The Cusco region is Peru’s center of handicraft production, especially handwoven textiles, and along with Lima is the country’s premier shopping destination. Many Cusqueño artisans still employ ancient weaving techniques, and they produce some of the finest textiles in South America. Cusco overflows with tiny shops stuffed with colorful wares and large markets crammed with dozens of stalls. Sadly, many of the handicrafts are now mass-produced outside of the region, though authentic textiles and crafts can still be found if you look in the right places.
Items to look for (you won’t have to look too hard because shopping opportunities are pretty much everywhere you turn) include alpaca-wool sweaters, shawls, gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, ponchos, and chullos, the distinctive Andean knit caps with ear coverings; silver jewelry; antique blankets and textiles; woodcarvings, especially nicely carved picture frames; ceramics; and Escuela Cusqueña reproduction paintings.
The barrio of San Blas, the streets right around the Plaza de Armas (particularly calles Plateros and Triunfo), and Plaza Regocijo are the best and most convenient haunts for shopping outings. Many merchants sell similar merchandise, so some price comparison is always helpful. If sellers think you’ve just arrived in Peru and don’t know the real value of items, your price is guaranteed to be higher. Although bargaining is acceptable and almost expected, merchants in the center of Cusco are confident of a steady stream of buyers, and, as a result, they are often less willing to negotiate than their counterparts in markets and more out-of-the-way places in Peru. Most visitors will find prices delightfully affordable, though, and haggling beyond what you know is a fair price, when the disparity of wealth is so great, is generally viewed as bad form. The best shops are the ones, like Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, that guarantee that a high percentage of the sale price goes directly to the artisan.
Alpaca & Andean Fashions
It’s difficult to walk 10 paces in Cusco without running into an alpaca goods shop. Almost everyone in Cusco will try to sell you what they claim to be 100% alpaca scarves and sweaters, but many sold on the street and in tourist stalls are of inferior quality (and might even be mixed with man-made materials such as fiberglass). What is described as “baby alpaca” might be anything but. To get better-quality examples, not to mention more stylish and original, you need to visit a store that specializes in upscale alpaca fashions or buys direct from artisans; they are more expensive, but compared to international alpaca prices, still a true bargain. If you are looking for vicuña, which is more luxurious and pricier than alpaca, buy only from a reputable store. Besides the shops below, see “Art & Handicrafts” and “Designer Apparel” below for less traditional takes on alpaca goods.
Some of the best alpaca-goods shops are Kuna ★★, Plaza Recocijo 202 and Portal de Panes 127/Plaza de Armas (www.kuna.com.pe; tel. 084/243-233), which features some of the finest, most modern alpaca and wool fashions for men and women, including great shawls, overcoats, and deconstructed and reversible, two-color jackets; and Sol Alpaca ★, San Juan de Dios 214 (www.solalpaca.com; tel. 084/232-687), another of Cusco’s most stylish and contemporary alpaca goods shops, with delicate sweaters, scarves, and shawls in great colors, nubby jackets, and the bonus of an excellent Indigo artesanía shop inside. Other boutiques worth a look, whose names let you know what you’ll find inside, include Alpaca’s Best ★, Plaza Nazarenas 197–199 (tel. 084/245-331); Alpaca 3, Ruinas 472 (tel. 084/226-101); and Alpaca Treasures, Heladeros 172 (tel. 084/438-557).
Many shops in Cusco feature sheep’s wool or alpaca chompas, or jackets, with Andean designs (often lifted directly from old blankets and weavings). A high-fashion take can be found at Iya Mayta ★★, Arequipa 167 (tel. 084/595-450), where hand-knitted alpaca clothing, as well as silver jewelry and leather items, can be purchased. Each purchase results in a donation to a nonprofit started by the founders.
Most of the best antiques dealers are found in San Blas. Antigüedades Arcangel, Cuesta de San Blas 591 (tel. 084/633-754), has a nice mix of religious and other antiques from the Cusco region and across Peru, including some accessibly priced gift items. Galería de Arte Cusqueño Antigüedades, at Plazoleta San Blas 114 (tel. 084/237-857), stocks a range of antiques, from textiles to art and furniture.
Art & Handicrafts (Artesanía)
Especially noteworthy is the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco ★★★, Av. El Sol 603 (www.textilescusco.org; tel. 084/228-117), an organization dedicated to fair-trade practices. It ensures that 70% of the sale price of the very fine textiles on display goes directly to the nine communities and individual artisans it works with. On-site is an ongoing demonstration of weaving and a very good, informative textiles museum. Prices are a bit higher than what you may find in generic shops around town, though the textiles are also higher quality, and much more of your money will go to the women who work for days on individual pieces. Also try Inkakunaq Ruwaynin, in the courtyard of Tullumayo 274 (tel. 084/260-942), a weaving cooperative with ancestral designs sourced from isolated communities from throughout the region.
There are several large markets targeting the tourist trade in artesanía. For antique textiles, there’s a good little stall at the end of the corridor (on the right side as you enter) within the Feria Artesanal at Plateros 334. The stalls aren’t numbered, and you might have to ask the owner to pull his older, more valuable pieces from a trunk he keeps them in, but he has some of the finest quality ceremonial textiles in Cusco. Centro Artesanal Cusco, at the end of Avenida El Sol, across from the large painted waterfall fountain, is the largest indoor market of handicrafts stalls in Cusco, and many goods are slightly cheaper here than they are closer to the plaza.
More specialized shops congregate in the Centro Histórico. Equal parts contemporary art gallery and shop dedicated to nicely selected, handmade artesanía (such as tablas de Sarhua) and jewelry, Apacheta ★, San Juan de Dios 250 (interior) (www.apachetaperu.com; (tel. 084/238-210), makes for good one-stop shopping. Indigo Arte y Artesanía ★, Plazoleta de Limacpampa Chico 473 (tel. 084/240-145), off Avenida El Sol across from the Sonesta, is similar, though more traditional and loaded with good gift ideas from across Peru. La Casa de la Llama ★, Palacio 121 (tel. 084/240-813), features very nice quality and distinctive alpaca designs and leather goods, including embroidered reversible belts, baby alpaca stoles, and adorable and very colorful kids’ sweaters.
San Blas is swimming with art galleries, artisan workshops, and ceramics shops. You’ll stumble upon many small shops dealing in reproduction Escuela Cusqueña religious paintings and many workshops where you can watch artisans in action. Several of the best ceramics outlets are also here, and a small handicrafts market usually takes over the plaza on Saturday afternoon. Several artists in the San Blas area open their studios as commercial ventures, although the opportunity to watch a painter work can be fairly expensive. Look for flyers in cafes and restaurants in San Blas advertising such workshops.Arte Aller ★, Cuesta de San Blas 580 (tel. 084/241-171), is a small and crowded shop crammed with great folk and religious art, including those uniquely Peruvian handmade Christmas ornaments. Marked by a sign that says ETHNIC PERUVIAN ART, Aqlla ★, Cuesta de San Blas 565 (tel. 084/249-018), has great silver jewelry, folk and religious art, and fine alpaca items. For a general selection of artesanía, check out Artesanías Mendivil ★★, known internationally for its singular saint figures with elongated necks, but also featuring a nice selection of mirrors, carved wood frames, Cusco School reproductions, and other ceramics. It has locations at Plazoleta San Blas 619 (tel. 084/233-247), Hatunrumíyoc 486 (tel. 084/233-234), and Plazoleta San Blas 634 (tel. 084/240-527). Artesanías Olave ★★, the outlets of a high-quality crafts shop that does big business with tourists, are located at Triunfo 342 (tel. 084/252-935), Plazoleta San Blas 100 (tel. 084/246-300), and Plazoleta San Blas 651 (tel. 084/231-835). Tater Vera Ceramica, at Calle Soytuqhatu 705 (tel. 084/506-228), is a master ceramicist with stunning glazed wares that fuse colonial, Incan, and pre-Incan designs with modern techniques.
The most unique designer in Cusco, or pretty much anywhere in Peru, for that matter, is a woman from Northern Ireland, Eibhlin Cassidy, who sells her original clothing designs for women at her shop, Hilo ★★★, Carmen Alto 260, San Blas (www.hilocusco.com; tel. 084/254-536). Eibhlin has a keen eye for patterns and sometimes startling combinations of fabrics and color and adornments, like buttons; her whimsical but beautiful tops and jackets may not be for everyone, but to me it’s wearable art. L’Atelier by Grid, at Carmen Alto 227A in San Blas (www.latelierbygrid.com; tel. 084/248-333), sells unique items from Peruvian designers like Millo or Cocoliso, including modern jewelery and handbags, alongside vintage clothing. Tawa Concept, at Limacpampa Chico 400 (www.tawaconcept.com; tel. 084/437-654), is a contemporary shop and art gallery with a pop and graphic design sensibility, selling artwork, photo prints, and T-shirts designed by young Peruvian artists. There’s also Las Polleras de Agus (tel. 084/233-884), at José Gabriel Cosio 312 Urb. Magisterio, toward the airport, which mixes typical Andean skirts with contemporary fashion.
Cusco finally has a flashy mall like the ones in Lima, Centro Comercial Real Plaza, at Av. Collasuyo 2964 (www.realplaza.pe), with all sorts of designer brands and shops, many of them Peruvian, like menswear designer M.bö and chocolate shop La Iberica. There’s also a movie theater, food court, restaurants, and modern supermarket.
Foodstuffs & Mercado Central
Cusco’s famous, frenzied Mercado Central (Central Market, also referred to as Mercado San Pedro) ★★ near the San Pedro rail station is shopping of a much different kind—almost more of a top visitors’ attraction than a shopping destination. Its array of products for sale—mostly produce, food, and household items—is dazzling; even if you don’t come to shop, this rich tapestry of modern and yet highly traditional Cusco still shouldn’t be missed. If you’re an adventurous type who doesn’t mind eating at street stalls (which are generally pretty clean), you can get a ridiculously cheap lunch for about $1. Don’t take valuables (or even your camera), though, and be on guard because the market is frequented by pickpockets targeting tourists. The market is open daily from 8am to 4pm or so.
A great selection of chocolate in many forms, including dark chocolate bars with high cacao percentages, chocolates flavored with Peruvian fruits and spices, chocolate liquors, cacao tea, and countless other chocolate snacks and gifts can be found at the ChocoMuseo, at Calle Garcilaso 210 on Plaza Regocijo (www.chocomuseo.com; tel. 084/244-765), which has branches in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. There is a small museum in the back of the shop and they also give truffle-making and bean-to-bar chocolate-making workshops. Museo de la Coca Shop, Cuesta San Blas 618, San Blas (tel. 084/501-020), features all things derived from coca leaves (save the obvious), including coca- and lúcuma-infused chocolates and teas.
Jewelry & Silver
Ilaria ★★★, one of the finest jewelry stores in Peru (www.ilariainternational.com), deals in fine silver and unique Andean-style pieces, and has several branches in Cusco: at Hotel Monasterio, Palacios 136 (tel. 084/221-192); at the Casa Andina Private Collection, Plazoleta de Limacpampa Chico 473; at Hotel Libertador, Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259 (tel. 084/223-192); and at the principal location at Portal Carrizos 258 on the Plaza de Armas (tel. 084/246-253), as well as at the airport. Many items, although not inexpensive, are an excellent value for handmade silver. Luxury Brazilian brand H. Stern (www.hstern.net) also has stores inside the JW Marriott Hotel (Calle Ruinas 432) and Hotel Monasterio (tel. 084/252-030; Calle Palacio 136).
Another nice shop with silver items is Joyeria Cachi, at Triunfo 392 (www.joyeriacachi.com; tel. 084/701-022), with elegant, intricate earrings, necklaces, brooches, and art. Rocío Pérez shows her original designs (packaged in handmade bags) at her little shop, Jewelry Esma, at Triunfo 393.
As the gateway to outdoor highlands and Sacred Valley activities, including mountain climbing, trekking, and cycling, Cusco is well-stocked with outdoor gear shops for those who aren’t adequately equipped for their adventures. In the last few years, the selection of international, high-end name brands has increased while prices have come down to pretty standard international levels. Tatoo Adventure Gear ★★, Portal Espinar 144 (https://tatoo.ws/pe; tel. 084/236-703), has probably the best selection of camping, trekking, and mountain climbing shoes, backpacks, and equipment. International outdoor brand The North Face has set up in Cusco on the Plaza de Armas, at Portal Comercio 195 (www.thenorthface.com.pe; tel. 084/227-789), as well as at Plazoleta Espinar 188, with a good selection of high-quality jackets, pants, and apparel for hiking and climbing. Prices tend to be considerably higher than what you will find in North America.
Lots of shops have hand-carved woodwork and frames. However, the best spots for handmade baroque frames (perfect for your Cusco School reproduction or religious shrine) are La Casa del Altar, Mesa Redonda Lote A, near the Plaza de Armas (tel. 084/244-712), which makes retablos (altarpieces) and altars in addition to frames.
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.