Plaza de Armas
Head to where the action is at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, a large landscaped square bordered by shops, restaurants and ancient churches. For more than 500 years, the square has been at the heart of city life. Come to the plaza nowadays and you might see festivals, concerts and religious processions. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, admire the ornate lampposts and colonial archways and relax with a drink.
During the Inca Empire, the square was called “Huacaypata” (Square of Warriors) and extended as far as the adjacent Plaza del Regocijo. Ceremonies and military parades were conducted here and battle victories were celebrated. The Plaza de Armas has also witnessed historic events, including the execution of Túpac Amaru II who led a failed uprising against the Spanish in 1780.
Walk over to Cusco Cathedral on the northeastern side of the plaza. Step inside to view the hundreds of religious paintings. Head to the square’s southeastern side to see the 16th-century Church of the Society of Jesus. At first glance, the two churches look similar. Both have twin towers and comparable architectural designs but the cathedral is much larger and has a grand stone staircase in front.
Stroll under the colonial archways of the covered arcades that surround the square. Here, you’ll find some of Cusco’s finest shops and restaurants. The plaza attracts many street hawkers and persistent vendors. If you don’t wish to buy anything, simply smile and say “No, gracias” (No, thank you).
Plaza de Armas is located in downtown Cusco and easy to get to from all directions. The square is well-served by buses but many people navigate Cusco on foot as its winding, cobblestoned streets are best explored at a slow pace. Return to the square at night to see it beautifully lit up with spotlights. Enjoy the view from a seat by the large fountain or have dinner or a drink in one of the cafés overlooking the square.