The Plaza de Armas is an unparalleled destination within the beautiful Imperial City and is an unmissable point of the city since it is where numerous tourist circuits take part. It is surrounded by colonial buildings that denote the passage of the Spanish and many other buildings of great importance. Even so, this square has an origin that dates back long before the conquest, and its part within the Inca Empire was of great importance. The Plaza de Armas was the point chosen by the Incas to begin the creation of the capital of the Inca Empire. History, culture, beauty, and tradition complement each other in this place to create one of the best-known squares within Peru. For this reason, together with Machu Travel Peru, we want to explain everything about the Cusco main square and a bit of its history.
Everything you need to know about the Cusco Main Square
- About Cusco Main Square
- Brief History
- The Plaza in Contemporary Times
- The true name of the Plaza
- Food and Drink
- Ambulant Sellers
ABOUT CUSCO MAIN SQUARE
Today’s Cusco presents us with a symphony full of history, culture, and numerous natural landscapes to admire. And this melting pot of factors can be seen best represented within the Cusco Main Square. Besides, the Cusco Main Square is set in the middle of a landscape where the community can see a part of the Peruvian Andes. And the great past rich in cultural and historical nuances can be narrated through its wonderful Inca history. Where Spanish architecture and native culture come together in a unique syncretism.
In addition, Cusco Main Square is a point where travelers, locals, and ex-pats gravitate. This wonderful place combines the best of nature and daily urban life. Its characteristic cobbled streets cut through both the historic buildings and the hills to join in the Cusco Main Square. With the passing of the hours and the light, the surrounding mountains take on different tones that together with the bustle of the city form an enchanting landscape. The Plaza has many well-kept flowers and herbs that surround the central fountain. All the while tourists and locals carry out their daily activities. So, What is the most important square in Cusco? There is no doubt that the Plaza de Armas is the best square in the city. After having known the many museums in Cusco, it is a good idea to visit all that this Plaza has to offer.
The traditional myth says that Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo arrived at what would be today the Cusco main square. Both arrived after having traveled many kilometers looking for an ideal place to create the Incanato. They were sent by the God Inti, father of Manco Cápac, who ordered them to carry goldenrod and, on the land where it sank, it was the right place to found the new city.
Previously where the Cusco Main Square was located, you could see a dry swampy region. The region was dried during the time of the Inca Empire. It was the sand brought from the coasts that turned the land into a suitable area for construction. The drying of the land was initiated by the Inca Sinchi Roca and concluded by the Inca Pachacutec.
To speak of Cusco and its plaza is to speak of a destination full of history that extends from the Inca period to modern times. It was the Inca Sinchi Roca who ordered its drying and ended during the reign of Pachacutec. During the Inca era, the Plaza de Armas occupied a much larger space than we know now.
It is in the plaza where the most important Inca palaces such as Pachacutec and Viracocha were located. The plaza was the administrative, religious, and cultural nucleus of the capital of one of the largest empires in Latin America. But with the arrival of the colonial Spaniards, the Plaza de Armas was surrounded by mansions, temples, and imposing structures.
THE PLAZA IN CONTEMPORARY TIMES
Today the Cusco main square is one of the main attractions of the Imperial City. Here, you will find numerous religious temples with colonial facades such as The Cusco Cathedral, The Church of the Society of Jesus, and the Chapel of Triumph. These are some of the historic buildings with truly important architectural constructions.
The Plaza de Armas is located in the historic center of Cusco. Therefore, in addition to beautiful natural landscapes, you will be able to visit numerous historical buildings, tourist shops, and colonial temples. And due to the great importance of the area, it is one of the most expensive in the city. The Plaza de Armas is a tourist destination par excellence like many others in Peru. Inside you will find a wide variety of nightclubs, bars, museums, restaurants, and handicraft shops. And this not to mention the many fast food places and the numerous Picanterías to visit.
Also, if you are lucky you can witness numerous traditional events where you can have fun and learn about the different dances and typical music. These festivals in Cusco are usually part of the free things to do in Cusco, and you can get to know the Cusco customs from the pre-Hispanic to the modern era. All this without mentioning that, around the square, there are many of the most popular restaurants, bars, and cafes where you can taste the flavor of the city.
THE TRUE NAME OF THE PLAZA
So, What is the main square of Cuzco called? The Cusco Main Square is also known as the Plaza de Armas del Cusco. But it is known from history that this Plaza already existed before. And despite the fact that its existence dates back to the Inca Empire, its true name is unknown. Although it is surely known that this name came from the Quechua language. And thanks to the different chroniclers, historians, and academics, we can affirm that the Cusco Main Square was called Aucaypata. The name Aucaypata can be translated to “place of the warrior”. But at the same time, other authors like Víctor Angles say that it was called Huacaypata. This name translates to “place of weeping.” Although we cannot leave aside the translation of George Squier, who affirmed that the place was called Huacapata, translated to “sacred place”.
It was Victor Angles, a true student of our ancient culture, who explained that the square was divided into two main sectors. Huacaypata and Cusipata. The last name, Cusipata, is one where a great majority of academics agree. Both terms have a symbolic meaning. Since Huacaypata would be the place of tears and Cusipata translates to “place of rejoicing”. And today, this place continues to be called Plaza Regocijo. According to Angles, this is largely due to the different meditation ceremonies performed by the Inca nobility. Where a great majority of rituals ended in tears. Touring the Plaza is one of the best things to do in Cusco.
CLIMATE AND ALTITUDE
Although you can visit the city throughout the year, within Cusco you will find two very marked weather seasons. Depending on your taste and what you want to do, you will decide the best time to visit Cusco. In general, from May to October you have the dry season and between November and April, it is the rainy season. If you are looking to do a Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco, it is recommended to do it during the dry season.
Another particular thing to take into account is that both the Cusco main square and the entire city are at an altitude of about 3,400 meters, which can cause discomfort and inconvenience during the trip. But even so, it is not very difficult to acclimatize to the altitude, it is simply taking precautions during the first days.
FOOD AND DRINK
One of the fascinating things about the different tours in Peru is being able to taste the delicious cuisine that is around Cusco. And just surrounding the Plaza de Armas are the most popular restaurants, bars, and cafes in the city. The restaurants offer traditional Peruvian food such as guinea pig, Lomo Saltado, Ají de Gallina, and other internationally well-known dishes such as pizza, pasta, and grilled meats. Some places worth visiting are Gaston Acurio’s Papachos and Limo’s exclusive restaurant.
Another of the wonderful things to enjoy along the Cusco tourist map and the Plaza de Armas is the different street vendors around. This will be something that you will notice as soon as you step on the Plaza. You will see how the different sellers will be fighting and competing for your attention. Some will offer you services, invitations to restaurants, or even discounts at certain locations. While others will be selling their quality products. Street vendors sell all kinds of things and services. Sightseeing tours of the city, Anticucho, Emoliente, souvenirs, and much more to buy from the locals.
Another particular feature of the city is that it has a very active nightlife to enjoy. Varied entertainment such as discos, bars, pubs, which are very close to the Cusco Main Square. You will find numerous activities to do during the night in Cusco, but within our Cusco travel tips, we recommend being careful with your belongings and being alone at night because you can be a victim of minor crimes such as theft.
“WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME?”
We hope together with Machu Travel Peru to have informed you about one of the best-known Squares in Peru. This place full of history witnessed many historical events of yesteryear and that is why it deserves a visit from you if you visit the magical city of Cusco. If you wish, our certified guides can help you understand the history and culture behind this place. So it is better to start planning your trip now together with our qualified advisors. They will be happy to help you fulfill the trip of your dreams.