Top Attractions in Cusco / Must-Visit Sites in Cusco

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Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, is filled with captivating attractions that are worth exploring before embarking on the Inca Trail or visiting Machu Picchu. Begin your Cusco adventure with a city tour upon arrival to familiarize yourself with the key sites you may want to delve into further. The Plaza de Armas, a central meeting point and gathering place, is an ideal starting point. This charming square houses a tourist information office, as well as bars and shops, and is conveniently located within walking distance of many other attractions you’ll want to visit. In the center of the square, a fountain adorned with a statue of an Inca man points towards the ancient citadel of Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saqsaywaman). Towards the northeast stands one of Cusco’s most iconic structures—the cathedral.

Cusco Cathedral, constructed in the Gothic-Renaissance style, was built by the Spanish over the course of a century, commencing in 1559. It is a grand edifice crafted from stones taken from Sacsayhuamán. The cathedral houses numerous significant pieces of colonial art, including Marcos Zapata’s Last Supper, which intriguingly incorporates a guinea pig as part of the meal. The cathedral is flanked on the left by the Jesus Maria Church and on the right by El Triunfo, Cusco’s first established church.

A short stroll from the Plaza de Armas brings you to the San Blas neighborhood. This area has long been reserved for artists and artisans, and meandering through its narrow (and occasionally steep) streets feels like stepping back in time. You’ll discover artists’ workshops, galleries, cozy cafés, and restaurants here. Don’t miss the small San Blas Church, adorned with an exquisitely carved wooden pulpit.

Now, let’s explore some of the historical sites. One must-see is Coricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun. A brief walk from the Plaza de Armas, this site held immense importance for Inca worshippers of the sun and moon deities. In its prime, it dazzled with sheets of gold and housed silver and gold statues. Sadly, after the Spanish colonization, the valuable metals were looted and melted down, resulting in the irreversible loss of priceless treasures. A little farther, about 1.5 miles north of Cusco, lies Sacsayhuamán. Originally established by the Incas as a fortress and temple, it features impressive walls constructed from massive stones that continue to stand proudly today. Explorers seeking to delve into the area’s history prior to their Inca Trail adventure will be captivated by these remarkable sites.

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