We spent 10 days in Colonia del Sacramento, between January and February 2017.
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Colonia del Sacramento is a historical place in Uruguay. It’s got this amazing place called Bario Historico (or Historical Quarter), and it’s basically where we spent our days. It’s also a World Heritage Site, declared by Unesco, and it deserves it.
We’ve read that it’s a great weekend getaway or even a day trip from Montevideo, but we wanted more. Oh, of course, we’d want to stay more. We found this apartment on Airbnb with a great location and a good price (relatively, you see. It was Carnaval, high season, summer, and all that) and just booked for all the days it had free.
The apartment was beautiful, super well located, but it had one major problem: no washing machine. We knew that, it was clearly said to us before we booked but it was a bigger nuisance than we thought it would be. Sol (our host) even offered us to introduce us to the person who does the laundry for the apartment, but we missed it. Other than the lack of laundry facilities, it had the noise issue. Some parts of the ceiling were pretty cool on sunny days, letting the light come through and all, but on windy and rainy days, it was spooky. And noisy. Man, was it noisy! We couldn’t even hear each other if we didn’t scream. Really. Luckily, we had only 2 days of rain.
Since we were in Barrio Historico (Historic Quarter), we could walk to all the touristic parts of Colonia. We did it every day. It got a bit boring by the end of the week, but we did it anyway. Nothing that can’t be cured with ice cream and a nice sunset.
When we arrived, we were in awe. The cobblestone streets lined with gorgeous trees, the old style houses, the sounds of the birds, the blue skies, people riding golf carts, everything was just too perfect (well, other than the dog poop all over the city and the broken sidewalks). It was love at first sight.
Barrio Historico is just gorgeous, but beware: it’s small. Probably 2 days would be enough to see it all, enjoy it and leave while still in awe. People did tell me it was a great day trip from Montevideo, but of course I’d want to stay for longer. We’d have been happy for around a week, probably, but it was so long… And the laundry pile piling up…
From Colonia, there’s also the ferry that goes to Buenos Aires (Argentina). We didn’t go because it’d end up super expensive and our budget was already blown over with accommodation only.
On one of the days, we rented a golf cart (at the cheapest one with good service, because there was one where the guy was watching a movie and refused to look at us while we were trying to rent his cart that was cheaper) and drove around Colonia. It was a Monday, unfortunately, and all the museums were closed so we had to just literally drive around. Well, we went up until the end of Colonia, swam at Rio de la Plata and then on the way back, I dropped my phone. It was terrifying – it had tons of photos of the kids, contacts, emails, logins and everything. Luckily, Uruguayans are great people and one of them found it and gave it back to me. It was such a relief.
We watched the sunset almost every day from La Rambla, and I highly recommend you do so. It’s so beautiful mesmerizing and so different from day to day. On weekends, there are people playing music, and we caught a fashion show (?) and a Carnival practice. Pretty cool.
Centro Cultural Bastión del Carmen is a fun place to be. It’s beautiful and the view… Breathtaking. We went there to let the kids play a little, take in the scenery, and it was free (and just across the street from the apartment). It’s a great place to have a picnic.
One thing that bugged me quite a lot was the fact that many restaurants only accept payment in cash. Uruguay has a thing that if you pay with your credit card, you get the tax discounted at the moment, but if you pay cash, then you pay the tax too. It wasn’t nice to sit, read on the menu that they only take cash and have to leave or accept to pay anyway.
While there, we ate quite a few times at Mercosur. It’s a reasonably priced restaurant (that takes credit card) and had a great service. José even received a bracelet from the bartender there, super sweet. The best thing, though, is that if you buy for takeaway, they give you a 50% discount. It was great for our budget – and it ended up being cheaper than actually cooking, so we made the rice at home and bought the rest there.
We were told that SOS Gardel was an ‘eat all you can’ meat buffet with all included, thinking it would be a nice meal but the meat wasn’t nearly good (whether too raw or overcooked), the salad buffet had almost nothing, the dessert wasn’t good either. The service wasn’t good and the toilets were nasty. Completely not worth it.
A La Pipetuá had a pretty nice meal but it doesn’t take credit card. It’s right beside the Lighthouse, so easy to find. The kids’ meal was bigger than the grown up food. Crazy.
Lastly, we ate at Vintage Resto. Delicious food, but the calzoni is HUGE! We ordered one for each kid and none of them ate all of it, of course.
For ice cream, we had it at El Cali (OK ice cream but really bad service – not worth it at all), at La Bendita (OK ice cream, good service, and beautiful view), and at Bortolot . The last one was my personal favorite with really good service, awesome presentation, and the best ice cream we had in Uruguay. Pricey, but they have pretty good deals throughout the week so it gets to a payable price.
There were 2 supermarkets, Económico and Super USA, 5 minutes from ‘home’ in Colonia. Both of them are super small, have limited variety and are quite pricey. We did, though, shop there quite a few times due to the closeness. Económico didn’t accept credit card – major fault, remember the tax reduction? It also works for supermarkets.
Then there was another one at the mall, the Tata Supermarket. This one was bigger, had a bit more variety and it was a little bit cheaper BUT we did not find the difference enough to make us walk the 30 minutes there. The mall wasn’t good enough either, with one restaurant only and a few stores only. There was a kart circuit, though (we didn’t ride it).
There were 2 places. We used Arco Iris because the other one, even though displaying an ‘open’ sign, never answered the door – and it was locked. Our clothes took a day to be ready and they came home smelling bad, like if they weren’t properly dried and put inside a plastic bag. We had to wash everything again on the next house, so we don’t recommend it. Wash whatever you need in the sink and hang it somewhere, even if it’s the back of a chair.
TO AND FROM MONTEVIDEO
We traveled between Montevideo and Colonia both times by bus. We used COT – the prices were all about the same and it had the best reviews. The buses were comfortable, it took around 2 hours each trip and it even had wi-fi. We had no problem with it! You can buy it on the day, there are buses every 20 minutes. We bought at Tres Cruces a few days prior to the trip because we didn’t want to arrive and wait until the next bus.
There you have it. Our guide to Colonia del Sacramento with (or without) kids.