My most vivid memory from my first visit to Colonia is of the impressive Bullfighting ring. It was in ruins 20 years ago just like now, but, surprisingly, it has retained its charm, although it is no longer possible to go into the actual arena, just as we did then, and visitors can only circle the building to observe its beauty.
Many films have been shot in Colonia, and it is often chosen as a location for fashion photo or TV commercial shoots. The thing about Colonia is that the historic center seems to be frozen in time, with its cobbled streets and colonial buildings. No doubt the most imposing architectural element in the town is the famous Drawbridge Entrance, reminiscent on fairy-tales and medieval castles. I remember this being the best place to take pictures. Back then, cameras still used film, we were teenagers, and I remember our Colonia trip like quite the adventure.
This photo of Plaza de Toros is courtesy of TripAdvisor
One thing that I felt at the time was that, as gorgeous as Colonia might be, a weekend seemed plenty enough to get to know the place, and perhaps a longer stay might be a bit dull.
That is not the case today. Colonia is less than an hour away from Buenos Aires by ferry, which has made it extremely popular with tourists from the Argentinean capital. This has created a boom in all areas of business and culture. From live music shows and concerts to art exhibitions and great hotels, restaurants and discos, the modern Colonia has it all.
When you come from bustling, noisy Buenos Aires, Colonia seems like the ultimate bliss, and Argentineans are not only coming there on holidays, they are buying land and businesses and settling down, which has injected the small colonial town with a new vibrant lifestyle.
GETTING THERE, GETTING AROUND
This photo of Colonia del Sacramento is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The main access to Colonia is via either Buenos Aires or Montevideo. From Buenos Aires, you can take the ferry, Buquebus, Seacat or Colonia Express are the options, and from Montevideo, you can take a bus, which will take about 3 hours.
Once in Colonia, you can walk or rent a bike to get around the historic area, but if want to explore other areas of the province, which includes a Swiss section that produces delicious cheese varieties, and some fabulous rural B&Bs, you can rent a car or book an organized tour.
The Street of Sighs is just the quintessential Colonia street, although nobody is ceratin how it got its name, other than being extremely pretty.
The Moorish style Bullring opened in 1910, but bullfighting was banned in Uruguay only after a few events were held, which explains its present state of abandonment.
The Basílica del Santísmo Sacramento is the town´s main church, crowned by beautiful domes, the church is surrounded by nice terraced restaurants, which makes it ideal for a pre-lunch visit.
Nobody goes to Colonia for the beach, but the shores of the Uruguay river are quite panoramic, with long stretches of sand as far as the eye can see.
DINING AND HOTELS
Among the restaurants in Colonia, the most famous ones are El Buen Suspiro, La Florida and Lentas Maravillas. El Buen Suspiro is great for romantinc dinners and famous for its cheese and wine selections. La Florida is a bit more expensive, but the setting, the food and the great service are worth it. Lentas Maravillas is artsy, with views to a beautiful garden by the river´s edge; it features a library, and the nutella cheesecake is said to be quite unforgettable.
CASA DE LOS JAZMINES is a B&B set in a beautiful country-house, the decor and the grounds are quite breathtaking, and the place has that rare combination of luxury with a homey feel.
POSADA DE CAMPO GONDWANA is also in the country, a short driving distance from the town. A stylish building and an atmosphere ideal for relaxation, and the hosts are as friendly as they get.
COLONIA SUITE boasts all the advantages and comforts of a modern hotel, in a homey and relaxed environment. Breakfasts in a lush garden and excellent service.