The stately Plaza de Armas ★★★, lined by arcades and carved wooden balconies and framed by the Andes, is the focal point of Cusco and the heart of the centro histórico. Lively but still loaded with colonial character, it is one of the most familiar sights in Peru. You will cross it, relax on benches in its center, and pass under porticoes that line the square with shops, restaurants, travel agencies, and bars innumerable times during your stay in Cusco. It’s the best people-watching spot in the city. The plaza—which was twice its present size in Inca days—is bordered by two of Cusco’s most important churches and the remains of original Inca walls on the northwest side of the square, thought to be the foundation of the Inca Pachacútec’s palace. Most of Cusco’s main attractions are easy walking distance from the Plaza.

Many principal sights both within the historic quarter of Cusco and beyond the city are included in the boleto turístico (see below), but a few very worthwhile places of interest, such as the cathedral, Templo del Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), Museo Machu Picchu, and Museo de Arte Precolombino, are not included.

Cusco's Boleto Turístico

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The city’s boleto turístico includes admission to 16 places of interest in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Though it is no longer much of a bargain, the boleto is the only way to get into a number of churches, museums, and ruins (however, not all are indispensable). Arguably the city’s top two sights, La Catedral and Qoricancha, are not included and charge separate admissions. The full ticket costs S/130 for adults and S/70 students with ID and children, and is valid for 10 days; it is available at the tourism office at Mantas 117-A (tel. 084/263-176), which is open Monday to Saturday 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm. In addition to the main tourist office, the boleto can be purchased at Counter Central de Galerías Turísticas, Av. El Sol 103, office 101 (tel. 084/227-037) daily 8am to 6pm, as well as at most of the entrances of the included sites. You can also buy a partial ticket for S/70 that only covers either attractions in the city or ruins and sites outside of Cusco. Make sure you carry the ticket with you when you’re planning to make visits (especially on day trips outside the city), as guards will demand to see it so they can punch a hole alongside the corresponding picture. Students must also carry their International Student Identification Card (ISIC), as guards often demand to see it. For more information, visit www.cosituc.gob.pe.

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The full boleto allows admission to the following sights: in Cusco, Convento de Santa Catalina, Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Histórico Regional, Museo de Sitio Qoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, and Monumento al Inka Pachacuteq; the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuamán, Q’enko, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Pikillacta, and Tipón; and the Valle Sagrado attractions of Moray, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero.

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The Cusco School of Art

The colonial-era Escuela Cusqueña, or Cusco School of art, that originated in the ancient Inca capital was a synthesis of traditional Spanish painting with local, mestizo elements—not surprising, perhaps, because its practitioners were themselves of mixed blood. Popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, the style spread from Cusco as far as Ecuador and Argentina. The most famous members of the school were Diego Quispe Tito, Juan Espinosa de los Monteros, and Antonio Sinchi Roca, even though the authors of a large majority of works associated with the school are anonymous. Most paintings were devotional in nature, with richly decorative surfaces. Artists incorporated recognizable Andean elements into their oil paintings, such as local flora and fauna, customs, and traditions—one depiction of the Last Supper has the apostles feasting on guinea pig and drinking maize beer—and representations of Jesus looking downward, like the Indians who were forbidden to look Spaniards in the eye. Original Escuela Cusqueña works are found in La Catedral, the Convent of Santa Catalina, the Museum of Religious Art, and a handful of other churches in Cusco. Reproductions of original paintings, ranging from excellent in quality to laughable, are available across Cusco, particularly in the galleries and shops of San Blas.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.