Must see attractions in Cuzco

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Plaza de Armas

    In Inca times, the plaza, called Huacaypata or Aucaypata, was the heart of the capital. Today it’s the nerve center of the modern city. Two flags usually fly here – the red-and-white Peruvian flag and the rainbow-colored flag of Tahuantinsuyo. Easily mistaken for an international gay-pride banner, it represents the four quarters of the Inca empire.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús

    Built upon the palace of Huayna Cápac, the last inca to rule an undivided, unconquered empire, the church was built by the Jesuits in 1571 and reconstructed after the 1650 earthquake. Two large canvases near the main door show early marriages in Cuzco in wonderful period detail. Local student guides are available to show you around the church, as well as the grand view from the choir on the 2nd floor, reached via rickety steps. Tips are gratefully accepted.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo de Arte Precolombino

    Inside a Spanish colonial mansion with an Inca ceremonial courtyard, this dramatically curated pre-Columbian art museum showcases a stunningly varied, if selectively small, collection of archaeological artifacts previously buried in the vast storerooms of Lima’s Museo Larco. Dating from between 1250 BC and AD 1532, the artifacts show off the artistic and cultural achievements of many of Peru’s ancient cultures, with exhibits labeled in Spanish, English and French.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cuzco

    Museo Machu Picchu

    This newish museum exhibits 360 pieces from Machu Picchu taken by Hiram Bingham's expeditions and recently returned by Yale University, including stone tools and metals, ceramics and bones. The collection shows the astounding array of fine handicrafts and ceramics acquired from throughout the vast Incan empire. There's also good background on the Bingham expeditions with informative documentaries (subtitled). Signs are in English and Spanish.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cuzco

    Cusco Planetarium

    An excellent way to explore the fascinating Inca cosmovision. They defined constellations of darkness as well as light, used astronomy to predict weather patterns, and designed Cuzco’s main streets to align with constellations at key moments. After an indoor presentation in English and Spanish there's high-powered telescope viewings outside. Reservations are essential; price varies with group size, and includes pickup and drop-off. The planetarium van picks up visitors at 5:40pm from Plaza Regocijo.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Templo y Convento de La Merced

    Cuzco’s third most important colonial church, La Merced was destroyed in the 1650 earthquake, but was quickly rebuilt. To the left of the church, at the back of a small courtyard, is the entrance to the monastery and museum. Paintings based on the life of San Pedro Nolasco, who founded the order of La Merced in Barcelona in 1218, hang on the walls of the beautiful colonial cloister.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo de Arte Popular

    Winning entries in Cuzco’s annual Popular Art Competition are displayed in this engaging museum. This is where the artisans and artists of San Blas showcase their talents in styles ranging from high art to cheeky, offering a fascinating, humorous take on ordinary life amid the pomp and circumstance of a once-grandiose culture.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo de Arte Religioso

    Originally the palace of Inca Roca, the foundations of this museum were converted into a grand colonial residence and later became the archbishop’s palace. The beautiful mansion is now home to a religious-art collection notable for the accuracy of its period detail, and especially its insight into the interaction of indigenous peoples with the Spanish conquistadors. There are also some impressive ceilings and colonial-style tile work that’s not original, having been replaced during the 1940s.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia de Santo Domingo

    The church of Santo Domingo is next door to Qorikancha. Less baroque and ornate than many of Cuzco’s churches, it is notable for its charming paintings of archangels depicted as Andean children in jeans and T-shirts. Opening hours are erratic.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo Inka

    The charmingly modest Museo Inka, a steep block northeast of the Plaza de Armas, is the best museum in town for those interested in the Incas. The restored interior is jam-packed with a fine collection of metal- and gold-work, jewelry, pottery, textiles, mummies, models and the world’s largest collection of queros (ceremonial Inca wooden drinking vessels). There’s excellent interpretive information in Spanish, and English-speaking guides are usually available for a small fee.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia San Francisco

    More austere than many of Cuzco’s other churches, Iglesia San Francisco dates from the 16th and 17th centuries and is one of the few that didn’t need to be completely reconstructed after the 1650 earthquake. It has a large collection of colonial religious paintings and a beautifully carved cedar choir.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo Histórico Regional

    This eclectic museum is housed in the colonial Casa Garcilaso de la Vega, the house of the Inca-Spanish chronicler who now lies buried in the cathedral. The chronologically arranged collection begins with arrowheads from the Preceramic Period and continues with ceramics and jewelry of the Wari, Pukara and Inca cultures. Admission is with the boleto turístico (tourist ticket) only, which is valid for 10 days and covers 16 other sites.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia y Convento de Santa Clara

    This 16th-century church, part of a strict convent, is difficult to visit but it's worth making the effort to go for morning services, because this is one of the more bizarre churches in Cuzco. Mirrors cover almost the entire interior; apparently, the colonial clergy used them to entice curious indigenous peoples into the church for worship.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo

    The small collection of contemporary Andean art on display at this museum in the municipality building is really one for the fans. Museo Quijote has a much better collection, putting a representative range of Peru’s contemporary artists on show, with interpretive information that puts the art in context with history. Admission is with the boleto turístico tourist card only, which is valid for 10 days and covers 16 other sites.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia y Monasterio de Santa Catalina

    This convent houses many colonial paintings of the escuela cuzqueña (Cuzco school), as well as an impressive collection of vestments and other intricate embroidery. The baroque side chapel features dramatic friezes, and many life-sized (and sometimes startling) models of nuns praying, sewing and going about their lives. The convent also houses 13 real, live contemplative nuns.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo Quijote

    Housed inside a bank, this privately owned museum of contemporary art houses a diverse, thoughtful collection of painting and sculpture ranging from the folksy to the macabre. There’s good interpretive information about 20th-century Peruvian art history, some of it translated into English.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo de la Coca

    A good primer on Andean culture, this is a wonderful and kitschy little museum that traces the uses of the coca leaf, from sacred ritual to its more insidious incarnations. Exhibits are labeled in both English and Spanish. Tips are suggested for guided visits.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Museo de Historia Natural

    This university-run natural history museum houses a somewhat motley collection of stuffed local animals and birds and over 150 snakes from the Amazon. The entrance is hidden off the Plaza de Armas, to the right of Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia del Triunfo

    Cuzco’s oldest church houses a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, who was born in Cuzco in 1539 and died in Córdoba, Spain, in 1616. His remains were returned in 1978 by King Juan Carlos of Spain.

  • Sights in Cuzco

    Iglesia de San Blas

    This simple adobe church is comparatively small, but you can’t help but be awed by the baroque, gold-leaf principal altar. The exquisitely carved pulpit, made from a single tree trunk, has been called the finest example of colonial wood carving in the Americas.