Buried high in the Andes Mountains, Cusco is a traveler’s dream. Not only are there abundant things to do in Cusco and plenty of interesting Cusco attractions, but the city is also perfectly located to serve as a starting point for trips into the Sacred Valley, where the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu work their otherworldly charm. Aside from sightseeing activities in the city, travelers are attracted to this great city as a transportation hub that facilitates further exploration of Peru. When deciding what things to do in Cusco, choosing from the following list will ensure a memorable vacation.
Plaza de Armas
It’s possible to spend a rich, full day without leaving the Plaza de Armas at all. Officially speaking, the Spanish occupation of Cusco started here. The Plaza is flanked by two great attractions and the subject of many Cusco pictures: the city’s cathedral, and the Iglesia de la Compania. What’s more, the Plaza de Armas is the heart of social life in Cusco. Cafes and restaurants spill out into the streets here during the day, while just about everyone comes to socialize in the square’s bars at night. In many ways, to experience the Plaza de Armas is to experience Cusco.
Walking, viewing, and photographing the Inca walls of Sacsayhuaman are all top activities in Cusco. These logic-defying walls—it’s still not known how they were constructed without modern-day machinery—are believed to form an ancient temple to the sun, and consequently summer and winter solstices are celebrated here every year. The climb from Cusco city is hard going, especially for those who have not yet acclimatized to the low oxygen levels, so finding some other form of transportation to take you to the top can be a good idea.
Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo
Located in the splendid Municipal Palace at Plaza Regocijo, this museum of contemporary art is one of Cusco’s finest. Another great museum in the city is the Museo de Arte Precolumbino. A word to the wise: Before you throw yourself headlong into the many museum-related things to do in Cusco, make sure to get a Boleto Turistico from the tourist office. It will save you a lot of money and hassle with individual museum ticket counters.
As with most cities in the world, a trip to the market is always a revealing experience. Cusco’s Mercado Central is no different; it’s a bustling, colorful place that easily warrants at least a morning of exploration. Located west of the Plaza de Armas, the Mercado Central offers one of the best activities in Cusco—buying enough produce for a hearty picnic to be enjoyed elsewhere in the city.
Head up from the Plaza de Armas and you will come across the pedestrianized barrio of San Blas, a charming and bohemian district that’s largely the territory of the city’s artists. Take the opportunity to relax in one of San Blas’ cafes or seek out the area’s Cusco attractions, such as its pristine white church.