At the west end of downtown Mendoza , across Avenida Boulogne Sur Mer, famed French architect Carlos Thays designed this 420-hectare park on property donated by governor (later senator) Emilio Civit. Planted with pines and eucalyptus, its literal high point is the Cerro de la Gloria, topped by Uruguayan sculptor Juan Manuel Ferrari’s Monumento al Ejército Libertador, an equestrian tribute to San Martín’s army (interestingly, one of its mounted soldiers is Afro-Argentine).
At the west end of Avenida Emilio Civit (an extension of Sarmiento), the park’s stunning iron-filigree gates are a story—or different stories—in themselves. Legend says they were originally forged for Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid and crowned by Islam’s crescent moon, but Civit opportunistically purchased them in Paris after Hamid’s overthrow. When they were planted at the park’s entrance, though, the provincial coat of arms and a condor with wings spread replaced the moon of Muhammed. An alternative, less romantic version is that Civit ordered the gates directly from Glasgow’s McFarlane Ironworks.
Parque San Martín is also home to Estadio Islas Malvinas (a soccer venue built for the 1978 World Cup), the hillside Jardín Zoológico (zoo, tel. 0261/428-1700, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$1), and the Anfiteatro Frank Romero Day (site of outdoor concerts and festival events). Under unified administration, the history-anthropology Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Antropológicas Juan Cornelio Moyano (tel. 0261/428-7666) and the Museo Arqueológico Salvador Canals Frau are both open 8 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–7 p.m. Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. and 3–7 p.m. weekends. Admission costs US$1.
Parque San Martín is an easy 1.5-kilometer walk from Plaza Independencia. Bateas (open-air buses) shuttle passengers from the gates to Cerro de la Gloria.