Montevideo is all about history, so you really want to stay in Ciudad Vieja, the old town, during your visit. I was very impressed with Alma Histórica, an art- and history- focused boutique hotel on Plaza Zabala, a pretty park perfect for people watching.
It would have been easy for the owners of Alma Histórica to create a beautiful new hotel in Montevideo. They didn’t take the easy route. Instead, they designed Alma Histórica to promote the artistic and cultural history of Uruguay, restored and salvaged the building it is housed in, and scoured the country for antiques and art to decorate it.
Each of the hotel’s 15 rooms is named for an Uruguayan (properly pronounced “Er-oh wash-oh”) writer, poet, musician or painter. My room, named after writer Don Horacio, celebrates his history and works and even has an old Underwood typewriter.
Another room highlights constructivist artist Joaquín Torres Garcia, who has a museum dedicated to his art and efforts to promote Latin American art (see A Wayward Weekend in Montevideo for details). Two prettier more feminine rooms are dedicated to poets Doña de Ibarbourou and Doña Delmira (I love the story of the latter’s decisions to please herself, her mother, and her lover whom her mother didn’t like).
Regardless of which room you choose, bathrooms are large and modern, and feature delicious smelling natural products from Uruguay. Soaps, shampoos and conditioners are 100% vegetarian, paraben-free and made with natural oils and organic herbs.
Alma Histórica’s building was a 1920s family mansion, carefully restored and renovated into a boutique hotel. Original wood floors and tiles were kept and laid in the new building. There’s even a tile on the sidewalk outside to mark the hotel’s heritage. The entranceway holds a magnificent curved staircase which leads to a library you’ll want for your own home (though there’s also an environmentally-friendly elevator that uses less electricity than a traditional one).
Two stories were added to the top of the mansion to allow for a full 15 rooms (the top ones with balconies) as well as an elegant roof terrace with views of the Rio de la Plata and even a hot tub.
I was captivated by the antiques, old photographs, paintings and objets d’art throughout the hotel, especially artist Hugo Alonso’s sculptures fashioned from intricately folded old books.
Breakfast is not to be missed. The breakfast room is beautiful, with an immense window framing a vertical wall of potted plants, and charmingly mismatched antique furniture and china. Nine chandeliers — rescued antiques — illuminate the room, though the sunshine in Montevideo is so bright the room doesn’t need them.
Pilar makes a perfect omelette, which you accompany with serve-yourself juices, tea, café con leche, fruits, nuts, pastries, yogurt and cereals. The kitchen will bring expertly-made espresso beverages to you.
Staff at Alma Histórica are very hospitable and want to make sure your stay in Montevideo is wonderful. They’ll give you lots of advice to make sure you appreciate the art, history and charm the city has to offer.
Editor’s Note: The writer was hosted by the hotel, but all opinions are her own and no one from the hotel reviewed or approved the article.