Whether just stopping by on your way to Machu Picchu or settling in for a few weeks before continuing your travels, Cusco has enough attractions to keep you occupied for days on end. Described below are 10 of the most interesting things you can do in your free time here.
A quick glance around the Plaza de Armas will direct your eyes towards the rolling hills to the north of the city. From here you may see the Cristo Blanco, a 30-foot statue of Jesus that overlooks the town square. Slightly further than that are the ruins of Saqsaywaman, an old citadel that served as a fortress for the Incan Empire. Reachable by walking or taxi, these ruins are perfect for introducing yourself to Incan architecture and history.
2. San Pedro Market
About a 15-minute walk from the city center is this antique market that has a plethora of small vendors. Here you can find food, clothing, and souvenirs for affordable prices. Also found here are freshly made smoothies which are both refreshing and stimulating. Always hustling and bustling, you can grab a chocolate churro right outside the entrance and watch the diverse crowds of people come and go.
3. Twelve-Angled Stone
No trip to Cusco would be complete without visiting this mesmerizing wall of perfectly cut stone. Constantly debated, this incredible display of architecture still leaves historians confused about its origin. So precise that not even a piece of paper will fit between them, make sure to grab a picture for the gram before exploring the rest of the city.
4. The Neighborhood of San Blas
Stairs may not be your favorite thing, but ascending up the steep hill towards the San Blas neighborhood is well worth the struggle. Here you can visit some of the nicest restaurants and coffee shops in the city. Trendy but quiet, you can catch a great view of the city during the night at Limbus Restobar while drinking a specialty cocktail.
5. The Plaza de Armas
Full of international crowds at all times, the main plaza is a wonderful place to find a walking tour or simply people watch to your heart’s content. Parades occasionally start around this area and demonstrate native dances and music that have been developed through the centuries. While trying your best to avoid tour salesmen you can also meet a ton of people just by sitting and conversing. During the night the plaza transforms into a base for any partygoers or bar hoppers. Grab an artisanal beer at Paddy’s Irish Pub and play a quick round of pool to start your night!
6. Planetarium Cusco
A clear night in Cusco won’t yield many stars for the naked eye, but head slightly outside the historic center to find this hidden gem. With the help of three professional telescopes you’ll be able to observe the constellations that guided previous civilizations through nature. Depending on the time of year you visit, there will be different galaxies and planets to view.
Located in the historic center is Koricancha. Quechuan for Temple of the Sun, this church is a perfect combination of Spanish and Incan culture. Combining elements of Incan astronomy with Spanish architecture, take some time to admire the made crafted stonework that makes the base of the building.
8. Coffee Shop Hunting
South America is home to some of the best coffee in the world and Cusco is no exception. Take a walk around the city to visit these quaint little cafeterias with hand made pastries and empanadas. In particular, Café D’Wasi is a nice place to stop and catch up on any emails or post photos while enjoying a café americano and chocolate danish.
9. Cathedral of Santo Domingo/Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
Towering over the Plaza de Armas are these two colossal churches. Founded centuries ago during the Spanish invasion, these temples serve as religious hubs for locals to pray and worship. The incredible exteriors give the square personality while the majestic interiors are both pretty to look at and strong enough to withstand earthquakes.
10. The Sacred Valley
Although not technically considered Cusco, the Sacred Valley is located only 45 minutes outside the city limits and is home to many little villages each with their own charm. The town of Pisac is a great place to see ancient terrace systems and fresh water lagoons. In the town square is a handicraft market where you can find specialty products such as baby alpaca sweaters.