Montevideo’s Prado neighbourhood

Minutes from downtown, Montevideo's leafy El Prado district is a photographer's paradise of ghostly mansions, stately art galleries and tangled greenery.
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on July 18, 2016

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.

Botanical Garden Greenhouse © 100 fotos del viaje

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.

Blanes Museum © Jonas de Carvalho

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.

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.

Manuel Figueira standing in front of his winery in El Prado

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, from 7.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
  • Museo Blanes. Av Millán 4015. Tue-Sun from 1 to 7 p.m.
  • Hotel del Prado. Gabriela Mistral 4223.
  • Arazá Cocina Nativa. Avenida Agraciada 3789, El Prado, Montevideo. Sat-Sun, from noon to 4 p.m.
  • Winery Los Nadies. Buschental 3390. By appointment only

Cover photo: Bridge over the Miguelete stream in Parque del Prado © Meteora Lu

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7 Responses

  1. Hello, thanks for the interesting article. Can you recommend which streets to walk on to see these houses?

    1. We recently toured the area and would recommend beginning at the Presidential House
      off of 19 de Abril and then the Botanical Garden, Hotel Prado and Parque Rosenthal.
      The hotel appears to be for special occasions only but may serve afternoon tea.

      The majority of the old mansions are on 19 de Abril, Ave., Lucas Obes and many of the other streets between these and Ave. Agraciada. Many of the homes are spectacular and all are of different architectural styles. Do not miss the Cathedral Los Carmelitas, beautiful gothic architecture. Also, try to have lunch at Don Andes Parrilla….Wonderful food and service.

  2. Great info. Hopefully we will have time to check it out.
    We would like to visit wine country. We prefer to be on our own. We thought of renting a car and touring for an over nite. Are the wineries open every day for tastings?
    What do you suggest?

    Thank you,
    John & Susan
    Visiting Sept 10 till the 18th.

    1. Hi John, most wineries are not open to the public. You have to set up visits in advance, other than in a couple of places such as Bouza, which is why most people end up taking a tour or staying at vineyards. In addition, Uruguay currently has zero tolerance laws for drinking and driving, so even a glass of wine is not allowed if you drive.

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