Cusco’s main square – Plaza de Armas – is a busy and vibrant space that marks the colonial centre of the city. The plaza, which features wide stone pathways and well-kept colourful gardens, is home to two iconic buildings: the Cusco Cathedral and the Church La Compañía de Jesús.
Cusco’s Plaza de Armas covers part of the area that was once the Haukaypata – The Great Inca Square. Today however, Spanish colonial buildings and long stone arcades dominate the architecture of the plaza, but many of the precisely carved Inca walls remain as foundations.
The plaza is where many of the city’s most important gatherings, events and festivals take place, including Inti Raymi – the Inca Festival of the Sun and the religious festival of Corpus Christi.
The plaza is always bustling with activity whatever time of the day (or night), and is great place to soak up the laid back atmosphere of this Andean city.
The plaza also has a wide variety of restaurants and eateries, which offer everything from traditional Peruvian food like cuy, lomo saltado and aji de gallina through to more well-known international cuisine like pasta, pizza and steak. Indeed the plaza is home to some of the city’s best restaurants like the up-market Limo or Gaston Acurio’s new gourmet burger restaurant Papachos.
Unlike many cities around the world Cusco is buzzing every night of the week, and if you are looking for nightlife you simply need to head to the plaza. Norton Rat’s Pub is a favourite of both locals and tourists alike, who harmoniously drink the night away whilst playing darts and pool. Paddy’s Irish Pub is also another great place to meet people from around the world, whist enjoying exceptional homemade food and drinking few local Cusqueña beers. If you want to dance there are also many cool clubs and lounge-bars dotted around the plaza; Mushrooms and the famous Mama Africa are to name a few.
When wandering the plaza expect to see local vendors (often children) selling everything from day trips to Machu Picchu to wooden carvings to paintings and alpaca clothing. If you are not interested simply say “no gracias.” Be warned, many vendors can be persistent, but simply ignore them or repeat “no gracias.” If you think it’s annoying, then think of the poor ex-pats that live in Cusco and are asked by the same people day in day out if they want to buy a finger puppet! However, Cusco is the ideal place to pick up souvenirs in Peru at a good price!