prevent the attacks from other
A store devoted to the sale of antique cars is another reason why tourists
are attracted. There, you can find a 1938 American Willy or a 1955
Studebaker, among other collection models. Prices vary between 2,000 and
10,000 dollars.

But not only postcards of the past trapped in stone streets define Colonia.
Its beaches, small and charming, where you can sunbathe while the river
breezes refresh your thoughts, do too. And of course, the bars and restaurants that combine local traditions with exquisite touches of current flavors and gastronomic diversity. I recommend that you stop at Beltrán (restaurant and hotel), to taste its
Italian pasta or its original gourmet salads. At night, there are jazz or rock concerts; many artists and musicians live in the city. Uruguayans are famous for their kindness; you need only have a chat with them to feel easy.
No one should leave Uruguay without trying the “medio y medio” (a half
sparkling and half white wine), a delicious national beverage. But you should not leave Colonia either without watching its sunsets. The
last glows spilling over the bay, are postcards that remain in the soul, for
the whole life.