Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento dates back to a Portuguese foundation at the end of the 17th century and is the oldest city in Uruguay.
Its strategic location in the bay of the Río de la Plata made Colonia del Sacramento a bone of contention between the colonial powers Spain and Portugal for more than a century.
The disputes associated with recurring sieges and destruction, in which England, acting as the protective power of freebooters and pirates, also intervened, did not end until Uruguay’s internationally recognised independence in 1828.
Colonia’s historic centre, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, consists of the 16 hectare barrio histórico, the Portuguese settlement at the tip of the peninsula, once surrounded by a fortified wall.
In contrast to the adjacent streets, its streets and alleys refuse the chessboard pattern of Spanish colonial cities.
In them, rusty or well-kept, but always effectively draped vintage cars complement the partly crumbling, partly restored cityscape to a cinematic setting that also provides the emblematic photographic motifs of Uruguayan tourism advertising.
These also include the classical sights such as the partly well-preserved bastions of San Miguel, San Pedro and Santa Rita or the town gate Portón de Campo designed as a wooden drawbridge. The few remaining remains of the city wall were restored between 1968 and 1971. Today, bronze nails mark the original height of the building.
Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, also known as Iglesia Matriz, dates back to the late 17th century and is considered Uruguay’s oldest church.
The beautiful view from the platform alone makes a visit to the old lighthouse next to the ruins of the 17th century Convento de San Francisco worthwhile.
The Museo Portugues, housed in a mid-18th century building, exhibits furniture, jewellery, uniforms and old sea charts of Portuguese voyages of discovery.
Also of Portuguese origin are the Casa de Nacarello and the Municipal Museum, whose building was rebuilt by the Spanish in 1835 as Casa del Almirante Brown.
Colonia’s sights are quickly explored, but those who stay overnight here have the opportunity to stroll through the alleys away from the hustle and bustle of day tourists and take a look at the remarkable local gastronomy scene.
Those who want to visit Colonia del Sacramento can do so as a side trip from Buenos Aires, or they can make a stop as part of the trip to Punta del Este.