There is more to Mendoza than just food and wine. The city has excellent architecture, a great deal of outdoor space, and a lively cultural scene. To experience it, all you have to do is walk down the recently improved La Alameda, a tree-lined pedestrian street with bars that take their tables outside. Another important green space in Mendoza is the Plaza Independencia. Located in the downtown area, it houses a craft market, the Mueso de Arte Moderno, and major cultural events like the Fiesta de la Vendimia.
The most important park, though, is the 750-plus acre Parque General San Martín, with manmade lake, rose garden, and ten miles of paths for walking, jogging, or bike riding. No better way to enjoy a spring afternoon than to buy a nice malbec and something to snack on and have a picnic under the trees. Though the park is big, quiet corners can be reached on its many paths. The Cerro La Gloria, where the monument to San Martín is located, is a must if you visit Mendoza.
Outstanding museums include the Museo de Bellas Artes Emilio Guiñazú, also known as the Casa de Fader because celebrated Impressionist painter Fernando Fader made the building’s murals. Its garden of cypress trees is as lovely as the impressive collection.
It’s a question of coupling. A good wine seeks the company of good food, and vice versa. In any case, the wine boom in Mendoza has brought with it a group of creative chefs that combine wine with the best local ingredients, like kid and olive oil. The city, then, is home to top-quality restaurants like Siete Cocinas, where chef Pablo del Río makes original—and delicious—dishes using products from each of the country’s seven culinary regions. Other restaurants coveted by visitors and locals alike include La Marchigiana, which specializes in Italo-Argentine cuisine, and Azafrán, upscale regional food in an old warehouse atmosphere.
There are a number of alternative restaurants in the city as well, many of them in private homes. Los Choco, which is run by two chefs and sommeliers, has just one table with room for twelve people. Its fixed-price menu is based on seasonal products. Ituzaingo is housed in a loft space with a lovely courtyard for summer nights.
Last but by no means least, 1884 is now a Mendoza classic for two reasons: first, the quality of its food and, second, because the kitchen is run by Francis Mallmann, the most famous chef in the country. Though he is not there every day, his influence is evident in the use of local ingredients like corn and Andean potatoes. 1884 opened before Mendoza was a major tourist attraction.
There are a number of choices when it comes to visiting wineries and tasting their wines. You can visit wineries individually or take part in a tour that may well include transportation, lunch, and visits to one of more wineries in a day.
The hundred or so wineries that open their doors to visitors range from large-scale operations with gourmet restaurants to small boutique wineries where the owners themselves serve customers. There are a number of different wine regions near Mendoza, and each one is unique. Luján de Cuyo and Maipú are close to the city. In fact, Maipú—home to some of the oldest wineries in the region—is less than two miles away. This is where the Museo Nacional del Vino y la Vendimia is located. Valle de Uco, some fifty miles away, has become popular in recent years thanks, in part, to lovely vineyards with snow-peaked Andes in the background.
What makes most sense for you will depend on how much time you have and how interested you are in the world of wine. Most of the wineries offer a guided tour of the premises followed by a tasting to learn about the different labels and grapes. Many include lunch or picnics in the vineyards. Some even offer other activities like bike rides, olive harvesting, and even trips in hot- air balloons.
To decide which wineries to visit and how to put together the best tour of the wine country, visit the following websites:
Another way to get to know the world of wine from Mendoza is to visit in early March when the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia takes place. The ten-day event is the most important festivity in the province. It features dozens of parades, shows, and the naming of the Harvest Queen. It is a sort of carnival of wine and harvest.
Other attractions in Mendoza lie beyond the city limits, where a number of interesting activities are based on the area’s geography and history. Some one hundred miles from the city is the Parque Provincial Aconcagua, home to Aconcagua Mountain which, at nearly 23,000 feet above sea level, is the second highest peak in the world, smaller only than Mt. Everest. Its snow-capped peaks reign over a landscape that is best appreciated from a viewing point included in almost all tours that depart from the city of Mendoza. It is just one of the unforgettable places included in what are usually day-long excursions.
Another precious spot is Puente del Inca, an ochre-colored geological formation in the shape of a bridge that crosses Las Cuevas River. As such, it was essential to merchants and travelers in the colonial era. Due to the rocky land, the river’s surface water is mineralized, creating thermal springs. Just a few yards away are the remains of a hotel that closed in the mid-sixties when it was destroyed by an avalanche.
Another attraction outside the city, in this case very near the Chilean border, is the imposing monument to Cristo Redentor. Because you have to take a winding five-mile path to get there, this monument cannot be visited in the winter.
Just eighteen miles from the city is another spot frequented by visitors: the Cacheuta thermal springs on the banks of the Mendoza River. Here you can find a water park and thermal springs complex with stone-lined pools. Even in the winter, you can enjoy the warm water in the midst of the imposing Andean mountains. Massages, spa, and hydrotherapy are available, which makes this an ideal option for those who want to relax.
If what you are after is adventure sports, Mendoza has something for you: go white-water rafting on the Mendoza River before the Dique los Potrerillos. If you visit in the winter, bring your skis and head to the Penitentes complex, with twenty-five ski slopes of varying degrees of difficulty.