Alma Historica aptly means ‘historical soul’. When you walk into this quietly grand boutique hotel on Plaza Zabala in the capital’s old town, you enter a book of Uruguayan history. It is rich in culture, artefacts and native stories. And like Uruguay, its understated elegance draws you in and throws a warm welcome over your shoulders.
This philosophy and identity make it the perfect place for a first-time visit to Montevideo (and Uruguay for that matter) and is the perfect base for exploration. Punta Del Este on the east – a day trip away – is often referred to as the St. Tropez of South America. Colonia Del Sacramento – two hours to the West – is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay and its old quarter is a world heritage site.
Back in Plaza Zabala, Montevideo, don’t miss the Mercado Puerto (Port Market) which is only a few blocks away from the hotel. It’s a melting pot of “delicioso” meaty local cuisine and uproarious Uruguayian ambience. And with its historical clock monument towering over proceedings you’re guaranteed to lose an afternoon on the ‘media y media’ (a Uruguayan take on the white wine spritzer). The waterfront,or ‘rambla’ is only 500m away so you can enjoy walking off those calories for as far as the eye stretches.
If you want another stroll through Montevideo’s cultural history, the capital’s Plaza Independencia and the Solis theatre are both minutes away on foot from the door of the hotel.
After a day of such excursions you can look forward to going back to your beautifully designed bedroom where old appears as new, just as new appears to be old. Each room is named after and a tribute to a poet, sculptor, painter or a Uruguayan character of historical significance. We laid our heads down for the night in the painter Pedro Figari’s room. It was a picture.
Breakfast in the ground floor restaurant feels similar to an English high tea. The beautifully dainty antique bone china upon which a sumptuous breakfast is served, helps make the morning tradition more of an event.
Up the lobby’s sweeping staircase is the library. Here you are surrounded by an eclectic mix of cinematic souvenirs and antique, all sourced from Uruguay. The only items in the hotel not sourced from its home country are the linen and mattresses. This exception to the rule means that the beds are unbelievably comfy and get more than a few mentions in the guestbook, which overflows with compliments.
Alma Historica’s Brand Ambassador Caterina and her team could also be said to be culture ambassadors for Uruguay. They and the foundation that renovated this wonderful piece of architecture, fly the flag for Uruguay. When pressed about the inspiration behind the Uruguayan themed bedrooms, another chapter from the country’s history book is opened up. Each room is not just a tribute to famous bygone characters, it’s a piece of storytelling. One room on the second floor is named after the first actress of Uruguay. She started acting in the building next door to hotel that used to be a theatre so the room’s red velvet curtains are a throwback to her days on the stage. Everything here is considered. Illustrations by local artists, created on Montevideo’s annual Heritage Day, now hang in the hotel library.
The hotel has only been open a year and a half but the building’s refurbishment took two years. The owners made the effort keep as much of the original materials as possible. Even the library’s old wooden floor, was removed, renovated and reassembled in smaller pieces. Tiles in some rooms as well as the striking marble spiralling stairwell at the entrance were also from the building’s yester years.
History is only the framing of Alma Historica. The real art on show here is the art of service. Upon arrival, the hotel manager provides ample dining recommendations and local tips. The jacuzzi on the panoramic rooftop terrace is always ready for you. And truffles on the bed are the icing on the cake. The hotel also prides itself on the staff’s ability to converse in English. “It’s essential” Caterina says “if guests are made to feel right at home.”
How to get in touch with Alma Historica, Montevideo
Website: Alma Historica Boutique Hotel
Telephone: +598 2914 7450
Address: 1433, Iglesia San Francisco de Asís, Solís, 11000 Montevideo, Uruguay