A bustling city of wide, leafy avenues, atmospheric plazas and cosmopolitan cafes, Mendoza is a trap. Even if you’ve (foolishly) only given it a day or two on your itinerary, you’re bound to end up hanging around, captivated by the laid-back pace while surrounded by every possible comfort.
Ostensibly it’s a desert town, though you wouldn’t know unless you were told – acequias (irrigation ditches) that run beside every main road and glorious fountains that adorn every main plaza mean you’ll never be far from the burble of running water.
Lively during the day, the city really comes into its own at night, when the bars, restaurants and cafes along Av Arístides fill up and overflow onto the sidewalks with all the bright young things, out to see and be seen.
All over the country (and in much of the world), the name Mendoza is synonymous with wine, and this is the place to base yourself if you’re up for touring the vineyards, taking a few dozen bottles home or just looking for a good vintage to accompany the evening’s pizza.
The city’s wide range of tour operators also makes it a great place to organize rafting, skiing and other adventures in the nearby Andes.
Strictly speaking, the provincial capital proper is a relatively small area with a population of only about 115,000, but the inclusion of the departments of Las Heras, Guaymallén and Godoy Cruz, along with nearby Maipú and Luján de Cuyo, swells the population of Gran Mendoza (Greater Mendoza) to a little over one million.
The city’s five central plazas are arranged like the five-roll on a die, with Plaza Independencia in the middle and four smaller plazas lying two blocks from each of its corners. Be sure to see the beautifully tiled Plaza España.
Av San Martín is the main thoroughfare, crossing the city from north to south, and Av Las Heras is the principal commercial street.
A good place to orient yourself is the Terraza Mirador, which is the rooftop terrace at City Hall, offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area.