Things to do in Cusco

Cusco is a charming little city in Peru with tons of great things to do in and around the city. Cobblestone plastered streets wind up the Andean mountains in this former capital of the Incan empire. Cusco features beautiful colonial architecture, amazing restaurants and creates the perfect starting point to travel all over Peru.

Located 3200 meters above sea level, people often visit Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude, especially before heading to Machu Picchu or rainbow mountain.

Tip: if you’re planning to visit Machu Picchu, spend a couple of days in Cusco first to get used to the high altitude. Altitude sickness can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches and diarrhea.

Read also: Hiking the 4 days/3 nights Inca trail to Machu Picchu

Amazing Things To Do In Cusco

How to get around

Cusco is a fairly small city so you can see and do all the things in this guide by foot. Keep in mind the high altitude and that it may take some time to get used to it.
Since Cusco is built on the side of the Andean mountains, the streets are mostly uphill, so take it easy and don’t plan to see and do too much in a day.

Tip: cocoa tea helps against altitude sickness. You can get it anywhere in Cusco, and most hotels offer it for free.

san blas square in cusco

San Blas neighborhood

San Blas is a hip neighbourhood in Cusco, and a great place to walk around and admire the beautiful historic colonial architecture.
It’s also full of amazing cafes, bars and restaurants with delicious local food.

Wander through the little streets around Plaza San Blas and enjoy the creative vibe away from the main tourist areas.

Tip: Check out the food section for some great vegan places.

entrance to museum in san blas neighborhood in cusco
small street store in cusco peru
san blas square in cusco

Qoricancha, Temple of the Sun

Qoricancha (sometimes also spelled Coricancha), or Temple of the Sun, is a complex in the old part of Cusco. It is dedicated to Inti, the sun god of the Incas.
In the native language, Quechua, Qoricancha means as much as Golden Courtyard, and the complex got its name from literally being covered in gold during Inca times.

Qoricancha is part of the Santa Domingo convent, built in the 15th century, and was once the richest temple in the Inca empire.

Tip: the entry fee is 15 soles per person, and includes entry to the entire complex.

gallery of arches in the qoricancha temple in cusco
a woman standing in the garden of qoricancha in cusco
woman dancing in the courtyard of qoricancha temple in cusco

Cusco's historical center

The historical center of Cusco is lined with Andean and Spanish buildings. The main square, Plaza de Armas, is a lively place with plenty of restaurants and iconic buildings like the Cusco Cathedral. 

Enjoy a stroll through the winding streets, have a cup of world-famous Peruvian coffee and take in the sunset over the Andean mountains.

woman crossing the street in front of cusco cathedral
a blue door in cusco peru
cobblestone street in the historical center of cusco
woman dancing beside a fountain in the historical center of cusco

San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market is an enclosed market space in the south-west of Cusco.
The stalls sell anything from ponchos to food, at a very affordable price.
If you’re planning on taking home a traditional Peruvian souvenir, San Pedro Market is a great place to find one.

Tip: all the stalls have the same prices for their products, but haggling is still very much a part of the experience.

small street store in cusco peru
bolts of colourful traditional fabric in san pedro market in cusco

Trendy, sustainable and local shopping

When thinking of Cusco you don’t usually think of shopping, but the city has hundreds of great shops lining its little streets. You can find traditional clothing mixed with modern elements all over Cusco’s boutique shops and concept stores.

A lot of those stores put a high focus on sustainability and no-child-labour.

Isa Luna

A less mainstream kind of store is Isa Luna, a little gem in the San Blas neighbourhood offering jewelry, clothing and accessories. Beautiful products, a lot of them hand-made, are great if you’re looking for something a little more unique.

L'atelier Cafe

A cafe and store in one, L’atelier Cafe in the San Blas neighbourhood is a cute little place for great coffee while browsing their beautiful products. Sit on their tiny balcony and enjoy world-class coffee with a gorgeous view over little streets of the San Blas neighbourhood.

Tip: if you pay cash instead of card, you’ll get a discount!

woman sitting on a balcony in san blas drinking coffee
coffee and a pastry on a balcony at l'atelier cafe in cusco

A taste of Peru

Cusco is a foodie’s paradise! There are so many great restaurants and cafes offering locally grown ingredients that there is something for every taste. 

We’ve rated these places by yummy factor, enjoy!

A great little place for breakfast offering smoothie bowls and the famous Peruvian coffee.
Cappuccino, hot chocolate, Acai bowl, macambo bowl = 47 soles

All-vegan menu, organic, and with an amazing courtyard-style garden to sit and eat.
Smoothie, beer, tacos to share = 85 soles
Bruschetta, samosas, smoked sushi to share, beer = 105 soles

entrance to qora, a vegan cafe in cusco
acai bowl and coffee at qora, a vegan cafe in cusco
outdoor garden seating at green point restaurant in cusco
Vegan sushi at green point restaurant in cusco

Vegan churros with different dips, from classic molten chocolate to traditional dulce de leche.

Delicious tapas sharing platters and a huge selection of the famous pisco sour cocktail.
Tapas sharing platter (shrimp & bacon, mozzarella bruschetta, potatoes, cured pork, duck), pisco sour = 102 soles

Boutique store offering yummy cakes, famous Peruvian coffee, and unique hand-made clothing and accessories.
Cappuccino, chai latte, chocolate cookie, carrot cake = 30 soles

Typical restaurant favoured by the locals serving deep fried guinea pig.
Guinea pig, beer = 102 soles

a plate of churros and cup of molten chocolate at churro bar cusco
a cup of coffee and cake on a balcony in san blas cusco
woman holding a fried guinea pig in cusco
assorted tapas at museo del pisco in cusco

Day trips from Cusco

There are a ton of day trips from Cusco, and you don’t have to book any of them in advance. Almost every store in the city sells a tour, the most popular ones being to Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain.

Other day trips you can take from Cusco include Humantay Lake, Sacsayhuaman, and the Sacred Valley. Although the Sacred Valley has so much to offer that we would recommend spending more than 1 day to visit all the places.

The view of the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.
The view of ancient Inca ruins Llactapata. This is the first stop on the Inca trail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.

I hope you liked my guide about things to do in Cusco.
I’d would love to hear your feedback, comments or questions!

XO, Nadine

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Amazing Things To Do In Cusco
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