Though El Prado is just a 15 minute taxi ride from the centre of Montevideo, the leafy neighbourhood was established in the late 1800s as the summer vacationing ground of Montevideo’s elite. El Prado is a photographer’s paradise. It’s full of mansions, some still glorious and many falling to romantically wrack and ruin.
The neighbourhood is safe for strolling and definitely recommended for those who like to wander off-the-beaten-track.
Parque Prado and the Botanical Gardens
In the middle of this decadence is El Prado Park and Montevideo’s Botanical Gardens (free) which my mother politely described as “wild”. Here is none of the prissiness of European botanical gardens. The plants and foliage are winning in their bid to overwhelm the buildings and greenhouses.
The gardens are lovely shady place to escape to on hotter days and perfect for a visit after admiring the Blanes Art Museum (free). Make sure you have afternoon tea at the Hotel del Prado, inaugurated in 1912. Those of a stronger consitution can choose from scores of mysterious herbal liqueurs at Los Yuyos.
The Blanes Museum and Japanese Gardens
Fifteen minutes walk away in a sumptuous Palladian-style mansion is the Blanes Museum. The museum is named after the nineteenth century portraitist Juan Manuel Blanes. It features Uruguayan art ranging from the nation’s founding to the present day and is dedicated to the works of Uruguayan painters like Pedro Figari and Rafael Barradas.
Make time to walk through the Japanese garden in the grounds which was donated by Japan in 2001 as a symbol of friendship. “This meticulously arranged collection of bamboos, cherry trees, orchids and rocks is a gem,” says The New York Times.
Where to eat and drink: Hotel del Prado and Bar Los Yuyos
Built in 1912 as a recreation centre in the centre of the lovely Prado Park, the building fell into disuse by the 1950s. It was only recently that the building has been recovered and turned into an elegant hotel and tea-room.
Bar Los Yuyos was founded in 1906, this classic bar is famous for its spirits flavoured with herbs (yuyos is a colloquial term for herbs). At one time there were more than 200 flavoured liqueurs, all identifiable simply by their colour, before someone decided to start labelling the bottles in the 1970s.
Twice annual Gaucho fairs
Twice a year, gauchos from all over South America descend on the Rural Expo centre (known as the Rural del Prado) in the park for a week-long traditional fair.
Semana Criolla Patria Grande takes place during Easter every March. Agricultural fair with gaucho rodeos and evening concerts during Easter. First edition in 1925.
Expo-PRADO is a similar event and takes place in September every year.
If you are lucky enough to be in Uruguay at this time, make sure you plan time there. There are rodeo-style gaucho sporting competitions during the day and concerts every evening. The music spans from rural folclore to tango to the latest Uruguayan rock stars.
Home to a rock star wine-maker
Trained in elite French chateaux, Manuel Filgueira makes tiny quantities of exceptional wine out of his own winery Los Nadies, based in El Prado. It’s the only winery within the city limits of Montevideo. You can meet him on his highly personalised wine tours.
Getting to El Prado
You can take a taxi or bus from the centre. A taxi will cost apx 250 pesos (apx 8 dollars at the time of writing). The Tourist Bus also stops at the park.
- Botanical Garden Mon-Sun 7.30 am-6.30 pm
- Museo Blanes Av Millán 4015 Tues-Sun 1-7 pm
- Hotel del Prado Gabriela Mistral 4223
- Bar Los Yuyos Luis A de Herrera 4297 esq. Cubo del Norte
- Winery Los Nadies Buschental 3390 by appointment only