18+ Fun Things to Do in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

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Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, is a gorgeous little town on the Rio de la Plata, just a short boat ride from Buenos Aires. There are so many fun things to do in Colonia del Sacramento, and it’s wild that you can enjoy an easy day trip to an entirely new country!

If you’d like to escape the loud, crazy atmosphere of the big city, Colonia del Sacramento will relax you immediately. With its gorgeous historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll want to photograph everything in sight.

Planning your trip to Colonia del Sacramento last minute?

Colonia is a popular destination for Buenos Aires residents, especially on weekends and holidays. It’s a good idea to book ahead of time.

🛳️ Booking a day trip from Buenos Aires?

  1. Ferry Tickets from Buenos Aires to Colonia (Cheaper, independent option)
  2. Colonia Small Group Day Trip from Buenos Aires (Best if you want a guide)

⛪ Top Experiences and Tours in Colonia del Sacramento:

  1. Explore Barrio HistĂłrico (Just walk around and enjoy!)
  2. Visit the Origami Museum (Quirky & worth a visit)
  3. Go wine tasting (Best if you’re staying a few days)

🛌  Top-Rated Hotels in Colonia del Sacramento:

  1. Charco Hotel (High-end boutique hotel with waterfront views)
  2. Posada Boutique Las Terrazas (Mid-range hotel in Barrio HistĂłrico)
  3. Viajero Posada B&B (Great budget option)

Book your ferry tickets here. (I highly recommend doing this in advance!) You can also reach Colonia del Sacramento on a group day tour or private tour from Buenos Aires.

I originally meant to visit Colonia del Sacramento on my first trip to Buenos Aires, back in 2008 — but for various reasons, it didn’t happen. Now returning to Buenos Aires with my husband, Charlie, as part of our South American honeymoon, we were determined to visit this time.

And what a gem of a town Colonia is.

Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, Colonia del Sacramento changed hands between the Portuguese and the Spanish over the course of several hundred years. Due to its strategic position on the Rio de la Plata across from Buenos Aires, it was an important stronghold that both the Portuguese and the Spanish wanted to control.

Now a popular tourist destination, the town retains its colonial vestiges. Colonial del Sacramento is full of historic architecture, cobblestone streets lined with tall trees, cute cafes, and unique museums.

And even though our December day was hot, humid, and gray, with a few rain storms thrown in, we fell in love with Colonia del Sacramento right away. And there are a surprising number of cool things to do here.

Here are the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento — so you can maximize your day trip from Buenos Aires!

This post was published in May 2024 and was co-written by Adventurous Kate and Dale Peterson.

A street with some brightly painted buildings and some hot pink bougainvillea flowers draping over the top of a doorway.
Come to Colonia for scenes like this.

Day Trip to Uruguay from Buenos Aires

Are you planning to visit Colonia del Sacramento as a day trip from Buenos Aires? Plenty of people do. It’s a perfect day trip destination, and getting here isn’t as hard as you think!

You have two options: book the ferry on your own, or book a group tour.

Book the ferry on your own here. Charlie and I attempted booking directly with the ferry companies, but our payments kept getting rejected because we didn’t have local bank accounts. Instead, we had success booking through DirectFerries.

Alternatively, this group tour comes highly recommended. It includes round-trip ferry transport, a two-hour tour of Colonia, and free time to explore independently. You’ll have a guide to make sure you get to the right place.

Should you do this as a tour or on your own? Honestly, I found this to be a pretty easy day trip to do on our own, and the boat literally drops you off walking distance from the historic part of Colonia del Sacramento, so it comes down to whether you’d rather have a guided tour included or not.

More on the transportation options below.

Do you need to change money? Uruguay uses Uruguayan pesos, but we found that every place we visited took credit cards, so there was no need for taking money out.

Will you need your passport? YES. You will absolutely need your passport, as you’ll be crossing borders.

A tree-lined cobblestone street with short, one-story buildings painted white, pink, and pale green.
Colonia’s streets are endlessly charming!

Best Things To Do in Colonia del Sacramento

Explore the Barrio HistĂłrico 

One of my favorite things to do in Colonia del Sacramento was simply to wander through the streets of the Barrio HistĂłrico. Walk through the Puerta de la Ciudadela, the historic stone gateway into the old town, to begin your exploration. You can also walk along a portion of the old city walls around the gate.

The entire Barrio HistĂłrico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can see many examples of well-preserved colonial architecture as well as historic ruins as you stroll the cobblestone streets.

You can cover the whole Barrio HistĂłrico on foot in a relatively short amount of time because it’s quite compact. This is the thriving heart of Colonia del Sacramento, and it’s where you’ll find lots of cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Don’t miss Plaza Mayor, which may have some local artisans selling their wares.

A white church with yellow trim on a plaza, surrounded by lush trees.
Plaza de Armas, the main square in Colonia del Sacramento

Visit Plaza de Armas

As you wander through the Barrio HistĂłrico of Colonia del Sacramento, you’ll soon hit Plaza de Armas. This central square is one of the most important places in the old town (and “Plaza de Armas” is the name of the main square in many South American cities).

This square was the hub of colonial life hundreds of years ago, and it’s where you’ll find the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento, also known as Matriz Church, which most historians believe is the oldest church in Uruguay.

After popping into the church for a quick visit, relax on one of the benches in the square or head over to Colonia Sandwich Coffee Shop. This adorable little cafe serves a variety of sandwiches, cakes, smoothies, and high-quality coffee from good espresso machines. Charlie and I had delicious coffee frappes with dulce de leche — the perfect cool treat on a hot day!

A very old cobbled street in Colonia, surrounded by plain stone buildings.
Colonia feels like it’s stuck in time.

Wander the cobblestone streets

Part of what makes Colonia del Sacramento so charming is its picturesque cobbled streets. Many of these streets date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. They are a photographer’s dream, lined with colorful colonial buildings draped with flowers and vines.

Strolling down the cobblestone streets of Colonia, you’ll feel transported back in time. It feels odd seeing the modern businesses poke their faces out of the ancient buildings!

An interesting thing about Colonia (and Uruguay as a whole) is that its residents are crazy about vintage cars. So as you walk through the streets of town, you may spot vintage and antique cars, which make for a great photo op.

One of the oldest streets in Colonia — and by far the most photographed street — is Calle de los Suspiros, or Street of Sighs.

While there are several theories about how this street got its name, its true origin is unknown. However, this charming and romantic street is one you shouldn’t miss in Colonia. You’ll definitely want to get a few photos here.

A lush green park in Colonia, with a tall white lighthouse in the background.
Plaza Mayor in Colonia, a short stroll from the lighthouse.

Climb to the top of El Faro Lighthouse

El Faro Lighthouse is the highest point in the Barrio HistĂłrico, and you can climb to the top to take in scenic views over Colonia and the surrounding waters. Standing at 112 feet, the lighthouse was constructed in the mid-1800s on the ruins of an old convent.

Although it’s no longer in use, the lighthouse played an important role in the 19th and 20th centuries helping boats navigate the Río de la Plata.

A ticket to climb to the top of the Colonia del Sacramento lighthouse is a bargain — about 25 UYU ($0.65 USD) — and the views are definitely worth it. 

A tall, white, skinny lighthouse built into a rocky base.
You can get the best views in town from the Colonia Lighthouse.

See the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

While you’re at El Faro Lighthouse, be sure to check out the ruins right behind it. The Convent of San Francisco was constructed by the Portuguese in the 1680s. However, much of it was destroyed by fire in 1705.

The lighthouse was later constructed from the ruins of the convent’s tower. You can still walk around the stone ruins of the rest of the convent behind the lighthouse.

A museum in Colonia with rifles and swords underneath a glass display, and coats of arms on a stone wall behind it.
Welcome to a small town with lots of museums.

Learn at the many museums

For such a small town, Colonia del Sacramento is home to a surprising number of museums! The best way to check out all the museums in Colonia is to purchase a master ticket for all of the Museo de Colonia collections.

This includes entry into nine different museums and collections around town, including the Spanish Museum, the Portuguese Museum, the Indigenous Museum, the Paleontological Museum, and more. You can buy a ticket from the ticket counter of any of those museums.

Tickets are only 150 UYU ($3.85 USD). While you probably won’t be able to visit all of the museums in just one day unless you barrel through them, you can pick several that interest you the most. All of the museums are pretty small, so you don’t need a ton of time for each one.

A hand holding up a cup of ice cream, a green scoop on top, as a man scoops from bins in the background.
You can tell this is high-quality ice cream from the covered containers in the background!

Try ice cream at Helados Dinezzo

If you’re visiting Colonia del Sacramento on a warm day, there’s no better way to cool off than with some delicious artisanal ice cream. I loved the coffee ice cream I had at Helados Dinezzo, a small ice cream shop located in the Barrio Histórico.

I always like to seek out the best ice cream in town, and though this one came from my friend Lauren‘s recommendation, I knew this was legit from the moment I saw the covered ice cream containers. Those are a sign of the highest quality gelato in Italy.

Other flavors to try include sambayon, passion fruit, Swiss chocolate, and banana split, which Charlie really enjoyed. Vegan ice cream flavors are also available. 

This is a great place to stop for a mid-afternoon snack after you’ve been exploring the town all day and want to rest for a while. Or, in our case, we waited out a sudden downpour here!

A street with several buildings with rocky exteriors, including a small craft brewery.
La Choperia brewery in Colonia.

Try craft beer

I love that craft beer and microbreweries have become so popular around the world! Colonia del Sacramento is home to a few brewpubs. Cerveceria Barbot, La Choperia, and MBC Sacramento are the three best options in town.

All three places serve craft beers and a menu of bar food.

Keep in mind that both brewpubs are only open in the evenings, so this is best for an overnight visit to Colonia. However, MBC Sacramento is also open in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday if you’re visiting on a weekend day trip.

A museum with origami figures of dinosaurs and a short white handmade dress made of fabric folded in the style of origami.
The origami museum in Colonia is a delight!

Origami Museum

One of the coolest and quirkiest museums in Colonia del Sacramento is the Origami Museum. I was surprised and delighted to find this tiny little museum in the heart of Uruguay. This is a gem of a museum that is well worth a visit if you have the time.

It was the first museum dedicated to origami in the Americas, and it offers a small but well-curated collection of paper-folding art. You can buy plenty of cool souvenirs, like origami kits in the shape of different animals.

Tickets to the Origami Museum are 80 UYU per person ($2.05 USD) or 150 UYU for two people. This is a great way to pass the time in Colonia and learn more about origami.

An extra-large salad topped with pieces of breaded chicken and croutons.
This salad was awesome!

Have a delicious lunch

As a popular day trip spot, there are plenty of great restaurants in Colonia del Sacramento serving lunch. If the weather is nice, many restaurants and cafes offer outdoor seating perfect for people-watching.

Charlie and I ate at Calma Coco, a cute and quirky cafe with delicious, hearty salads and big glasses of lemonade. It couldn’t have been a better lunch for a hot day!

This restaurant is right in the heart of the Barrio Histórico, making it a good place to stop after you’ve spent the morning sightseeing.

Other highly recommended restaurants in Colonia include La Florida, Charco Bistro, and Bohemia Bistro.

Like Argentina, Uruguay is well-known for its beef obsession. If you’re looking for a good steak, Charco Bistro is one of the top-rated restaurants in town to try.

A sandy beach strewn with rocks on the edge of the gray river underneath a cloudy sky.
Are there beaches here? Yes. They’re okay.

Relax on the beaches along Rio de la Plata

Colonia del Sacramento is right on the waterfront, and there are several beaches nearby. If you’re visiting during the summer months, hanging out at the beach is a good way to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

The nicest beaches are north of the historic center. Although there’s a small beach, Playa Honda, in town, there’s not much space and I wouldn’t consider it a place I’d like to sprawl out and sunbathe. Playa Urbano Balneário Municipal, which is north of Colonia, is a better choice.

But honestly, nothing in Colonia holds a candle to Punta del Este or Uruguay’s other beach towns on the Atlantic Ocean. These are the most popular beach destinations in Uruguay, drawing visitors from all over South America. But if you don’t have time to make it that far, a stroll along the beaches of Colonia can be fun.

Two wine glasses in front of a plate of cheese pieces, inside a stone courtyard in Colonia.
Wine tasting in Colonia del Sacramento, via Donal Keane on Shutterstock

Go wine tasting

If you want to get out of town and explore more of the Uruguayan countryside, a wine-tasting experience is a great way to do so! Uruguayan wine may not be quite as famous as that of their Argentinian neighbors, but it’s just starting to become more well-known. Red wine from the Tannat grape is quickly becoming the signature of the country.

This tour from Colonia del Sacramento includes pickup and dropoff in town and transportation to a local winery. At the winery, you’ll learn more about wine production in Uruguay and enjoy a wine tasting as well as lunch.

If you only have one day in Colonia del Sacramento, I don’t recommend doing this since it takes half the day, but it makes a great activity for an overnight or weekend trip.

An old-fashioned purple PT Cruiser-type car with a bright yellow cartoon fish in the front seat.
Keep an eye out for the antique cars in Colonia!

How Much Time Do You Need in Colonia del Sacramento? 

Colonia del Sacramento is an excellent day trip from Buenos Aires. If you’re visiting on a day trip, I recommend allowing at least five hours between your ferry drop-off and pickup to fully explore the town.

We were supposed to have about five hours in Colonia, but our boat there was delayed one hour, leaving us with only four hours in town. It was a little bit rushed, and we overall felt like five hours in Colonia would have been perfect. (Keep in mind that you need to arrive early at the terminal on the way back, so it’s not five full hours of sightseeing.)

If you want to spend time lounging on the beach or exploring bars or breweries in town, you should allot more time for your visit by scheduling an earlier ferry to arrive in the morning and a later ferry to depart in the evening.

Plenty of people overnight in Colonia, too! That’s an option if you want to spend more time there. If you’re a photographer, this is the best way to get shots of Colonia at sunrise and sunset. I’ve seen some blue hour photos of Colonia that are just gorgeous.

I really love visiting popular day trip destinations after the sun goes down, like ÄŚesky Krumlov and Mostar, because it gets so much nicer after the day-trippers leave.

Staying for one or two nights in Colonia is also a good idea if you want to explore more beyond the historic center, like if you wanted to visit nearby wineries or beaches.

The inside of a ferry boat, with lots of rows of big, leather maroon seats.
The ferry to Colonia is quite large.

How to Get to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires 

How do you get to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires? You can get to Colonia del Sacramento on a quick and easy high-speed ferry ride that takes just one hour and 15 minutes!

Two ferry companies provide service between Buenos Aires and Colonia del Sacramento: Buquebus and Colonia Express. Buquebus is the nicer option of the two, but Colonia Express is more affordable. For such a short journey, it doesn’t really matter which ferry company you choose.

Both ferries depart from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires; however, each company has its own terminal, so make sure you go to the right one! The Buquebus terminal is about a 10-minute drive north of the Colonia Express terminal.

We were told to be there 90 minutes early for the ferry, but that seemed a bit excessive. Even so, I’ve been burned enough on my travels that I wouldn’t dream of showing up later than that! (Also, there was a Pain Quotidian in the ferry terminal serving Speculoos alfajores that were SO GOOD.)

On busy days, the lines for passport control can get backed up, so it’s a good idea to arrive early for your ferry so you don’t have to worry about missing it.

Once you arrive at the ferry terminal in Colonia del Sacramento, you’re about a 10-minute walk from the Barrio HistĂłrico.

Ferry tickets typically cost around $80 to $140 USD round-trip. You’ll want to book your tickets online in advance, especially if you’re traveling at a busy time or on the weekend. 

If you’d prefer to visit Colonia del Sacramento as part of a group tour, that’s also an option. This full-day tour includes hotel pickup and dropoff in Buenos Aires, round-trip ferry tickets, a guide to accompany you all day, and a two-hour walking tour in Colonia followed by free time to explore on your own.

You can also opt for a private tour from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento if you’d prefer having a private guide.

If you’re already in Uruguay, it’s easy to get to Colonia del Sacramento by bus. There are regular buses from Montevideo, and it’s about a three-hour journey. The bus terminal in Colonia is just a short walk from the Barrio Histórico.

A soft pink square building in Colonia, a motorcyclist riding past it.
Stay right in the historic center for easy access to everything in Colonia.

Where to Stay in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

If you want to spend more than one day in Colonia del Sacramento, these are the best places to stay for an overnight or weekend getaway. Staying in the historic center is where you want to be.

These are the best properties in Colonia del Sacramento for every budget:

Top-Rated Luxury Hotel in Colonia del Sacramento: If you’re looking for a luxurious escape, Charco Hotel is the highest scoring hotel in town. This high-end boutique hotel offers chic accommodations and waterfront views.

Top-Rated Mid-Range Hotel in Colonia del Sacramento: Posada Boutique Las Terrazas is a great option for a comfortable mid-range hotel in the Barrio HistĂłrico.

Top-Rated Budget Hotel in Colonia del Sacramento: If you’re on a budget, Viajero Posada B&B is the best place to stay in town, with modest rooms and a great location.

Find deals on places to stay in Colonia del Sacramento here.

A tall rounded stone building with an outdoor restaurant on the ground floor.
Colonia is nice to visit year-round.

Best Time to Visit Colonia del Sacramento

When should you visit Colonia del Sacramento? You can happily visit Colonia year-round and enjoy your time there — similarly to how you can visit Buenos Aires year-round and have a great trip. Both places experience summer from December to March, and this is when the weather is the warmest.

During the winter, it can get quite cool and windy in Colonia del Sacramento, though it never snows here.

If you’re taking a day trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia, I recommend avoiding Friday to Sunday if possible. This is a popular destination for Argentines to visit on the weekends.

I’m always a fan of visiting destinations in shoulder season for the perfect combination of decent weather and less crowds. That would be in April, May, October, or November. Though if you’re planning on visiting more of Uruguay, including the legendary beach towns, you’ll probably be here in the summer!

Kate and Charlie taking a sweaty smiling selfie in front of a big white church.
It was hot and sweaty and we loved it!

Is Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay Worth It? 

I’m so glad that we prioritized a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento! This town makes the perfect foil to busy Buenos Aires — it feels so calm and relaxing, which is exactly what you need after a few days in the big city.

In fact, this is one of my favorite day trips that I’ve taken in quite some time. It’s such an easy trip to do, despite being a day trip to an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY, that I highly recommend it to travelers in Buenos Aires.

I hope you have a great time in Colonia del Sacramento!

More on Argentina:

More on South America:

Have you been to Colonia del Sacramento? Any tips?

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