Posada Plaza Mayor

Colonia del Sacramento, Rio de la Plata, Uruguay Book from US$125

Historic hotel with an Andalucian courtyard in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site, an hour by ferry from Buenos Aires
A flock of parrots scatters into the extravagant orange-lavender sunset, transforming the Río de la Plata to mother-of-pearl. The fragrant Paraíso blossoms intoxicate. With day-trippers gone, the splashing courtyard fountain is interrupted only by the occasional buzz of a motorbike bumping over centuries-old cobblestones. Staying over is the best way to soak in Colonia del Sacramento’s timeless magic.

The Portuguese settled this rocky peninsula in southern Uruguay in 1680, fighting the Spanish for dominion for nearly a century. Today Colonia is a historic treasure, locally renowned for its freshwater beaches, lighthouse and colonial ruins - ideal for history-lovers or anyone seeking a peaceful (and romantic) respite from hectic Buenos Aires. Like the surrounding Barrio Histórico, this 17-room hotel is a marriage of authentic Portuguese and Spanish heritage architecture; 1860 buildings constructed on a ranch settled in 1700. Ground-floor rooms with irregular Portuguese exposed stone walls open to a flowery courtyard straight out of Old Seville. A small yard overlooks the river promenade. Museums, shops and restaurants are steps away.

Highs

  • Ideally located on a cobblestone street just off the main plaza in the picturesque and fascinating 10-block historic district; easy walking distance to shops and restaurants
  • Old World courtyard with wisteria, jasmine, azaleas, begonias and pansies surrounding a blue and white ceramic fountain
  • The colonial-style former family home includes architectural details and fixtures from the original Portuguese settlement preserved in a charming Spanish layout
  • It's a pocket of peace after bustling Buenos Aires

Lows

  • Stone walls make rooms dark; some standard rooms lack space and windows
  • The modern additions can feel disconcertingly sterile
  • You'll need to eat out for lunch and dinner, but there's lots of choice on your doorstep
  • It's quiet most nights; not for those hooked on Buenos Aires' all-night party vibe
  • No pool, but the beach is close at hand (unpretentious but a bit scruffy)
  • We've heard reports of disappointing, disinterested service

Best time to go

In summer (December to February) days are warm to sweltering, making Colonia’s beaches popular - though delightfully un-crowded. In February the town hosts its annual jazz festival. The Easter holiday is particularly busy with visiting Argentine families, so make sure you book well in advance if you plan to stay at this time. Winter months (July and August) can be cold and damp. Our mid-October (spring) visit was perfectly timed - a rather dramatic storm blew in briefly one afternoon, but most days were clear and cool.

Our top tips

Bring a Spanish dictionary - English is less widely spoken here (or less fluently) than in neighbouring Argentina, and you'll need one for navigating restaurant menus and getting around. Uruguayan Spanish is similar to rapid-fire Argentinian Spanish, peppered with slang.

Great for...

Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 35
  • Breakfast (+ restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Superior Room

Rooms

Built on the foundations of a 1700 Portuguese home that was part of Colonia del Sacramento’s original settlement, Posada Plaza Mayor is an interesting historic amalgam of Portuguese and Spanish colonial architecture, look out for the original Portuguese stone walls and tiles. The 17 rooms - ranging from small standard rooms with twin beds to a suite with a sitting room - surround a flower-filled courtyard so picturesque it’s a favourite for wedding photographs.

Simple vintage-style furniture, thick terracotta tile floors, Portuguese-style walls of irregular grey stones, sloping beamed ceilings and shuttered windows with blue-and-white tiled sills make you feel like you’ve stepped back a couple of centuries. You may scratch your head at the touches of chintz, the sterile motel-style bathrooms (white tiles speckled with black and trimmed in cherry red?) and wall-mounted TVs, but the heating, air con and jetted bathtubs are among the welcome 21st-century touches.

Forego the three newer, modern rooms on the second storey and plump for one of the original Colonial Rooms. Out of these, the best bets are the Superior Rooms. They're more spacious than the rather cave-like Standard Rooms, with natural light from windows facing a cobbled side street. Note some experience ambient noise from the adjacent restaurant. The 2 front-facing suites offer even more room and natural light, along with whirlpool baths, but there can be some noise (note that the Semi-Suite doesn't have a separate sitting area) from the Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo, one of the main focal points of Colonia.

Mod cons in all rooms include satellite TV, minibars, hairdryers, small safes, coffee- and tea-making facilities and roomy wardrobes with shelves and drawers. Note that the WiFi signal may not penetrate the thick walls of your room, so you might have to get online in the garden, lobby, reception or cafeteria instead.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Enjoy breakfast with a spectacular view of the river in the second storey 'cafeteria'. More charming than the name implies, this long wood-panelled room is inviting, with cheery blue and white checked tablecloths, an antique sideboard and a bar. The typical buffet includes yoghurt, juice, fresh fruit, cold cereal, ham, breads and pastries including croissants and cakes, jam, coffee, and hot water for tea.

Drinks and snacks (essentially the same fare offered at breakfast) are available via 24-hour room service, but for anything more substantial you'll need to head out. You can also get a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoons in the cafeteria.

Just opposite is the pink-walled Pulperia de los Faroles, which has live music most nights, and specialises in beef and bean dishes and homemade pasta. El Buen Suspiro is a good little wine bar with great cheeses and small plates; La Florida also gets good feedback. For dinner, Meson de la Plaza, opposite the Basilica, has a romantic vibe in a colonial setting and we liked their rich dishes; while the pricier Restaurante del Yacht, has a 3-sided view of the river. We also loved lingering over a café cortado (steamed milk 'cut' with a shot of espresso) at a shady sidewalk table outside La Luna, where the main drag - Avenida General Flores - meets the river. You may want to get to know menu terms, including cooking styles and cuts of beef served in local parillas (steakhouses) - perhaps even more popular here than in Buenos Aires. To further confuse things, chivito means something completely different in Uruguay than it does in Argentina - not goat, but beef loin (topped with lettuce, tomato, green olives, hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise on a thin muffin-like bun), and much championed by aficionados.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Soak up Colonia’s timeless magic: stroll along the river promenade at sunset, hang out at waterside cafés, and wander along the Portuguese (irregular stone) and Spanish (brick) streets (comfortable shoes are essential!)

  • Schedule a tour (gratuity appreciated) of the Barrio Histórico, browse the half a dozen small museums (one has an impressive whale skeleton in its garden, admission to all is covered by one ticket), and climb the 1857 lighthouse for a panoramic view. The unexpectedly plainly decorated Basilica del Sanctísimo Sacramento (the Basilica of the Holy Sacrament) is worth a look inside, stone-built by the Portuguese in 1808

  • Shop in the town's unique shops, galleries and boutiques - prices are reasonable for one-of-a-kind designer jewellery, handbags, shoes, antiques, handicrafts, leather, art, clothing. US dollars, Argentine and Uruguayan pesos are all spend-able here

  • Rent a mountain bike, motorbike, golf cart or 4x4 for exploring the town, as well as nearby beaches

  • Cool off at one of Colonia’s freshwater, white sand beaches; the warm, shallow waters are perfect for young children

  • Back at the hotel, settle back with a good book to the soft splash of the fountain in the flowery courtyard, work out in the gym, watch a DVD in the lounge, or enjoy a massage in your room

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming

Kids

Families are welcome; there's no charge for children under the age of 2. No extra beds are available but baby cots can be provided on request.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

No extra beds are available but baby cots can be provided in most rooms on request.

Kids Activities nearby:

Children will love the nearby uncrowded freshwater beaches, which have calm water safe for swimming. There's a (somewhat rickety) playground just next to the Feria Artisanal and Stadium.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
6/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
7/
Overall

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Rates for Posada Plaza Mayor