The Magical Historic Center Cusco – Centro Historico

Let’s get to know better the Historic Center Cusco, as you may know Cuzco is an ancient city, the centre of many Andean civilizations, considered a cultural, political and religious axis by the ancient Peruvians; For the Inca people thus city used to be the capital; During the colonial period it became the most important city for the evangelization of Andean people because the first school of art in South America was founded in this city (it is called “La Escuela Cuzqueña” – Consider that art played a determining key for turning locals in Catholics since they were not able to read nor to speak spanish – art is a universal laguage).

Cuzco was also the cradle of rebellions such as the armed uprising of Tupac Amaru II in 1781, today the historic center of Cusco still preserves the splendour of that cultural and architectural heritage from both the Inca and Viceroyalty period, therefore in 1983 the historic center was designated as part of UNESCO worldwide heritage list. Check out the highlights below and have fun!


Visit Archaeological Remains from the Inca Period

There are still quite a few Inca walls that exist in the historical center of Cusco, which were once Inca palaces, sacred temples, Inca walls, etc. Check them below and have fun!

Need a tour guide? then just join our walking tour, booking is 100% Free!


Visit the most famous Colonial Houses in the historic center

During the colonial period from 1534 to 1821, and even the first decades of the republican period, the most powerful aristocratic Spanish and “criollo”(Spanish- Americans) families used to live in the historic center of Cusco, they would live in sumptuous houses, we normally call those houses “Casonas or Palacios” because of their immense size and a beautiful water fountain in the centre fo the patio. Check the list below and have fun!

  • Palacio Del Almirante: The Inka Museum currently works here, the admission is free for the Patio but if you want to access the galleries, you have to pay for the fee.
  • Casa Del Marqués De Valleumbroso o La Escuela Cusqueña:The Cuzco School of Art use to operate in this house, nowadays there is a University of Fine Arts working here, the admission is free to the patio.
  • Casa Del Inca Garcilaso De La Vega: The Museum of Natural History of Cusco works currently in this old house, to access both the house and the museum, there is a fee, you need to buy the Tourist Ticket of Cusco.
  • Palacio Arzobispal: The Museum of Religious Art operates in this colonial building, the entrance costs 10 Soles, or you can also buy the Religious Ticket that allows you to access 4 churches in total.

Visit must-see churches in the historic center

The Cathedral of Cusco

centro historico de cusco
The Cathedral of Cusco

It currently occupies the space of an Inca palace that belonged to the 8th Inca emperor known as “Viracocha” and is accompanied by two auxiliary small churches; On the right (please face the cathedral) you will see the church of Triumph and on the left you will see the church of the Holy Family

The cathedral has three naves with ribbed vaults in the Gothic style, however the most used architectural design for the cathedral was the Andean Baroque.

It has a powerful facade with a horizontal image, accentuated by two towers, the tower of the gospel (the right tower – please face the cathedral) and the tower of the epistle, in the tower of the gospel there is the largest bell on the American continent, it weighs around 6 tons, and it is called María Angola.

centro historico de cusco
María Angola Bell

 

In the interior of the cathedral there are sumptuous altars, jewelry, paintings from Cusco School of art and also the ashes of the famous mestizo* chronicler named Inca Garcilaso de la Vega; Also inside the cathedral is the famous Christ of the tremors (it has an Andean phenotype), which is a carved work in wood from the 17th century, he is believed to have many powers and therefore since the colonial period he is highly revered and he is currently considered “The Patron of the city of Cusco “

*Mestizo means a man of mixed race, especially one having Spanish and indigenous descent.

How to visit the Cathedral?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in the Plaza de Armas, see it on the google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, from 9am to 6pm.
  • Price: Adults pay 25 Soles and Students pay 12.50 Soles – You can also buy the Religious Ticket, which allows you to enter several churches, the price is 35 Soles.
  • To Consider: The prices may vary according to your nationality; To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, they don´t accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

If you need a Tourist Guide for the Cathedral contact us please, you can also see our guided city tour that includes the cathedral.


The Church of the Society of Jesus

centro historico de cusco
The Church of the Society of Jesus

This magnificent baroque-style church was erected in the first years of the Spanish invasion starting 1534, it was built on the Amaru Cancha area, which was the palace of the 12th emperor Huayna Capaq, today you can still see Inca walls that worked as foundations for this church.

It has a Latin cross design on the floor, it has three towers but one of them has an arabic style, it also has an extravagant facade.

This church is a little higher than the cathedral of Cusco, this should not happen because according to Catholic regulations, no church can be taller, more ornate not much bigger than the cathedral, in addition to this, no church can be built in the main square, except the cathedral itself, because She is considered to be the mother church.

In the interior there is a super luxurious decoration with silver, gold, jewelry, altarpieces from the Cusco School of Art, etc.

It is good to know that in this church during the colonial period there was a jail where Tupaq Amaru II, his wife Micaela Bastidas and their children were imprisoned, after they were executed.

centro historico de cusco
Tupac Amaru II

 

Sometimes it is hard to get a seat on a balcony facig the plaza de armas, especially all restaurants are bussy, but don´t worry, you can visit this church and get upstairs, there is a couple of interior balconies, from this spot you can have an awesome over of the plaza de armas.

How to visit the Church of the Society of Jesus?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in the Plaza de Armas, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 5pm and Sundays from 9am to 10:30am and from 3:45 pm until 5pm.
  • Price: General admission is 10 Soles – You can also buy the Religious Ticket, which allows you to enter several churches, the price is 35 Soles.
  • To Consider: Prices may vary according to your nationality and special conditions, for example if you are a student the price may vary; To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, they don´t accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

If you need a Tourist Guide for the Cathedral, please contact us, you can also check our religious circuit tour that includes a total of 4 churches.


Qoricancha temple and Santo Domingo church

Qoricancha was a ceremonial center dedicated mainly to the Sun god (or “Inti” in the Quechua language), it is also known that within the temple there were other enclosures dedicated to the moon, the lighting and the rainbow, some parts of the Inca walls do still exist nowadays.

The temple as a lithic building dates back to the Inca period, however it is known that in pre-Inca times right in this place there was a former ancient shrine.

The Spaniards arrived at Cusco city in 1534 and made the re-distribution of the inca palaces, so in this re-distribution the Dominicans benefited from this temple, during the colonial period most of the temple was tore down and the stones re-used to buld the monastery of Santo Domingo are built with the stones of the ancient Inca temple.

How to visit the Qoricancha temple and the Santo Domingo church?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is in front of the Palacio del Inca hotel, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm – Sunday is only open from 2pm, don’t forget!
  • Price: general admission is 15 Soles.
  • To Consider: Prices may vary according to your nationality and special conditions, for example if you are a student the price may vary; To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, they don´t accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

If you need a Tour Guide for the temple of the Qoricancha, please contact us, you can also see our guided city tour that includes the temple of Qoricancha.


The Basilica menor of La Merced

centro historico de cusco
The Basilica of La Merced

In 1535, the Mercedarios laid the first stone for the construction of the Andean Baroque style church called as La Merced, like all the churches in the historic center, this church also had two towers but unfortunately one of them was destroyed during the earthquake 1950.

The remains of Gonzalo Pizarro (brother of Francisco Pizarro) and Francisco de Carbajal were buried in the crypt of this church. The heads of both people were fried in oil and sent it to Lima, so there is no way to see their skulls; You can also see the remains of Diego de Almagro the elder (Pizarro’s partner), and Almagro the younger (son of the old Diego).

centro historico de cusco
Custodia de la iglesia La Merced

 

The most famous custody in Peru is located in this church, it is a baroque-style Custody of Mercy which was designed by Luis Ayala de Olmos in the 17th century, it measures 1.2 meters high, it weighs 22.2 kg (including gold, silver and jewelry), and contains the following jewels:

  • 3518 diamonds
  • 615 pearls
  • 3 emeralds
  • 1 amethyst
  • 1 topaz
  • Several dozen rubies and other precious stones

How to explore La Merced church?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in the Espinar square, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 8:30am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm – it is closed on Sundays.
  • Price: General admission is 6 Soles – You can also buy the Religious Ticket, which allows you to enter several churches, the price is 35 Soles.
  • To Consider: Prices may vary according to your nationality and special conditions, for example if you are a student the price may vary; To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, they don´t accept USA, the payment is made in cash.

The Church of San Blas

centro historico de cusco
The Church of San Blas

This church is located in San Blas neighbourhood, formerly known in the Inca period as the Tokocachi neighbourhood where there was a Huaca(temple), indeed this church is the replacement of that Inca temple.

centro historico de cusco
Pulpito esculpido en una sola pieza de madera

 

The church is very popular compared to the other ones, even though it is a small church, the reason is the existence of a carved pulpit from a single wood in the interior, which has a great ornamental abundance, it is the supreme work of all the artistic carpentry of colonial Cusco city, it was carved in Cedarwood, it has three parts: the base, the sill and the canopy. You will also see eight human busts, which symbolize heretics, they seem to hold the entire pulpit. On the parapet, the niches stand out with the images of the four evangelists and among them, you can see the Immaculate Virgin over the clouds. The image of this church´s patron San Blas appears between the parapet and the canopy.

How to visit the church of San Blas?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in the San Blas neighborhood, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 5pm and on Sundays from 9am to 10:30am and from 3:45pm to 5pm.
  • Price: General admission is 10 Soles – You can also buy the Religious Ticket, which allows you to enter several churches, the price is 35 Soles.
  • To Consider: Prices may vary according to your nationality and special conditions, for example if you are a student the price may vary; To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, they don´t accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

If you need a Tourist Guide for the church of San Blas, please contact us, you can also see our religious circuit tour that includes a total of 4 churches in Cusco.


Discover the most important Museums of Cusco

Inka Museum

The Inka museum is located in a colonial house that belonged to Francisco Aldrete Maldonado in the 17th century, however, this house currently belongs to the San Antonio Abad University of Cusco. The museum displays approximately 10,000 pieces dating back to pre-Inca and Inca period. There is also a wide variety of gold and silver objects, ceramics, Inca fabrics and a bale room from the Inca period. If you are in the historic centre you should visit this living museum.

Useful information

  • Location: It is located on Almirante street, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm – Saturdays and holidays from 9am to 4pm – On Sundays it is closed.
  • Price: The general entrance is 10 Soles.
  • To Consider: To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, They do not accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

Pre-Columbian art museum

This museum offers a tour of the pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru, but from an artistic point of view, it is a museum that aims to rescue the aesthetic beauty expressed in ceramics, textiles, sculptures and metallurgy by ancient societies.

Useful information

  • Location: It is located in Plaza Nazarenas (in Casa Cabrera), see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday from 9am to 10pm.
  • Price: The general entrance is 20 Soles – For students it is 10 Soles.
  • To Consider: To pay the entrance you have to bring local currency, They do not accept USD, the payment is made in cash.

Visit the Markets in the Historic Center

San Pedro Market

This market is the oldest one in the city center, its origins date back to the Inca period, before the arrival of the Spaniards at Cusco in 1534 there was an immensely large plaza, it started in the Plaza de Armas and ended in the Plaza San Francisco, a large part of this plaza was used as a market for bartering in the Inca period.

centro historico de cusco
San Pedro Market

Upon the arrival of the Spaniards, this immense square was divided into several squares, however, what is called nowadays as Plaza de Armas was still for the exchange of products, although already with the participation of the currency.

The plaza de Armas market operated at the same spot until 1929, in that year the San Pedro market was built and the vendors of the Plaza de Armas were also relocated.

At the beginning of the 90s, it became a very popular market for tourists, if you are in Cusco, visit this place, you will find a little bit of everything: fruits, prepared food, meat, vegetables, cereals, crafts, etc.

How to visit the San Pedro market?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in Plaza San Pedro, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Every day from 6am to 5pm.
  • Price: It is Free.

Our recommendation! Just join our free tour in Cusco, which includes this market, please book via website. We have good recommendations on TripAdvisor and Facebook, you can also see our comments on google below:

San Blas Market

centro historico de cusco
San Blas Market

It is a very contemporary market where you can find fruits, vegetables, crafts, food, etc. We advise you to go to this market as long as you are in the San Blas neighborhood, since you will be very close to this place.

How to visit the San Blas market?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located in the San Blas neighborhood, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Every day from 7am to 5pm.
  • Price: It is Free.

Qosqo Handicraft Center Market

centro historico de cusco
Centro Artesanal Qosqo

If you love handicrafts, or you would like to buy a good gift for your family back home, then make your way to this market, here you will find an infinite variety of crafts only with super comfortable prices such as sweaters, sweaters, handbags, shoes, polo shirts, etc. – there is no fruits, food or vegetables in this market!

How to visit the Qosqo hanycraft center?

You can do it on your own, please consider the following information:

  • Location: It is located on Tullumayo Avenue, see it on google maps!
  • Hours: Every day from 7am to 9pm.
  • Price: It is Free.

Try local and Peruvian food

Traditional Tourist Restaurants

Below we quote you the most popular traditional restaurants in Cusco with prices ranging from 10 to 50 USD.

Restaurants for Local People

There is only one restaurant that we recommend where the food is super clean, tasty and cheap, it is called Qori Sara, located on Calle Garcilaso 290, the price of the food ranges from 10 Soles to 30 Soles.

centro historico de cusco
Restaurants for Local People

Picanterías más populares del Cusco

The picanterías are very traditional restaurants in Cusco with live music, although some only have traditional food, either way you won´t regret visiting one of these restaurants.

How to explore the historic center of Cusco?

  1. La primera opción es que lo hagas por tu propia cuenta a pie!
  2. La segunda opción es que realices un City Tour que te ayudara a explorar la catedral y el Qoricancha con guía profesional – Considera que el city tour también te da la oportunidad de explorar otros atractivos como Saqsayhuaman y las 4 ruinas.
  3. La tercera opción es que realices un free tour en el casco histórico del Cusco, para informes y reservas visita este enlace por favor!
  1. The first option is to do it on your own on foot!
  2. The second option is that you take a City Tour, that will help you explore the cathedral and the Qoricancha with a professional guide – Consider that the city tour also gives you the opportunity to explore other attractions such as Saqsayhuaman and the 4 ruins on the outskirts of Cusco
  3. The third option is that you do a free tour in the historic center of Cusco, for more information and reservations visit this link please!

Remember that if you travel to other cities like Lima and Arequipa, you can also have free tours in English!

centro historico de cusco
Free Tours Cusco en Español

If you want to know more about Cusco and the region follow this link!