No trip to Cusco, Peru is complete without visiting the Plaza de Armas. Located centrally in the heart of downtown Cusco, Plaza de Armas is the perfect way to get your first taste of this vibrant city. With two stunning cathedrals, a park and fountain, plus numerous surrounding shops and restaurants, you can easily spend half the day here.
While Plaza de Armas is most famous for the incredible architecture of the Cusco Cathedral, there is so much more to see and do. In fact, Plaza de Armas has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cusco, and for good reason. This amazing fixture of Cusco is well worth a visit for anyone visiting for their first time.
Packing your bags for Cusco, Peru? Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the Plaza de Armas:
1. Visit the famous Cusco Cathedral
There’s no doubt that the Cusco Cathedral will be the first thing you notice when you enter Plaza de Armas. Located on the northeast side of Plaza de Armas, this stunning cathedral took nearly 100 years to build and was completed back in the 1600s. Wander up the front steps to get an up close and personal view of how beautiful and intricate this cathedral really is.
2. Enjoy a drink overlooking the plaza at Calle de Medio
While there are many restaurants offering scenic views of Plaza de Armas, our favorite is Calle de Medio. Located on the second floor of the building directly across from the Cusco Cathedral, Calle de Medio offers incredible scenic views of the square. We loved the iced coca tea (great for altitude sickness) and sat by the window overlooking the square. Bonus points if you order the sliders appetizer!
3. Visit the San Pedro Market
While the San Pedro Market isn’t technically in Plaza de Armas, it’s only a few blocks down the street and we had to include it in this list. Why? Because it’s a total scene that you can’t miss. Open daily from 6 AM to 8 PM, the San Pedro Market sells everything from fresh baked goods to tourist souvenirs. You can even grab a fresh bite to eat at one of the many food stands located in the dining area.
4. Stroll through the centrally located park & gardens
Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to wander through the scenic park located in the center of Plaza de Armas. Featuring beautiful flower gardens and a 3-tier water fountain, this picture perfect park is a great place to snap some photos of Plaza de Armas.
5. Grab a Bite to Eat at Nuna Raymi
If you’re getting hungry and looking for a bite to eat, Nuna Raymi is a great pick for Peruvian food in modern digs. Located right next to the Cusco Cathedral on Triunfo Street, try to snag a seat near the window for an extra scenic view. For food, we ordered the quinoa soup as an appetizer, then shared the tacos and spaghetti for our meal.
6. Attend A Colorful Local Festival or Event
Plaza de Armas is famous for the festive events that it holds all year round. When we were visiting, we were lucky enough to accidentally stumble upon a local festival that was being held in celebration of the local education system (at least, that’s what our cab driver said!). It was a beautiful cultural experience to witness, with children dancing to music in the streets and showcasing their colorful traditional Peruvian attire.
7. Visit the Chocolate Museum (ChocoMuseo)
Cusco’s Chocolate Museum is something that travelers of all ages can appreciate. Located only two blocks from the main Plaza de Armas area, the Chocolate Museum sells any type of chocolate product that you can imagine. They even have chocolate soap!
Our favorite part about the Chocolate Museum was that they offered free samples of pretty much anything, and the staff was super nice and helpful. They also offer paid cooking classes and workshops if you’re looking to learn a thing or two about cooking with chocolate.
8. Go inside the Cusco Cathedral
While the Cusco Cathedral isn’t always open to the public, make sure that you seize the opportunity to enter if it’s open! The architecture inside the cathedral is just as stunning as the exterior, and you may even be able to view a religious service. While pictures and filming aren’t allowed inside the Cathedral, we had to sneak a quick iPhone picture–it was too beautiful to resist!
9. Get the best view of Plaza de Armas and the Cusco Skyline at Limbus Restobar
If you’re looking to view Plaza de Armas and the Cusco skyline from a little higher up, you can’t go wrong with Limbus Restobar. Located at the top of a hill accessible only to pedestrians via stairs, Limbus Restobar has some of the best views of Cusco that you can get. While we enjoyed the view, we ordered a few delicious empanadas and some freshly squeezed fruit strawberry juice. Yum!
10. Take a Picture Holding a Baby Alpaca
Yes, it’s true! You can even hold a baby alpaca at Plaza de Armas. There are women that will walk around holding these adorable animals, and they’re all too happy to let you hold them and take pictures with them. Just keep in mind that they will expect you to tip them with a few soles after. Go ahead, let your inner tourist out!
11. Purchase Local Art from a Street Vendor
Buying art or jewelry from a street vendor is a great way to get unique trip souvenirs while also supporting Cusco’s local art scene. As you walk around Plaza de Armas, numerous vendors will approach you to show off their art or jewelry. Most of it is actually pretty beautiful! We love the hand-painted Machu Picchu image (pictured above) that we purchased at Plaza de Armas.
Pro Tip: The street vendors will purposely name a price that is way more than the lowest price they will accept. They are almost always willing to lower the price to get your business, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. Also, if you still think the price seems to high, it’s okay to walk away–they may even come back with a better price.
Plaza de Armas is the perfect way to initiate your trip to Cusco, Peru. It offers the perfect mix of historical sights coupled with modern Peruvian culture and cuisine.
If you’re planning on going to Plaza de Armas, we recommend that you bring plenty of cash or a VISA credit card as many of the vendors are cash-only or only accept VISA.
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