A very popular destination in Peru, Cusco is the former capital of the Incan empire. It is often referred to as the gateway to the lost city of Machu Picchu. Many travelers visit the city to acclimatize to the high altitude before embarking on the Inca trail. Others come to explore the mysterious and intriguing Incan culture and traditions. Cusco is the capital of the Cusco Region and of the Cusco Province The city is the seventh most populous in Peru; in 2017, it had a population of 428,450. Its elevation is around 3,400 m (ca. 11,155 ft). The city was the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983, Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with the title “City of Cuzco”. Since then, it has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The Constitution of Peru (1993) designates it as the Historical Capital of Peru.
Find yourself in the middle of the historical Cusco Plaza. The square is lined with souvenir shops, Cusco Cathedral, and the History Museum. Take a seat on a bench to get a glimpse of Cusco’s abundant cast, street vendors, local performers and the occasional tourist.
The San Pablo Market
Immerse yourself in the local culture of Peru and experience the life of the locals in Cusco at San Pedro Market. This bustling market is bursting with color, featuring hundreds of vendors selling a variety of goods, including handicrafts, clothing, and food items. Some of the products may raise an eyebrow, such as live animals, barrels of mysterious liquids, and other foods. But, you can sit down next to a local and enjoy a freshly prepared traditional Peruvian dish for a fraction of the price you’d pay at restaurants in Cusco.
The second floor in the house
Explore the must-visit district of San Blas. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, where you can see many beautiful fountains and monuments. You can also view art and architecture in the many antique and handicraft shops lining the streets.
While in the Sacred Valley, take a moment to visit the Incas’ Pisac ruins and enjoy their unrivaled view of the valley below. Here, you can pay for a picture with an adorable baby llama or alpaca.
Although it was silly to consider this to be a single rock in a stone wall, the stone is a tribute to the Incas’ innovative engineering and architectural prowess. The stones are so tightly fitted that not even a piece of paper fits between them!
The Huayna Picchu hill has many ruins, but you should start off your visit with the 12 angled-stone on Hatun Rumiyoc Street, which is a historical, ancient Inca highway. Look for the shapes of a snake, condor, and puma on the walls.
Things to do in Cusco Peru – Places to visit
There are numerous fantastic museums in Cusco. Here are some of our favorites.
- Learn about Incan Astronomy and Stargaze at the Planetarium
- Visit the Chocolate Museum
- See Ancient Art at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
- Explore Colonial and Incan History at the History Museum
- Discover all about the Incas at the Museum of Machu Picchu
- Visit the Tower of Pisac
Within and around Cusco are several archeological sites for you to visit!
Interested in checking out some remarkable Inca ruins? Check out Incaland Adventures tours and day trips to cultural attractions and other Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley.
Where to eat – restaurants, cafes and fast food
Foods with organic ingredients
As the name suggests, this restaurant offers up fresh, organic food and great juices. It’s a great place to go if you’re a vegan!
Le Boo’Ma Creperie
This Creperie is located on the fifth floor of Hostel San Blas. The open restaurant has the look and feel of a tiny French cafe, owned and operated by a French woman who is happy to serve sweet and savory crepes and a variety of teas and juices.
This picantería serves up authentic Peruvian cuisine! With flavors of ancestral heritage, the menu has Peruvian locals coming in droves.
Monkey Coffee of Cusco
This quaint coffee shop in the San Blas neighborhood offers scrumptious local brews from 8 am to 11 pm. Their breakfast, pastries, and sandwiches are delicious, so bring your appetite.
Get a Taste of Mexico in Peru at Maria Bonita Restaurant. Not only can you build your own taco, chimichanga or enchilada, but you can also get a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine at this maria dolores restaurant.
Where to have Drink:
Head to Limbus
Restobar before or after work (or during the day) to enjoy the cocktails and spectacular view over Cusco. Or, grab one of Cholos craft beers in the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco.
If a pub that embodies the Irish bar atmosphere is all you’re looking for, look no further than Paddy’s, a family-owned Irish pub with a restaurant that boasts some seriously good food. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has named it the highest Irish owned pub in the world.
A favorite beverage among locals is Museo del Pisco, Peru’s national drink. It is made with pisco, a clear brandy, and lime. The watery texture of pisco makes it an excellent choice for blending with fruit, and you can change the flavor combinations according to your preference. Try a pisco sour, a Peruvian classic!