Four days between Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay

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From Montevideo to Colonia del Sacramento, along the banks of the Rio de la Plata, the days are easygoing and serenity dictates the tone

When the locals call Uruguay “paisito,” they aren’t just referring to its size, being one of the smallest nations in South America. More than this, there is a spirit of tranquility, guided by some of the best social indicators on the continent: the country has high rates of literacy and life expectancy, in addition to low levels of social inequality. The capital, Montevideo, does nothing to contradict this peace, instead confirming it: the 1.3 million inhabitants insist on maintaining their own pace in a city peppered with squares, cafés, and spaces for socialization.

 

Day 1 • Airs of old

9 a.m. - Past in the present

Ciudad Vieja’s clocks are set to past eras. At Café Brasilero, they’ve been serving cortados (coffee with milk) at the little wooden tables since 1877. A block away, Plaza Constitución is home to works of colonial architecture, like the Iglesia Matriz and the Cabildo, the old administrative headquarters – today, it houses exhibitions that combine documents from the historical archives and contemporary art installations.

 

Café Brasilero — Calle Ituzaingó, 1.447 

Iglesia Matriz — Calle Ituzaingó, 1.373 

Cabildo — Calle Juan Carlos Gómez, 1.362 

 

1 p.m. - Tight lunch

Tucked in between buildings on the pedestrian street Peatonal Sarandí, the restaurant Estrecho is only wide enough for the kitchen and a counter that seats around 20. They serve seafood-inspired dishes, like shrimp salads followed by slices of liza (a common fish off the Uruguayan coast) with caramelized pumpkin and yogurt.

 

Estrecho — Calle Sarandí, 460

 

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4 p.m. - Sacred break

Uruguayans take their merienda (afternoon coffee served with tasty treats) very seriously. Caffeinated beverages can be found at La Pasionaria, an old inn that contains a café, restaurant, atelier, and shop selling products by local designers. Both are nearby Puerta de la Ciudadela, a vestige of the old wall that once restricted Montevideo to the old city. The portico faces Plaza Independencia, home to Palacio Salvo – a “giraffe of cement,” as poet Juvenal Ortiz Saralegui described it, with a terrace to admire the elevated view of the city.

 

La Pasionaria — Calle Reconquista, 587 

Palacio Salvo — Plaza Independencia, 848

 

8 p.m. - The king star

Majestically crowned with a sun on the facade, Teatro Solís was the first theater in the country. After a fire in 1998, it was reborn with a much larger stage for concerts and plays. Your visit there can start with a performance in the carpeted auditorium and end at Rara Avis, a restaurant located in the same building.

 

Teatro Solís —Calle Buenos Aires, s/n 

Rara Avis — Calle Buenos Aires, 652 

 

Day 2 • Surveying the perimeter

9 a.m. Go by bike

The rambla that runs along the Rio de la Plata and stretches over 12 miles [20 km] from its starting point in Ciudad Vieja outlines the beaches and promenades, serving as meeting place, seaside hangout, and sports center for Montevideo residents. One good option is to rent a bike at Parque Rodó and explore the shoreline heading toward the neighborhoods of Pocitos and Punta Carretas – the latter is home to the charming Café Philomène, a strategic stop for a dose of energy.

 

Café Philomène — Calle Solano García, 2.455 

 

12:30 p.m. Festive history

Back in the old city, a warehouse on the docks is home to the Museo del Carnaval, with costumes and instruments on display, recounting the history of the Uruguayan festival — one of the longest in the world, sometimes lasting an entire month. The building is next to Mercado del Puerto, an old commercial center. Despite the many parrillas available, the real standout is Empanadas Carolina, which serves fried empanadas.

 

Museo del Carnaval — Rambla 25 de agosto de 1825, 218 

Mercado del Puerto — Rambla 25 de agosto de 1825, 228 

Empanadas Carolina — Calle Piedras, 237 

 

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3 p.m. Corkscrew

The wine route is located on the outskirts of the capital, starting with Bodega Carrau. Around 12 miles [20 km] from Ciudad Vieja, it is run to this day by the founding family which brought the wine-producing tradition with them from Catalonia. Carrau was a pioneer in planting tannat – the grape that’s now most characteristic of Uruguayan wine.

 

Bodega Carrau — Avenida César Mayo Gutiérrez, 2.556 

 

5 p.m. Second glass

Right next door is Bodega Bouza, where wine tastings are held near one of the grape plantations, inside a glass parlor, with décor comprised of the classic cars which the family collects. Along with bottles of wine, they also sell cheese and wool clothing.

 

Bodega Bouza — Camino de la Redención, 7.658 

 

Day 3 • Heading west

10 a.m. In Portuñol, please

It’s only 111 miles [180 km] from Montevideo to Colonia del Sacramento, so the destination makes for a good day trip. The city that changed hands from Portuguese to Spanish a number of times ended up boasting a wealth of architecture, where Portuguese tiles coexist with large Spanish-style houses in the streets of the Casco Histórico. It’s small, so there’s no need to hurry to the top of the lighthouse to take in the panoramic view.

 

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5 p.m. By the banks

As you head down the cobblestone streets, just choose one of the gastropubs by the riverbank, like Gitana, and decide between chivitos (beefsteak sandwich) or tapas. As the sun goes down, the pier is the best vantage point to bid the day farewell among the boats.

 

Gitana —  Calle Misiones de los Tapes, 41

 

9 p.m. Comfort food

Back in Montevideo, kick off your night out at Tona, where dinner has a family touch: tortillas and spinach buñuelos are on the menu, divided between recipes by chef Hugo Soca and his grandmother, Petrona. After, there’s still time to visit one of the oldest bars in the city, Inmigrantes, and enjoy drinks like the maracanazo, made with Aperol and passion fruit.

 

Tona — Calle Luis Franzini, 955

Inmigrantes — Calle Juan Paullier, 1.252 

 

Day 4 • Outside the center

9 a.m. Uphill

On the other side of the Bay of Montevideo, a hilltop fortress that may have christened the city – some residents say that legend has it the name might have come from the Portuguese “monte vi eu” [which translates into something like “mountain I saw”]. Among the ancient cannons, the story of General Artigas is told, a hero of the independence. There, you can see the river and enjoy a good view of Ciudad Vie

 

12 p.m. Local flavor

If Uruguay has a flavor, the place to find it is within the iron frame of the Mercado Agrícola. All the foods that are typically Uruguayan can be sampled and purchased there: queso Colonia (which resembles gruyère), fresh fruit, bocaditos… If you have any room left, Chelato serves ice cream with such flavors as yerba (mate tea) and dulce de leche.

 

Mercado Agrícola — Calle José L. Terra, 2.220

Chelato — Calle José L. Terra, 2.220 

 

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7 p.m. On the grill

Santiago de Mori and his partner lead the team around the fire at La Otra Parrilla. Uruguayan barbecue is always fueled by wood, driving away the cold and grilling an assortment of beef cuts, blood sausages, and slices of provolone.

 

La Otra Parrilla — Calle Tomás Diago, 758 

 

9 p.m. Dancing

It’s no exaggeration: there are milongas every night in Montevideo, at places such as the Centro Cultural Florencio Sánchez. They’re normally preceded by brief lessons in the dance style, a tango with just two beats per measure. The rhythm was developed both in Argentina and Uruguay – incidentally, “La Cumparsita,” the most exemplary milonga song, was composed in Uruguay. Don’t let them fool you: Uruguayans are serene, but they know how to dance, too.

 

Centro Cultural Florencio Sánchez — Calle Grecia, 3.281 

 

A LATAM tem voos para Montevidéu a partir de São Paulo, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro e Lima.

Garanta seu pacote completo com hospedagem e passeios para este destino com a LATAM Travel.

 

Special thanks: Uruguay Ministry of Tourism / Arabella