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Best Things To Do In Cusco, Peru

High up in the Peruvian Andes lies Cusco, once the center of the Incan Empire. It is, of course, the launching point for Machu Picchu – Peru’s largest tourist attraction – but the city is well worth a visit, to acclimate and experience the mix of Incan and Spanish influences that define it. Read on for the best things to in Cusco, Peru.

Best Things To Do In Cusco

1 Admire the Architecture

Architecture of the City of Cusco - Tours in Cusco Perú CUSCO MANTA TOUR

From the first moment you step out into the streets of Cusco you can’t fail to be amazed by the atmospheric architecture and ambience of this city.

Crumbling stone buildings and cobbled streets belie a colonial city that was layered up on an ancient Incan city – once of the epicentre of this huge kingdom.

As such, the streets of Cusco seem to ooze stories as thin alleys clatter with Peruvian and the plazas throng with tourists alike.

Small doorways allow sneaky peeks into hidden courtyards – many filled with travel agencies, hotels and restaurants, but others that allow picture-perfect glimpses of family dogs laying out in the sun and women in traditional dress going about their household business.

2. Discover San Pedro Market

A Virtual Tour of San Pedro Market in Cusco

San Pedro Market is a spectacle to behold, filled with fruit, vegetable and meat stands, as well as 30 stalls serving freshly squeezed juices. A lack of refrigeration means products are displayed open-air, and the freshest items are sold first thing, so come early if you’re wanting to buy. For lunch, the market hosts a number of empanada and tamale vendors, as well as food stalls that serve a menú – a two-course meal – at a very reasonable price. If you’re struggling with the altitude, pick up a bag of coca leaves here to suck on.

3. Sit in the Squares

Top 4 Leisure Activities in Cusco | Blog Machu Travel Peru

And, as you’ve now realised, most of the major religious buildings and indeed much of Cusco life, revolves around the city’s plazas, which are a delightful place to stroll, sit and soak it all in.

Benches filled with locals and tourists alike make the plazas beautiful spots to see local life at its best and whether morning, noon or night, they are always a hub of action.

The perfect place to take a break from the sightseeing and catch your breath in this lofty city (yup Cusco sits at 3,500m) sitting in some of the city’s squares is definitely one of the best things to do in Cusco.

4. Paddy’s Irish Pub

Stop in for a drink at Paddy’s, the highest Irish-owned pub in the world. Expats and backpackers fill Paddy’s to enjoy imported European beer (including Guinness) and watch rugby, soccer or American football. Homesick travelers will appreciate the pub’s burgers and sandwiches, as well as Irish favorites such as shepherd’s pie. Centrally located on the corner of the plaza, Paddy’s serves as a spot for a celebratory drink after a trek to Machu Picchu, and a good place for the solo traveler to meet people.

5. Experience the grandeur of the Plaza de Armas

6 Museums in Cusco You Should Visit | IncaRail

Equally important is visiting Cusco’s most famous plaza located in the heart of the city. The Plaza de Armas boasts spectacular architecture and views of the surrounding mountains. Once the main center for both the Spanish conquistadors and Inca empire, the plaza is now the main hub for tourists where you can find shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Grab lunch at one of the many restaurants with balconies overlooking the plaza.

After that, take a stroll through the iconic Cusco Cathedral where you can see a painting of the Last Supper with a guinea pig – the Andean interpretation for the main centerpiece of the meal. The plaza is a perfect place to people-watch and take in the surrounding history while enjoying your Cusco activities.

6. Dare to try cuy

Foreigners may be squeamish at the site of guinea pig at their table, but cuy is a Peruvian delicacy that carries historical and regional importance. The dish appears in the copy of the Last Supper hanging in the cathedral, and has provided a cheap livestock alternative for centuries. The Cusco variety of cuy is typically roasted, meaning that the guinea pig is particularly palatable, with a similar flavor to duck or rabbit. Although home to several cuyerías – restaurants specializing in cuy – the city’s best option is Pachapapa, an open-air restaurant that cooks the dish in a wood-fired clay oven. For the faint of heart, try alpaca steak, another delicacy served throughout the city.