Uruguay was clearly a nice surprise! Not the typical touristic country and not the main reason to visit South America, but a visit was worth while. We started our trip in Uruguay through Chuí (border with Brazil) and our first two stops were Punta del Diablo and Punta del Este (see our last post here).
After Punta del Este we stayed for a couple of days in Montevideo, the capital and largest city of Uruguay. Although most of the historical buildings are located at "Ciudad Vieja" (old town) we decided to stay in one of the best neighborhoods of Montevideo: Pocitos. Sometimes we prefer to stay in a more local area instead of the typical touristic places. It allow us to "live" closer to locals and understand better the way they live and what they do in their daily life. So we stayed in a really nice apartment with a terrace (which is something we love!) that we found through Airbnb (if you never used Airbnb before you can get a credit of 18€ clicking here). And we were right! The Pocitos neighborhood was very local, relaxing and close to the beach. And since we had the car it took us around 10 minutes from there to the old town.
Montevideo's old town is relatively small. We started our visit at Plaza Independencia dominated by Puerta de la Ciudadela (city door), Palacio Salvo and Palacio Estevez. Palacio Salvo is one of Montevideo's symbols with an high of 102 meters and once South America's highest building. Another point of interest and just a few meters from Plaza Independencia is Plaza Constitución or Plaza Matriz where is located the main church (Igreja Matriz) and where you can find people selling souvenirs and other stuff. Very close too you found Solís Theatre, Uruguay's oldest theatre built in 1856 and still very popular among the country.
The thing we liked most in Montevideo city centre was "Mercado del Puerto", the old port market building. It is an impressive building outside but specially inside with several coffees, restaurants and stores. For us it was like a version of "Mercado de San Miguel" (Madrid, Spain). And the outside around the building is not less impressive, full of artists, crafts and people.
The fourth place we visited in Uruguay (and the last one!) was Colonia del Sacramento, 180 km (less than 2 hours) by car. Colonia, as it is known in Uruguay, is one of the oldest towns in the country and it was founded by the Portuguese in 1680. It was disputed with the Spanish for a century (they built Montevideo because of that!) but it was finally lost by its founders. It was named UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved urban landscapes and the mix of Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial styles.
We felt immediately in love with Colonia narrow streets, colonial buildings and colorful houses. The old town has also an ambiance difficult to explain but that you can feel as soon as you start walking around. History, Art, Architecture, Color, Music and People is everywhere and everything can be reached by foot including the well-known "Calle de los Suspiros", a road full of colonial houses, the Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo, Plaza de Armas (Manuel Lobo) and Portón de Campo (the city gate built in 1745). There's also a lighthouse ("Faro") from the 19th century and for 20$ (Uruguay currency) you can go upstairs and enjoy a nice view of the town and sea.
At Colonia they also have a shared management for the museums so you just have to pay 50$ (Uruguay currency) to visit all the museums that are open in that day (they have 8 historical museums but each one closes in a different day). Our favorite was the Portuguese Museum, not because we are Portuguese but because it was the most interesting and complete museum about Colonia del Sacramento History. We also visited the Nacarello House (a typical colonial house from inside), the Municipal Museum and the Regional Archive. They were relatively small but all together explain the town History. We also had time to enjoy a spectacular sunset from the Puerto Viejo (old port). And of course, we enjoy a nice meal in one of the many restaurants in the old town: El Drugstore (Plaza de Armas).
We did a short video (3 minutes) while walking and visiting Colonia del Sacramento old town. You can see it here.
Next stop: Buenos Aires, Argentina!