It’s as if someone had laid out the city on a chequerboard. The streets form an orderly pattern of squares, in the historic centre at least, arranged around the central square, Plaza Independencia. Mendoza is a city of contrasts: it stretches far out from the centre but still feels like a country town. There are quite a few high-rise towers but most of the buildings are only three or four stories high at most, even the middle of the city.
Mendoza city is the obvious base for exploring the wine region of the same name: there are several good hotels to choose from, and getting in and out of the city is relatively painless.
With around a million inhabitants, Mendoza is Argentina’s fourth biggest city (Buenos Aires, is by far the largest with over 3 million people, or 13 million if you count the metro area). It takes a little less than two hours to get to Mendoza from Buenos Aires with a plane, or probably more than a day by road if you decide to drive (1000 kilometres/650 miles). The distance from Santiago de Chile is only a third of that – but it would mean crossing the Andes.
Although Mendoza was founded in 1561 there are very few old sites and ancient buildings as the city suffered a devastating earthquake in 1861. The reconstruction accounts for Mendoza’s current aspect, with a grid-system of roads, broad avenues and city squares.
For visitors, life in Mendoza is often centred in and around Plaza Independencia. Most evenings there is a craft market held on the square: it stays open late and is worth visiting, but this is also a popular place to simply enjoy a stroll.
A word of warning: Many sidewalks in the centre of town are lined by small, deep canals, so mind your step.
Head east from the square and you’ll come to Avenida Sarmiento. The neighbouring blocks have many restaurants, making this one of the best places to get an evening meal or have a drink.
The pedestrian street on the other side of the square, Paseo Sarmiento, is also very busy early in the evening. It is filled with cafés and is a popular place to go and have a cold beer.
Another happy hunting ground for food and drink is the Avenida Aristides Villanueva. It is a short walk (10-15 minutes) away from the centre, across the broad and busy Avenida Belgrano (watch out for the tramway). This slightly off-centre avenue has had a facelift and as a result, has become a favourite of locals and well-informed tourists looking for a glass of craft beer.
The area around Plaza Independencia is also the best place to go shopping: check out Calle Rivadavia on the south side, Avenida Las Heras to the north, and also (again) Av. Aristides Villanueva. In the centre, Avenida Gutiérrez and San Martin are bustling with more everyday-style shops.
Eating in Mendoza
Typically, dinner is not eaten before 8.30 pm and it can easily be later, so enjoy a cold drink in a bar or café while you wait.
The Mendoza restaurant scene can change rapidly, but here are some of our suggestions:
- Azafran, Avenida Sarmiento 765: a long-time classic and very popular (not least with tourists). Ambitious, with a good choice of wines. Plenty of other restaurants in the same street.
- 1884, off-centre at Belgrano 1188: luxurious with outdoor seating.
- El Palenque, Avenida Villanueva Arístides 287: popular Argentine tavern with pizza and pasta.
- Zampa, Avenida Bartolomé Mitre 794. Simple and relaxed, tapas and more.
- Anna Bistro, Avenida Juan B. Justo 161: a little bit of a walk (about 15 min) from the centre. Fusion food, and a pretty garden.
- Maria Antoineta, Belgrano 1069: elegant but not overly sophisticated.
- La Barra, Avenida Belgrano 1086: if you’re craving yet more asado and grilled meat.
- Orégano, Belgrano 1007: very straight-forward but good quality pizza.
- Francesco, Calle Chile 1268, near the main square: excellent Italian with a nice garden, home-made pasta. One of our personal favourites.
- Florentino Bistró, Calle Montevideo 675, on Plaza Italia: another charming Italian
- Bistro M, at Park Hyatt on the main square: inevitably international, with a good wine list.
- La Lucia, in two places, the “tourist street” Sarmiento (nr 658), and Aristides Villanueva 264: popular grill (and much more)
And of course, there many, many others…
A practical note on money and ATMs
It can be difficult to get cash in Mendoza. There are banks with ATM cash machines but many are out of order or empty, and there can be long queues in front of those that work. Ask your hotel reception desk to direct you to the nearest working cash machine.
In previous years there has been a (relatively low) limit on the amount of cash you can withdraw each time. With the political changes in Argentina it is not clear what the current situation is, so we encourage you to plan ahead if you are going to need cash.
Here’s more information about our wine tour to Argentina and Chile in South America. Do join us on the next tour.
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