Mendoza Attractions

July 5, 2023

Paul Kay

Do you like wine? What about filet mignon? You can enjoy both in abundance if you plan your vacation to Mendoza, Argentina. If you have read our other posts about Argentina, you’ll know that we went on four days of vineyard tours coupled with wine paired lunches. It was a terrific experience. We had one day with only one winery tour and lunch, so we started the day with a private drive and a 2-hour city tour. Our driver started by taking us to the original square where the city was founded. It is still quite large with a fountain in the center. An earthquake harmed most of the park so it was rebuilt but the city moved the city government away from this area fearing another earthquake would return.

The city is known for five important squares. All of the squares are easy walking distance from each other. We have seen them called squares and plazas interchangeably. I will refer to them as squares for this post.

The squares have very mature trees soaring into the sky. Their architectural styles combine modern, European and 19th century architectural styles. One of the first things you probably will notice is the irrigation running along the street. Irrigation is the lifeblood of those amazing trees that are lining every roadway.

The most popular squares for their symmetry and for being equidistant from one another are Independencia, Espana, Italia, Chile and San Martín. All of them are interesting but Independencia Plaza is about four times as large as the others and is located in the center of all of them.

Independence Square

Gral. Espejo 300, M5502 AVJ, Mendoza, Argentina

Fountain at Independencia square in Mendoza, Argentina

It is located in the heart of the city, and it occupies 1,600 square meters. It is directly across the street from the Park Hyatt Mendoza, where we stayed. Independencia square has a central fountain of dancing water from which two important urban arms grow:  Sarmiento Street -which leads to a shopping mall and the Parque San Martín, and Mitre Avenue, which leads to the Civic Center.

We heard that crafts are sold here, primarily on the weekend. You also may see a street show on the weekend here.

Here you will also find the Municipal Theater Julio Quintanilla and the Municipal Museum of Modern Art with contemporary art and sculptures displays.

City of Mendoza sign at night at Independence Plaza Mendoza Argentina

At night, they have a brightly lit sign which welcomes everyone to the city and the square.

San Martín Square

Gutiérrez 5500, Mendoza, Argentina

San Martin Square one of the four plazas located 2 blocks off each corner of Independence Plaza in Mendoza Argentina

San Martin Square was called “Cobo” until 1904, when it took the name of San Martín in honor of the Liberator. In the middle of the square there is a bronze equestrian statue of General San Martín, which is a replica of the masterpiece by Jose Daumas located in the square of the same name in the Federal District. In this square there is a memorial plaque indicating the height above sea level at which the city is located: 747 meters or about 22,000 feet.

Spain Square

Montevideo 101-199, Mendoza Province, Argentina

Spain Square one of the four plazas located 2 blocks off each corner of Independence Plaza in Mendoza Argentina

This square is four blocks from Independence Square. There is a nod to Spain who contributed the funds toward this square. You will see 19th century decoration with Spanish influences. A big fountain similar to the ones used in the Iberian gardens can be seen. At the back, there is a monument with friezes representing the brotherhood between Argentina and Spain. The trees and flowers are everywhere, and most are watered by the irrigation ditches of Mendoza.

Chile Square

Gutiérrez, M5500 Mendoza, Argentina

Chile Square one of the four plazas located 2 blocks off each corner of Independence Plaza in Mendoza Argentina

This square is more of a tribute to the people of Chile for the help given to the inhabitants of Mendoza during the 1861 earthquake which devastated the city. The plaza has a fountain of dancing water. There is a sculpture that symbolizes the friendship between Argentina and Chile with depictions of both San Martín and O'Higgins. You can see the picture above. They are shaking hands. The bushes include eucalyptus, roses and autochthonous trees.

Sign for Chile Square in Mendoza Argentina

We found signs like this on most every street that was near a square or plaza. Here you, can see the blue sign giving us the walking directions and distance to Chile Plaza or Square.

Italy Square

Montevideo 657, M5500 Mendoza, Argentina

Long shot of Romulus and Remus bronze in Plaza Italia Mendoza Argentina

The name was chosen to pay tribute to the Italian community for their active social life in the whole of this Cuyo province. Here you will see sculptures like the Roman Wolf with Romulus and Remus being suckled by the wolf. Its artist was Luis Perlotti, and the sculpture represents the foundation of Rome. In addition, it has friezes and maiolicas with Italian design.

I was surprised to see this bronze sculpture but perhaps I should not have been. It makes total sense for it to be in the Plaza Italia. The sculpture is of two boys Romulus and Remus who were twin brothers. They were abandoned by their parents as babies and put into a basket that was then placed into the River Tiber. The basket ran aground, and a female wolf discovered the twins. The wolf nursed the babies for a short time before they were found by a shepherd who then brought up the twins.

When Romulus and Remus became adults, they decided to establish a city where the wolf had found them. The brothers disagreed over where the site should be, and his brother killed Remus. This left Romulus the sole founder of the new city and he gave his name to it – Rome.

You might wonder why the parents abandoned the twins. The Greek historian Diocles who gives more details wrote the non-PG version of the story. Romulus and Remus had a grandfather, Numitor, who was the rightful king of Alba Longa, and was said to have been a descendant of the Trojan prince Aeneas. Before the conception of the twin boys, Numitor's brother, Amulus, deposed the King and killed his sons. He then forced Rhea, Numitor's daughter, to become a vestal virgin, intending to secure the throne for himself.

Against his wishes, Rhea conceived twin boys, Romulus and Remus, with the demi-god Hercules. When a furious Amulus found out, he took the boys from her and threw them into the Tiber river to drown. The she-wolf took care of the infants by allowing them to suckle her milk until they had regained their strength and rescued them. 

The twins learned their true identities from the shepherd, whose name was Fastulus. They set out for revenge against Amulus. They returned to Alba Longa, killed Amulus and returned Numitor to his rightful place as King. The twins then decided that it was time to create their own city.

The twins disagreed about the location. Romulus favored the Palatine hills while Remus favored the Aventine hills. They decided it that the only way to settle the debate was to ask the Gods for a sign. The twins waited for a sign. Romulus claimed to have seen twelve eagles, but Remus claimed to have seen six long before Romulus had seen any, and thus believing the sign was intended for him. In the quarrel that ensued Remus died but it is unclear how he died. 

The sculpture is famous, and it can be easily viewed or photographed if you come to the square.

Bronze sculpture of woman riding a horse in Plaza Italia Mendoza Argentina

There are many sculptures in this plaza. The above photo is of a woman riding a horse.

Bronze of Italian Immigrants at Plaza Italia in Mendoza Argentina

Here is another sculpture paying tribute to Italian immigrants that came to Mendoza.

This park seemed to have far more art and sculptures than the other ones. We spent more time here.

Parque San Martin and the Cerro de la Gloria

Av Emilio Civit 701, M5500 Mendoza, Argentina

Parque San Martin Ornate Entrance Gate Mendoza Argentina

The park is immense. It is close to 1,000 acres and has over 30 sculptures on the grounds. Our driver crisscrossed it regularly. He pointed out the things we were passing, and we never seemed to leave the park.

Construction of the park construction took many years starting in 1896. The park’s gates were installed in 1909 and. Construction was under the direction of the landscape architect Carlos Thays, who employed a combination of English and French 19th century styles in its design. The gates at the main entrance were installed in 1909, and work on the park has continued ever since. Most of the park was completed by 1936.

Parque San Martin Massive Fountain Mendoza Argentina

We saw this massive fountain on our ride around the park. There was construction going on everywhere so they’re still trying to maintain the place and keep it up to date.

In order to reach Cerro de la Gloria (The Hill of Glory), where the national monument of the Army of the Andes is located, there is an entry through San Martín Park. The road winds around until you get near the top and you have an overlook of the Greek theater that seats approximately 23,000 people.

Greek Theatre near Cerro de la Gloria in Mendoza Argentina

This is where the Harvest Festival takes place every year and many also enjoy first-rate musical shows. We stopped here and the driver explained that it is a multi-day celebration for harvest time. They were just starting to tear down the scaffolding for the event when we were there.

They have held the National Grape Harvest Festival of Argentina in the Mendoza province since 1963. It is a part of a group of festivities that are celebrated all over the 18 departments which make up the Mendoza province, during the months of December, January and February. The festivities culminate in an impressive “Central Act” in the Frank Romero Day Greek Theater.

This event starts with a spectacle of dance, lights and music, where hundreds of actors and dancers provide entertainment. It continues with the election of the National Grape Harvest Queen and ends with a magnificent exhibition of fireworks that dance to the rhythm of the music.

Cerro de la Gloria with Paul and Madeline at the base Mendoza Argentina

The Cerro de la Gloria or The Hill of Glory is where a very large bronze monument weighing fourteen tons sits. It pays tribute to the Army of the Andes for its successful campaign of liberation. The monument is the work of Uruguayan sculptor Juan Manuel Ferrari, along with the many other Argentina sculptors.  Work began in 1911, as part of the celebrations of the Argentina Centennial of 1910. It was inaugurated on February 12, 1914, which was the anniversary of the Battle of Chacabuco. 

Soccer Stadium for Argentine Football Estadio Malvinas Argentinas Mendoza Argentina

A bit further back, there is the football stadium where Argentina played one of its matches in the 1978 World Cup. Argentina was chosen as the host they selected 1978 World Cup of the nation by FIFA and Mendoza as the venue. 

Construction began in 1976 and the City of Mendoza Stadium was opened in 1978 with a friendly match between a team from Mendoza and another one with players from San Rafael. During June 1978, Mendoza hosted six FIFA World Cup matches, three first round matches and three second round matches. 

After the 1982 Falklands War, they renamed the stadium "Estadio Malvinas Argentinas". The new name reflects Argentina's claims of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands).

The park is massive, and you would be lucky to see half of it in an hour. 

Pedro del Castillo Square

Ituzaingo, M5500 Mendoza, Argentina

Museo del Area Fundacional Foundation Area Museum Mendoza Argentina

This square is important because it is where the original city government existed before the earthquake of 1861. The square went by several names over the year including Plaza de Armas and Plaza Mayor. Museo del Area Fundacional is the Foundation Area Museum, and it contains archeological remains of the Cabildo -main administrative institution of the colonial government that was destroyed by the earthquake of March 20, 1861.

The Pedro del Castillo square is named for the man who founded the city of Mendoza in 1561.  Adjacent to the park is the Ruins of San Francisco.

Ruins of San Francisco

Ituzaingó, M5500 Mendoza, Argentina

Ruins of San Francisco Jesuit Church near Pedro del Castillo Square Mendoza Argentina

Ruinas de San Francisco are considered to be the only visible remains of Mendoza city buildings from before the earthquake of 1861. The ruins are of a church built by the Jesuits in the first half of the 18th century. The basilica occupied almost 100,000 square feet and had a beautifully vaulted dome which was divided into three aisles with a ceremonial altar. Renovation of the church began at the end of the 18th century. After the earthquake, there was simply too much damage, and it was decided that the ruins should be preserved as a memorial. In 1941, the Ruinas de San Francisco were declared a National Historic Landmark.

We could only take a picture of it, but you can clearly see the framework of what it might have been in the past.

Overall, it was good to understand the history of the city and see more of it than just the downtown area near our hotel. We would recommend a city tour and it will take less than 3 hours for most tour companies. Here is a good Viator tour that is three hours that you will enjoy. We want to go back to Mendoza. Maybe we will see you there?

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