Usually, the adjacent ruins and the Cusco main square are the main attractions that get all the attention in the magical Imperial City. They will even be some of the first things to visit when you take your first steps through Cusco. However, after having explored the most notable destinations in Cusco, it is advisable to stop by some of its distinguished museums. If you are looking to better understand the culture that surrounds you, it is a good idea to know the history and ancestral customs of the majestic Incas. Therefore, together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the best museums in Cusco. So that on your next visit to the Imperial City you can make the most of your stay.
The greatest 7 museums in Cusco
- Museum of Pre-Columbian Art
- Inka Museum
- Regional Historical Museum
- Casa Concha Museum
- Museum of Religious Art
- Coricancha Museum
- Inkariy Museum
- Santa Catalina Museum
- Contemporary Art Museum
MUSEUM OF PRE-COLUMBIAN ART
The museum of Pre-Columbian Art is one of the best museums in Cusco. It is located within an ancient Inca ceremonial construction dating back from 1450 AD. It is located within the artistic and youth district of San Blas. You can get to this incredible museum by arriving at Plaza Nazarenas. It was inaugurated in 2003 and is set around a picturesque patio. The museum is located in a Spanish colonial house, which was owned by General Alonso Díaz. It is open every day and it is a visit that is worth including in your itinerary.
This amazing museum is one of the only ones in Peru dedicated to ancient Peruvian art. Inside you will find numerous ancient works of art along with hundreds of other archaeological pieces from all regions of Peru. The museum offers one of the best experiences, taking the visitor on a journey back in time 3,000 years ago. This museum is one of the best things to do around Cusco.
The museum has a collection of more than 450 pieces that were taken from the deposits of the Larco Museum in Lima. This amazing site exhibits beautiful jewelry, pottery, weaving, and stone carvings from pre-Columbian cultures. Among these are the Nazca, Moche, Paracas, and Inca cultures.
We couldn’t continue our list of museums in Cusco without mentioning the Inka museum, located just half a block from the main square. This was one of the first museums in Cusco and perhaps the best to this day. The Inka Museum is located inside the Almirante’s Palace and is owned by the UNSAAC (National University of Cusco), who is also in charge of its administration. It is located in a large Spanish colonial mansion that was owned by Admiral Francisco Aldrete Maldonado. It was built, like other colonial houses, on Inca foundations. Thanks to its strategic location, it is usually a stop within our private tours in Peru.
The Inka museum has an important collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics, textiles, goldsmiths, jewelry, mummies and even skulls from the Inca period. Get ready to know the civilization responsible for building the incomparable Machu Picchu. The museum houses some of the best collections of gold, metal, textiles, pottery, mummies, and drinking vessels. This is without mentioning other numerous archaeological finds in the Cusco area.
Be sure to appreciate the ornate ceilings and see the local weavers in the building’s courtyard. This museum can be a bit more expensive than some of the other museums in Cusco. But we think the admission price is worth every penny due to the high quality of the museum. You can also hire a Cusco travel guide to accompany you to learn a little more about the history of the pieces.
REGIONAL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
The small but incredible Regional Historical Museum of Cusco is located inside the former home of one of the most famous colonial poets, Garcilaso de la Vega. Garcilaso de la Vega was a famous Inca-Spanish historian who wrote one of the most influential chronicles about the conquest of the Inca territory. Among the many museums in Cusco, this one is strongly oriented to give an alternative look at the history, architecture, and politics of the place. An incredible alternative to enjoy before undertaking any of the different Machu Picchu tours.
It has an incredible and eclectic collection of items from the history of Cusco. The items have a mix of different artifacts from the region. All are arranged chronologically. You will be able to find Nazca mummies, artifacts, numerous pieces of pottery, and gold ornaments. Besides, you will be able to enjoy exhibitions of different photos of Cusco after a great earthquake. You can even see Inca paintings and fabrics. Entrance to this museum is completely free if you have the Cusco Tourist Ticket. Within our Cusco travel tips, we recommend the purchase of the ticket since it will allow you to enter many attractions of the city.
CASA CONCHA MUSEUM
It could be considered one of the most recent museums in Cusco. Also known as the Machu Picchu museum, Casa Concha is one of the most complete museums in Cusco. It was the former residence of José de Santiago Concha. He was an important aristocrat who lived in the times of the conquest, and that’s where the museum’s name comes from. This incredible site stands out for its picturesque balconies. Today this museum is managed and belongs to the San Antonio Abad University of Cusco.
If you have Machu Picchu included in your next destinations, then a visit to this museum can deepen your knowledge about the citadel a little more. There are nearly 400 archaeological pieces on display within the museum, including Hiram Bingham’s finds that were won in the decades-long battle with Yale University. You will also find on display some metallic, lithic, ceramic and bone remains. These are exposed in display cabinets and pedestals.
Also on display are certain Inca artifacts discovered during the excavations of the Casa Concha, where the current museum is located. To get to the museum you can walk from Cusco Cathedral, another attraction of great importance. Either before or after your visit to the Inca citadel, a tour of this museum is a mandatory stop to understand the lifestyle of the ancient Incas.
MUSEUM OF RELIGIOUS ART
Among the different museums in Cusco, the Museum of Religious Art was built on what was once the palace of Inca Roca from the fourteenth century. Even part of its outer wall boasts the unique 12-angle stone. The museum has a perimeter wall made of stone, well known because it is where the “Stone of the 12 angles” is found. It also has a beautiful and extensive Renaissance patio with tiles on the walls and stone arches. In the middle of the courtyard is a stately pool. Inside, you will see an incredible collection of colonial religious paintings as well as another unique collection of paintings from Cusco. You can also admire its beautiful carved cedar ceilings, impressive stained glass windows, and Moorish-style doors. It is quite easy to locate within the Cusco tourist map. Just by finding the Stone of the 12 angles you can enjoy a visit to this museum.
Before being demolished during the Spanish conquest, the Coricancha was one of the most important temples for the Incas. Today, it has one of the most complete underground archaeological museums in Cusco city. It is located right next to the colonial church of Santo Domingo. It is a small museum but it is worth visiting. The Coricancha Site Museum sits just below what was once the temple’s beautiful Sacred Garden. Inside you can see mummies, sacred idols, and textiles among many other things.
It has numerous exhibits presenting the Inca and Pre Inca cultures. You can enter the museum from the “Avenida Sol” avenue. You will notice how this is an underground museum that has about five rooms where the history of our ancestors is explained. Where pieces found in excavations carried out in Qorikancha are exhibited. You will be able to see an exhibition presented chronologically of the civilizations that lived in Cusco. You will find ceramics, fragments, textiles, paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, and much more. You will also be able to observe replicas of objects found in excavations at the site.
After a complete tour of most of the museums in Cusco, you can enjoy an entertaining alternative experience at Chocomuseo. This is a very interesting suggestion to explore after having seen all that the different museums have to offer. You can detach yourself a bit from the historical side of the city and recall the many traditions of Cusco. The Chocomuseo does not necessarily have large archaeological collections on display, but it does offer an educational and entertaining experience like no other. The museum is dedicated to Cacao, its history, and the art related to the creation of chocolate.
It is located on Garcilaso street. And not only can you learn about the history of chocolate, but you can also participate in a wide variety of workshops and cooking classes. The on-site staff will offer you a tour for free, but you can also take part in the amazing workshops. Within the workshops and classes offered by the museum, you will have the possibility of creating your own Cusco chocolate bar.
Another of the museums in Cusco that you will not want to miss out on visiting. The Inkariy Museum is not actually located within the city of Cusco, but it is an hour’s drive from the Sacred Valley. In fact, it is such a good museum that we couldn’t miss it on our list. The museum concentrates on the anthropological aspect of Peru’s past. It has eight rooms where a great variety of Pre-Columbian and Inca cultures are exhibited. From the culture of Chavín, Caral, Moche, Paracas, Wari, Nazca, Chimú and Lambayeque among others. Each of the rooms is divided into two main sections. One section offers a traditional view of cultures while the other offers a wide variety of cultural re-enactments and performances. You can enjoy realistic figures, costumes that were used, sound effects, and much more.
SANTA CATALINA MUSEUM
This museum is located a few steps from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, in the Plaza Santa Catalina. The museum is located where Acllahuasi once was found. It was also known as the “House of the Chosen” or “Casa de las Elegidas”. This ancient Inca site recruited some of the most beautiful women in the entire Empire. They had to dedicate themselves to the cult of the Sun or to the service of the Inca nobility. Some even dedicated themselves to cooking, textile work and even becoming strong warriors for the Empire.
The Santa Catalina Monastery was founded in 1601, in the city of Arequipa. But due to a great series of natural disasters in Arequipa, he was transferred. This was moved in the early seventeenth century. The initiative of the foundation came from the widow Lucía Rivera de Padilla de Arequipa. The widow had extensive wealth and fortune, and in February 1605 the first 25 professed nuns arrived in Cusco.
This museum has truly exquisite colonial architecture. It corresponds to the last stages of the Renaissance and has the presence of Roman-style arches. In addition, you can enjoy paintings belonging to the Cuzco School from the 17th and 18th centuries. You will even find huge tapestries from the colonial era and other no less surprising colonial paintings.
CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
This is one of the museums in Cusco that you need to visit. It is located in the Plaza del Regocijo, the square adjacent to the Plaza de Armas. This museum was founded in 1995 with the donation of 100 artworks by local artists from a known collector. Today it has more than 280 artworks belonging to renowned local artists such as Antonio Olave and Hilario Mendivil. There is also a great variety of international artists. This museum has three rooms inside the Municipal Palace.
You will be able to enjoy the collection permanently as more than 50 temporary exhibitions are held throughout the year. Both collectively and individually. And whether they are from recognized national and foreign artists, so there is a wide variety of options. The art in the Imperial City does not only go back to our Inca and colonial ancestors. The art of Cusco is revived and remembered through its contemporary artists who strive to produce and reproduce a great variety of styles.
“A VISIT TO A MUSEUM IS A SEARCH FOR BEAUTY, TRUTH, AND MEANING IN OUR LIVES. GO TO MUSEUMS AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN. “
We hope together with Machu Travel Peru to have shown you a bit of the best museums in Cusco, although these are not all that you can find within the Imperial City. There are other museums available that are also worth visiting, we try to show you here those that you cannot miss. In the same way, if you want to visit some of these places, you can consult with our advisors to organize a quick guided tour of the place. Our team of qualified consultants will be delighted to organize the trip of your dreams. We can include in your itinerary the visit to some of these incredible museums in Cusco. Do not miss it and start organizing with us from now on!