Living and working in Cusco, we at Peru Travels Online do feel that many people rush through this city in a very limited time and by doing so miss out on many of the sights and attractions Cusco has to offer.
Therefore, if time allows, we always recommend our passengers to, on top of a Cusco city tour, to have another free day to spend in this city. The name Cusco city tour can be a little misleading as the tour is mainly focused on the 4 Inca sites located just outside of Cusco and in the city center only visits the main square, the Cathedral and Qoriqancha-the Temple of the Sun.
Cusco, being the oldest currently inhabited city in the Americas, therefore accordingly deserves some more time and credit. Following we will try to summarize some of the features of this city which will for sure fascinate all first time visitors to this “Imperial City”.
Being a city with such great history, having withstood dozens of battles, thrived under Inca and Spanish rule, constructed out of palaces built on top of other palaces, Cusco has more to offer than many cities in ancient Europe. The city center counts over a dozen churches, often built on top of ancient Inca palaces. The most famous ones are the cathedral and the la Merced Church, both located on the main square and built on top of palaces from two of the 14 Incas. Especially La Merced Church still has a large original Inca wall providing good insights into the Inca building style and the Spanish methods of incorporating this. Another interesting church, less for its architecture but more for its location is the San Cristobal Church. Located on the hill behind Cusco on the way to Sacsayhuaman this church is a very popular attraction and from the square in front of the church one can catch some of the most beautiful pictures of Cusco. Another interesting church is the San Blas Church. This church located on the San Blas square is the heart of this colonial / bohemian neighborhood and apart from the nice square around the church also provides an impressive feature on the inside. Inside this church one can find what is according to experts one of the most beautiful woodcarvings in South America. The main pulpit is carved out of one single trunk of wood with such detail almost impossible to comprehend. The artist was so proud of his accomplishment that his skull was placed on top of the pulpit after his death.
Another worthwhile outing in Cusco is to visit the “White Christ” Statue on top of the mountain surrounding the valley of Cusco. This Christ Statue is an exact but 6 times smaller replica of the much more famous the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. The statue in Cusco was donated to the city by Palestinian refugees in 1948 and ever since has been protecting the city with his arms spread wide. The statue itself is maybe not the most interesting but the walk up there will (apart from increasing your respect for the altitude) also provide you with some amazing views of Cusco and the notion that once you are up that hill, you are also out and about in the Andean Countryside. The 360 view from here includes the whole of Cusco, the sacred mountain of Ausangate peaking at 6500 meters above sea level and the impressive ruins of Sacsayhuaman and Q’enqo.
Obviously a city such as Cusco also has plenty to offer when it comes to culture. The main museums of the city are the Inca Museum with a nice collection of Pre-Hispanic artifacts; the museum of Pre Colombian Art, holding a great collection of Art from Pre Colombian times and the museum of Qoriqancha dedicated to the worshiping of the sun by the Incas.
Apart from these historical museums, Cusco also has a museum dedicated to the Coca Leave and a museum dedicated to chocolate & cacao, a product that is native to this land.
Cusco also has a nice center for native arts called Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo where almost every day one can attend exhibitions of regional dances and culture.
Finally for live music there are dozens of different options in Cusco ranging from native music to rock and the latest tunes you would hear on the radio. The most famous bars for live music are Ukukus, KM0 and 7 Angelitos.
When it comes to shopping artisanal products, Cusco and the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley rank among the best places on the continent to fine whatever you may be looking for. Cusco is full of artisanal markets and one can easily loose a day walking around and shopping for all the typical amazing products from the Andes. The most popular products are of course the handmade Allpaca wool products (sweaters, hats and scarfs) but so much more can be found that often peoples only resort is to buy an additional suitcase…Nevertheless one must keep in mind that even though cheap overall, handmade products do come at a price and that the cheaper products are often factory made. Therefore it is always wise to look around before buying and try to keep impulsive purchases to a minimum. Of course in most of these markets bartering or negotiating is common practice and you should never accept the first price they ask. For more upscale products Cusco also has several interesting stores around the main square where one can find even finer products (at higher costs).
For grocery shopping a great place is the San Pedro Market in the city center. This large market provides a wide range of products, mostly alimentation and is a place where one can see products from the Peruvian coast besides those of the Andean highlands and the deep jungle. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, spices and what not, can be found here on a daily basis.
Being a popular tourist destination, Cusco over the last couple of years has also highly developed its culinary sense and there is not a month that goes by without a new restaurant opening its doors in Cusco. Chefs like the famous Gaston Acurio opened up his restaurant in Cusco making it hip for many other higher end restaurants to open in Cusco. Great restaurants in Cusco are; La Ciccollina, Limo, ChiCha, El Soleil and the Senzo Restaurant in the Palacio Nazarenas Hotel. Apart from these high end restaurants Cusco has places on offer for any kind of budget and with an innovative cuisine such as the Peruvian, no-one will have to leave Cusco hungry.
Another facet Cusco developed over the last couple of years is that of having one of the most active nightlives in South America. Forget large cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires or Lima. The relatively small city of Cusco, due to its many attractions is filled with people looking to have a great time. This translates itself in a large variety of bars, clubs and dancing’s available every day of the week till the early hours. One can find almost any kind of music and crowd and there is something for all tastes. As most of these venues have free entrance and are located around the Main Square and San Blas area the streets around these areas also get quite lively in the evenings.
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