Mendoza: What to see and do, and where to eat | a quick introduction

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It’s as if someone had laid out the city on a chequerboard. The streets form a nice square pattern, at least in the old centre, around the central square, Plaza Independencia. Mendoza is a city that is at the same time big and small. It stretches far out from the centre but still feels like a country town. There are quite a few high-rises but most of the buildings are small and at the most three or four stories high, even the middle of the city.

Mendoza city is the obvious base for exploring the wine region of Mendoza. There are several good hotels and getting in and out of the city is relatively painless.

A colourful house in the centre of Mendoza
A colourful house in the centre of Mendoza, copyright BKWine Photography

With about a million inhabitants it is Argentina’s fourth biggest city, after Buenos Aires, by far the biggest with over 3 million people (or 13 if you count the metro area), Cordoba (1.3 M) and Rosario (1.2 M). It takes a little bit less than two hours to get there from Buenos Aires with a plane, or probably more than a day by road if you decide to drive the 1000 kilometre (650 miles) distance. The distance to Santiago de Chile is only a third of that – but across the Andes.

Although Mendoza was founded in 1561 there are very few old sites and ancient buildings. It suffered a devastating earthquake in 1861. The reconstruction gave the city its current look with square blocks and broad avenues and city squares.

Life in Mendoza, at least for a visitor, centres on and around the Plaza Independencia. Most evenings (late!) there is a craft market on the square, worth visiting. But the square is also a popular place to just go for a stroll in the evening.

A word of warning: Many sidewalks in the centre of town are lined by small canals, about half a meter to a meter wide and deep. There is no protection, so be careful not to fall into one of these gutters. It will hurt badly.

Going east from the square you have Avenida Sarmiento. The Sarmiento street. The neighbouring blocks have many restaurants, it is one of the best places to go looking for something to eat in the evening, or just to have a drink.

The Plaza Independencia in Mendoza at night
The Plaza Independencia in Mendoza at night, copyright BKWine Photography

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 a popular place to go and have a cold beer.

Another popular part of the city to go hunting 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 with its tramway. This slightly off-centre avenue has recently become very popular with locals, as well as with well-informed tourists. The revival is thanks to renovations and it is worth an evening visit. Maybe a glass of craft beer?

The dozen or so blocks around the Plaza Independencia is also the best place to go shopping, Calle Rivadavia on the south side, Avenida Las Heras on the north, and also (again) Av. Aristides Villanueva. Avenida Gutiérrez and San Martin are also busy shopping streets in the centre for “normal” shopping.

The Plaza Independencia in Mendoza
The Plaza Independencia in Mendoza, copyright BKWine Photography

Eating in Mendoza

Dinner is usually rather late in Mendoza, not before 8.30 PM (20.30) and easily later. While you are waiting, enjoy a cold drink in a bar or café.

The restaurant scene can change rapidly and we are not pretending to be able to pick out “the best of the best restaurants in Mendoza” (who could?), but here are some of our suggestions:

  • Azafran, Av. Sarmiento 765: A very popular (not least with tourists), long term classic. Ambitious, lots of wines. Plenty of other restaurants in the same street.
  • 1884, off-centre at Belgrano 1188: luxurious with outside seating.
  • El Palenque, Av Villanueva Arístides 287: Popular Argentine tavern but also with pizza and pasta.
  • Siete Cocinas, Av. Bartolomé Mitre 794: A famous one that you might have heard about. Now closed it seems.
  • Zampa, where Siete Cocians previously was: More simple and relaxed. Tapas and other things.
  • Anna Bistro, Av. Juan B. Justo 161: A little bit of a walk (15 min) away from the centre. Fusion food in a pretty garden (if you want).
  • Maria Antoineta, Belgrano 1069: Elegant but not overly sophisticated.
  • Ochos Cepas, C. Perú 1192: Quite famous (so plenty of foreigners), a bit upmarket, classic. Closed now?
  • La Barra, Av. Belgrano 1086: If you still want asado and grilled meat in the evening.
  • Orégano, Belgrano 1007: Very straight-forward but very nice 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, C Montevideo 675, on Plaza Italia: Another charming Italian
  • Bistro M, at Park Hyatt on the main square: A bit international of course. Good wine list.
  • La Lucia, in two places, the “tourist street” Sarmiento (nr 658), and Aristides Villanueva 264: popular grill (with much else too)

But there are plenty, plenty of others!

A wine place in Mendoza
A wine place in Mendoza, copyright BKWine Photography

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. In front of the ones that work there can be long queues. Ask your hotel where you can find the nearest working cash machines.

There has been a quite low limit on the amount of cash you can withdraw each time too. If you need more you will have to make more than one transaction. This was at least the situation up until 2017. With the political changes in Argentina, we are not quite sure what the situation is at this very moment.

Here’s more information about our wine tour to Argentina and Chile in South America. Do join us on the next tour.

Travel to the world’s wine countries with the people who know wine and the local culture, with those who can give you the best experience. Travel with those who can take you to the best producers and the most beautiful spots. Where you get to taste the most exciting wines, personally meet the winemakers, and enjoy the true local gastronomy.

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Please have some! Argentinian asado meat
Please have some! Argentinian asado meat, copyright BKWine Photography
Sunrise over Mendoza City and the Andes
Sunrise over Mendoza City and the Andes, copyright BKWine Photography
Candy stand on the Plaza Independencia in Mendoza
Candy stand on the Plaza Independencia in Mendoza, copyright BKWine Photography

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