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Cusco Traditional Markets, History, Location and Tips

Many decorational cords with Cusquenian motifs.

A notable aspect of Peruvian culture lies in its vibrant markets, and Cusco is no exception. If you haven’t experienced any of Cusco’s markets (or any across South America), you’re in for a sensory overload.

Take, for instance, the renowned San Pedro market in Cusco. Here, you’ll encounter endless rows of stalls and quaint shops brimming with a plethora of goods, ranging from fresh produce to traditional remedies. Amidst the bustling chaos of sights and scents, vendors eagerly vie for your attention, touting their wares. Additionally, many markets spill over into expansive outdoor areas where you can indulge in a meal, snag souvenirs, or simply soak in the lively atmosphere.

These markets serve as the backbone of everyday life for locals, offering affordable provisions and a prime spot for souvenir hunting in Cusco.

Cusco’s markets are a must-see for visitors to Peru, offering a glimpse into daily life that’s truly unique. Even if you’re not in the market for anything specific, they provide unparalleled opportunities for people-watching, Peru Amazon Trips will show you how to reach all of the Traditional markets that are located in Cusco’s vicinity taking the Main square as a reference for your starting point.

In Cusco, you’ll find several notable markets, each offering its own distinct charm:

An statue that ressembles a typical "tumi" or sacred knife.

San Pedro Market

This sprawling market has become a tourist hotspot (mostly because of local agencies recommendations), renowned for its wide array of alpaca clothing and souvenirs alongside stalls selling fruits, vegetables, juices, cheese, and meat.

Make sure to explore the rear section of this expansive hall, where you’ll find some of the most affordable lunch options in the city. However, a crucial tip is to opt for the busiest kitchen to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

Location of the San Pedro market: situated near Plaza San Francisco, accessible by passing through the arch adjacent to Iglesia Santa Clara.

Wanchaq market

The Wanchaq market, familiar to locals in Cusco, is another noteworthy option.

Similar to other larger markets in the city, it offers a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meat, as well as clothing, kitchenware, and likely any other essentials you might require.

Location of the Wanchaq market: situated near Avenida Tullumayo (Parallel Street to Avenida del Sol).

Artisan’s market

For distinctive keepsakes, visit the Artisan’s Market in Cusco, where you’ll find a variety of items including alpaca sweaters, jewelry, pottery, and other crafts.

Experience the thrill of bargaining with fewer crowds of tourists.

Location of the Artisan’s market: Avenida El Sol, in front of the fountain known as the “Paccha” (which is actually the translation of fountain in Quechua)

San Blas Market

This is a much smaller market situated in San Blas’s pretty neighbourhood, northeast of the Plaza de Armas. It’s a far less touristy location and only sells staples such as fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat. However, it still makes for an interesting introduction to Cusco’s markets if you’re in the area.

The San Blas square around the corner also hosts an artisan’s market at weekends with great Peruvian souvenirs to check out.

Location of San Blas Market: San Blas Market is located in the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco, Peru. At the end of Lucrepata’s main street.

Vinocanchón’s Market

Situated at the southern edge of the city, just before reaching the city limits, this market stands as one of the largest and most comprehensive in town. Serving as a vital resource for individual households, restaurants, and small businesses in this part of Cusco, it offers a diverse range of products beyond fresh produce.

It’s a traditional market where encountering another foreign visitor is unlikely.

Location of Vinocanchón’s Market: This market is located almost at the end of the city, you can reach it by going to the disctrict’s stadium in San Jerónimo’s neighbourhood.

Tips before you head to any of these markets on your own

#1 Refrain from making immediate purchases.

Cusco’s markets overwhelm with choices. Often, identical items line neighboring stalls.

Whether it’s alpaca sweaters or cooking utensils, explore the entirety of the market before committing.

Expect initial high prices; bargaining is customary. Indicate disinterest, then negotiate for the best deal.

#2: Be vigilant with your belongings

Always look after your own goods, specially at crowded spots like San Pedro market, prone to pickpocketing due to tourism.

Stay cautious amid distractions while safeguarding valuables like cameras and phones. Consider wearing them on the front and utilizing internal pockets for money.

Keep a copy of your passport; store the original securely.

Various types of tubers displayed in a traditional market store.

#3: Dedicate some time to exploring the local markets in Cusco to uncover a wide array of goods.

You’ll find that these markets offer a diverse selection of items, with San Pedro market standing out as the largest and most central, boasting a variety of clothing, souvenirs, kitchen supplies, and groceries.

Meanwhile, San Blas market, though smaller, exudes charm and provides a range of fruits, vegetables, and other grocery items. Wanchaq, while similar to San Pedro in terms of offerings, provides a less touristy atmosphere, making it ideal for mingling with locals.

Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the discoveries you’ll make in and around these markets. Whether you’re in search of shoelaces, USB drives, birthday candles, Tupperware, or nail polish, you’ll likely find it here.

#4: Consider hygiene when buying in the market

Keep in mind that the market is where locals typically shop for groceries. For many travelers, exploring local markets can be an eye-opening experience, as they offer a variety of goods, including raw meat.

Unlike supermarkets where meat is often neatly packaged, in Cusco’s markets, it’s common to find meat being sold freshly cut. While this method may not be the most hygienic, it’s practical. While seeing raw meat may be off-putting, exercise caution when purchasing or consuming it.

This caution extends to eating at the markets, where hygiene standards aren’t always guaranteed. Seek advice from your accommodation or tour guide on which stalls to trust, or opt for busy food stands with high turnover to ensure freshness and minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

You can find raw meat displayed in many market counters.

#5: Bring a bag with you.

It’s a common practice for locals to carry their own (reused) plastic bags. When you make purchases in Peru, you’ll likely receive a bag to start with (although it’s advisable to travel with a compact bag regardless).

By bringing your own bag to the market, you can reduce the amount of plastic you use during your time in Peru.

#6: Understanding Baby Alpaca Wool

Many tourists visiting Peru are eager to purchase soft alpaca sweaters featuring charming Andean designs. However, when a vendor mentions “baby alpaca” wool, it’s important to clarify the term. Contrary to what some may imagine, it doesn’t refer to wool taken from recently sheared baby alpacas shivering in the Andean cold.

An alpaca's breeding carried by her owner.

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