Colonia del Sacramento for the Day

Colorful
Most expats living in Buenos Aires have to leave the country every three months. The easiest trip to make is across the Río de la Plata to Colonia in Uruguay. It’s also a really nice way to spend a day. And the views of Buenos Aires from the ferry are amazing.

Buenos Aires from the Ferry

If you want those views though, take the slow ferry that has an outdoor deck. It’s three hours instead of one hour, but it’s nice to be able to sit outside as you cross the Rio de la Plata and if you want photos, you won’t be able to take good shots from the faster ferry (the windows aren’t spotless).

Lighthouse

Colonia is, well, colonial. It’s colorful and quiet. The architecture is beautiful and spending the day walking along its cobblestone streets and checking out the views of the river is a fantastic change from Buenos Aires’ fast life. 

 Diagonals

Getting thereBuquebus has a fast ferry (one hour) and a slow one (three hours). The fast ferry leaves at 8:45 am and returns at 8:00 pm. It costs 190 pesos ($65 USD) roundtrip. The slower ferry leaves at 9:00 am with a return at 6:45. This roundtrip option costs 180 pesos ($60 USD). One thing we discovered though is that if you call to book your ticket, you get better rates. There’s a discount for going and returning on the same day that doesn’t get calculated if you are booking online. Another thing is that the first person we spoke to didn’t tell us about this discount, and we didn’t know to ask about it. There are also promotional tariffs on the website, so check those out. The promotion for the slow ferry, return trip on the same day, is 119 pesos ($40 USD).

The New Buquebus Terminal
Buquebus has a new fancy terminal at the northern end of Puerto Madero. There’s a nice description of the ticket-buying process here.

Upside – Colonia is stunning so if you’re into photography, take your camera.

Abandoned, Yet Beautiful

Some of the buildings are left abandoned (they’re still pretty cool architecturally speaking), but those that have been maintained are flawless. There are flowers everywhere.

Bougainvillaea

And another trademark of Colonia is all the old-fashioned cars that make you feel like you’re in Havana, Cuba.

Typical Colonia
There’s hardly any traffic. The people are friendly and they accept Uruguayan pesos, Argentinean pesos, and U.S. dollars, so there’s no need to exchange money.

Downside – It’s more expensive than Buenos Aires. As with most tourist destinations, good food is hard to come by. Considering most people go there for one day and either arrive around 10:00 am or noon, I’ve always found it amazing that there aren’t more cafes or tea rooms. Finding a nice place for coffee and medialunas (croissants in this part of the world) is really hard. You’ll probably end up having breakfast in a place with zero charm and decent coffee at best. Then you spend the day walking the streets, eat lunch at around 1:00 or so, and start walking some more. By 4:00 or 5:00 it’d be nice to sit down, watch people walk by, have a cup of tea and a pastry or a beer and some snacks. Places like this hardly exist there, so if you’re interested in opening a business in a quiet, lovely town with lots of foot tourists, Colonia needs a tea room. 

Where to eat – I haven’t been to Colonia so many times that I know all of the restaurants, but the only place I’d go back to again is El Torreon. The view is beautiful (especially at sunset).
Sunset from El Torreon
The food is expensive for Buenos Aires standards, but at least it’s good. The chowder was fantastic, but the calamari were a bit overbreaded.
Chowder and Calamari, El Torreon
I would have never chosen to eat at El Torreon, but I read a review from the food critic I must respect in Buenos Aires, Dan over at SaltShaker. If he recommended it, it had to be pretty good. 

El Torreon

Where not to eat – We chose this little restaurant, Gibellini, because it had such charm.

Restaurant

We’d passed it in the morning (too early to sit down for lunch) and heard jazzy bossa nova coming from inside. Two people were setting things up. It felt very authentic. A man and woman running a restaurant, cooking dishes they like, and listening to excellent music. My kind of place.
Reflected Place Setting
But it’s wildly expensive. And while the food wasn’t bad, it wasn’t worth the cost. The first few items we ordered weren’t in stock. We shared an appetizer, an entree of swordfish and a bottle of wine. The swordfish was a bit soggy and the shrimp weren’t fresh.
Swordfish
The bill was $60 USD. Either Buenos Aires has spoiled us and we are completely out of touch, or this guy is gauging tourists. Too bad because the place really is charming. 

 Gibellini Restaurant

Here’s my Flickr album on Colonia. I’m still adding photos, so come back to it later for a better idea of what Colonia looks like. 

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13 Comments

Filed under cafes, colonia, food, restaurants, tourism, transportation, travel, uruguay

13 responses to “Colonia del Sacramento for the Day

  1. Angela, excuse me for being so egocentric, but I feel as though you wrote this post just for me! Thank you for sharing this information on Colonia. It looks like a very charming place. I’m definitely a shutterbug, so I’m sure I’ll really enjoy taking photos. I think the dads will love it too!

  2. Hey Katie…. well, I had been meaning to write about Colonia for a while. Maybe suggesting a trip there with your dads did give me that little push I needed to get it together. But also I took over 500 photos when there in June and needed to week through those. Goodness… what a chore.

  3. I fucking love these pictures! They’re fantastic. We’re planning on checking out Colonia sometime in October when it’s temporary ejection time. By the way, I was thinking of you guys today. Erika and I walked through San Telmo with Aldo, her uncle, and watched La Orquesta Típica before wandering around the mercado de pulga and looking at old swords, magnets, lots of books, old LP’s. Cool shit. Anyway, once we’ve gotten settled in and stuff, let’s hang out someplace cute and cheap for wine and chit-chat.

  4. It all looks so gorgeous! 🙂

  5. Beautiful fotos! Was the sky really that blue??

  6. Hey guys… thanks for the compliments on the photos. It was a gorgeous day… amazing blue sky.

    Jackson, I’m glad you and Erika got over to San Telmo. Was it that orchestra that plays in front of the church? Those guys are fantastic. My mother and niece are visiting until the first of August. Once they’ve gone we should get together for that cheap wine and chit chat session. Cheers!

  7. Pingback: Top Ten Things to Do in Buenos Aires « Still Life in Buenos Aires

  8. This is very familiar! 😀 I wrote about a recent trip to Colonia in September. I liked getting out of my routine for a day and seeing the world with fresh eyes again. You have some lovely pics!

  9. Thanks Beatrice. So glad you liked the pics. A place that Colonia definitely inspires. Can’t wait to check out your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Glorious pics! Hope you are doing well. xoxo

  11. Oooo Evie. I miss you! Glad you like the pics. Hope we get to catch up soon.

  12. Jorge and Bea

    Very nice pictures! Last week we spent 2 days in Colonia and we made exactly the same experience in the Gibellini restaurant like you did. We also were attracted by the charm of the place, the good music and we also shared an appetizer, one pasta dish, a desert, two glasses of wine and were surprised by the 65 dollar bill. But we complained and finally we paid 50 dollars. So be careful: Gibellini is better for looking than for eating!

  13. Really? So it wasn’t just on that particular day that Gibellini got greedy. Thanks for telling us and also for the great tip… we really should have complained about the price. It’s such a shame because the place is adorable.

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