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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.

Arazá – native Uruguayan cuisine

Where to eat: Arazá – native Uruguayan cuisine

Arazá is a tiny restaurant in the Prado tells the story of Uruguay’s little-known culinary heritage through fine food.

Arazá is also a fruit native to Uruguay that you won’t find in supermarkets. While the Charrúa (the original inhabitants of Uruguay) and the first European settlers made good use of the tart fruit, it has all but disappeared from public consciousness. Arazá the bistro is on a mission to reclaim indigenous produce.

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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