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Where to Stay in Cusco (2024 COOLEST Areas!)

Written by Sam Corporations January 19, 2024

Where to Stay in Cusco (2024 COOLEST Areas!)

When you stay in Cusco, you stay on the roof of the world. At 3400 metres above sea level, the gateway to Machu Picchu will leave you breathless, but not only the altitude!

But when you’ve got 2 million visitors annually to a town of fewer than 500,000 residents, things can get a bit crowded. That’s why our travel pros have created this useful guide, categorised by interest and budget, to help you find the best place for you to stay.

Located in the Southern Sierras mountain range of Peru, Cusco is a city high in the Andes.

It’s best known as the stop off point for travellers before they embark on a multi day hike to Machu Picchu, though it has an illustrious history of its own.

This was the capital of the Inca empire from the 13th to the 16th century, when the Spanish conquered the region.
Today, it’s a buzzing historic town, with a lot set up for the tourists who flock here throughout the year.

You can sample wonderful tastes sensations like guinea pig, see people go about their lives in the traditional clothing of the area and play with alpaca, all while soaking in the long history of Cusco.

Cusco Neighbourhood Guide – Places to Stay in Cusco

Historic Centre

The Centro Historico of Cusco is exactly where it sounds; right in the middle! It encompasses much of the tourist area of Cusco and, as such, is a great place to stay for your first time here.

San Cristobal

San Cristobal is a small neighbourhood up the hill from the center of town. It’s adjacent to the Historic Centre and arguably overlaps in parts.

Plaza de Armas

Technically part of the Historic Center, Plaza de Armas deserves its own mention as an area to stay! The Plaza itself is a square in the middle of the tourist section of town, lined with churches, Inca ruins, bars and restaurants.

San Blas

A short quick walk up the hill from the plaza is the barrio of San Blas. Rapidly gaining attention as the coolest place to live, work and play in Cusco, this is also our top pick for you!

Lucrepata

Right next to San Blas and only a short walk from Plaza de Armas is Lucrepata. This is a relatively unknown area of town, at least to the tourists.

Cusco’s 5 Best Neighbourhoods to Stay in…

From budget to family-friendly, to night-life centred, the neighbourhoods of Cusco can be divided into different groups, but really the lines blurred since many areas are good for most options!

# 1 Historic Centre – Where to Stay in Cusco First Time

The Centro Historico of Cusco is exactly where it sounds – right in the middle!

It encompasses much of the tourist area of Cusco and, as such, is a great place to stay for your first time here.

It’s called ‘historic’ because it’s here that you can see the remnants of the Inca empire, with the Spanish influence laid over top.

Head to Calle Hatunrumiyoc to wander beside original Inca walls. You’ll find the Twelve-Sided Stone here too, so perfectly shaped to fit into the surrounding rocks that no mortar was needed to secure it or the surrounding walls over its centuries of existence.

Walk down Ave Sol to find Qorikancha, the Inca Sun Temple. Though it’s not lined entirely in gold, like it once was, you’ll still be dazzled!

At all of these sites, you can enhance your photo opp by asking a traditionally dressed local to stand in with you – for a small fee.

It is a great idea to buy the Cusco Visitors Ticket, the ticket features many attractions and museum in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, great if you are staying in the area for a couple of days.

Things to See and Do in Historic Centre:

  1. Feast your senses at San Pedro market, how about trying an entire roasted guinea pig? It’s a local speciality!
  2. Worship the sun at Qorikancha – if it’s shining that day!
  3. Walk down Calle Hatunrumiyoc and try to imagine what those stones have seen.
  4. See a cultural performance at Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo.
  5. Go back to the market to pick yourself up an Alpaca wool jumper!

# 2; San Cristobal area; Where to Stay

San Cristobal is a small neighbourhood up the hill from the centre of town. It’s adjacent to the Historic Centre with great views of all of Cusco.

We’ve chosen this as the best place to stay in Cusco on a budget for some of the usual reasons, and one not so usual!
It’s a bit out away from the main square, so naturally, accommodation prices drop as you head out. As San Cristobel is out of town you will however have to walk up stairs. This will require a certain amount of fitness. The other option is to take a taxi which will cost a few soles.

The vantage point from in front of San Christobal cathedral is a great place to try and spot the lines of the ancient city.

The best reason though is that it is super close to Sacsayhuaman, the most impressive of the Inca ruin sites. Not only that, but if you get up early, it’s free to enter before 7am, avoiding both the crowds that later morning will bring and the cost of the ticket!

Just behind Sacsayhuaman is the planetarium and, trust us, up here with such little light pollution, the skies are a real sight to see!

Things to See and Do in San Cristobal:

  1. Have fun pronouncing Sacsayhuaman as you wander this ancient site.
  2. Visit the stunning Christo Blanco for great views over the city.
  3. See clear, unpolluted night skies from the Planetarium.
  4. Get a guide to show you around the San Cristobal church.
  5. Explore the little known Qolqanpata Historical Park.

# 3 Plaza de Armas – Best Area to Stay in Cusco for Nightlife

Technically part of the Historic Centre, Plaza de Armas deserves its own mention as an area to stay!

The Plaza itself is a square in the middle of the tourist section of town, lined with churches, Inca ruins, bars and restaurants. You’ve got the entire kaleidoscope of Cusco, right there at your doorstep!

It’s a vibrant and bustling place where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take photos of and with locals, including traditionally clad women with baby llamas, there for that exact purpose. And the plaza’s where a lot of free walking tours meet so it’s worth going in the morning to sort out the day ahead.

The multitude of street vendors can get a bit overwhelming at times so just practise saying ‘no, gracias’ then ignoring them will be sufficent.

The space itself is beautiful, with the cathedral towering proudly above and the fountain bubbling away as your soundtrack. Getting to the Plaza is easy a short walk from most hotels in the center of the city.

The Plaza is the main place for night life in Cusco, with people from all over the world converging to celebrate their upcoming or recently completed odyssey to Machu Picchu.

La Chupiteria for the shots, Paddy’s for the pints, or Mama Africa for the atmosphere? The choice (along with many other options nearby) is up to you!

Things to See and Do in Plaza de Armas:

  • Head to Paddy’s Irish Pub where you’re guaranteed a great pint and great craic!
  • Visit the beautiful cathedral of Santo Domingo, built in the 16th century.
  • Choose a crudely named shot from the wall at La Chupeteria.
  • Get amongst the other backpackers at the legendary Mama Africa.
  • Be a patriot (whether you’re from the US or not) at the interestingly named Norton Rat’s Tavern!

# 4 San Blas – Coolest Place to Stay in Cusco

A short quick walk up the hill from the plaza is the barrio of San Blas. Rapidly gaining attention as the coolest place to live, work and play in Cusco, this is also our top pick for you!

It’s got a distinctly bohemian feel to the area, possibly due to being that slight bit out of the centre (though, again, it’s technically in the Centro Historico).

It’s here you’ll find boutique clothes stores right alongside the cheaper alternatives – so you can buy that nice, well-made alpaca wool garment for your ma, and a few less authentic (and cheaper) items for the siblings!

There’s a great little plaza in the middle of San Blas where artisans sell their wares on Saturdays and it has stalls going throughout the week.

If you keep your eyes open, you might find some vegan-friendly treats at Govinda’s food stall!

Coffee fans, this one’s for you! San Blas is home to a whole swag of places that can make a great cup of Peruvian coffee. For a real coffee tour, you can visit Carmen Alto, where you’ll find four or five grouped together. How about a one-of-a-kind caffeine crawl to determine the greatest!?

Things to See and Do in San Blas:

  1. Get something tasty to fuel your wanderings at Pantastico bakery.
  2. Take your time wondering at Iglesia de San Blas.
  3. Head to Carmen Alto to sample ALL the coffee
  4. Pick out some souvenirs for the fam at the Andean markets
  5. Stretch out sore muscles with some yoga at the Healing Center.

# 5 Lucrepata – Best Neighborhood in Cusco for Families

Right next to San Blas and only a short walk from Plaza de Armas is Lucrepata.

This is a relatively unknown area of town, at least to the tourists.

We’ve picked it as the best neighbourhood in Cusco for families as it is right next to the main centre, without being in it. And the transport links are great!

It’s a five-minute walk from Wanchaq Station, while the main bus station is right on the southern edge of the neighbourhood.

Lucrepata is also home to a bunch of tour agencies, ready to help you book a day trip for the family.

Rainbow Mountain – yep, a mountain coloured like a rainbow – is a good one, you’ll need a tour as it’s three hours’ drive away. Worth it for that view and those photos though!

Lucrepata is a residential area, home to a lot of expat families, so you and your young ones will feel safe and secure, whatever time you need to leave the house. You’re also a little way away from the rowdy bars and clubs that go until the wee hours in Plaza de Armas and San Blas, so you’ll have a better night’s sleep as well!

Things to See and Do in Lucrepata:

  • Book day-trips easily from any one of several tour operators on the nearby streets.
  • Treat yourself with a rub-down at Massage and Healing Center Paramatma Yoga
  • Get out to Rainbow Mountain and marvel at how it can possibly be!
  • Wander over to San Blas for a day of market trawling.
  • Visit the Zoologico UNSAAC centre for rehabilitating wild animals.

Best Hotel in Lucrepata; El Mariscal Cusco

El Mariscal Cusco allows for easy access to Cusco’s popular tourist attractions. Those staying at the property can also take advantage of free wireless internet throughout their stay. Guests of this 3-star hotel can plan sightseeing trips with the assistance of the tour desk.

FAQ about Finding a Place to Stay in Cusco

Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Cusco and where to stay.

What are the best places to stay in Cusco?

There are hotels and hostals for all price ranges in Cusco. If you are on a budget than there are an abundance of backpackers or hostals. If money is no option than there are an array of 4 or 5 star hotels to choose from. There is no shortage of accommodation in Cusco City and the surrounding suburbs.

How many days should I spend in Cusco?

We recommend staying anywhere from 2-5 days in Cusco. If you’re using it as a jumping point to Machu Picchu, don’t skip it — the city’s well worth your time.

Where to stay in Cusco with a family?

There are some hotels in Cusco that have family rooms, these tend to book out fast, the other option is Airbnb, there are hundreds all over the city and are very family friendly.

Where to stay in Cusco for couples?

As above there are many beautiful hotels to stay in Cusco, depending on your budget you can stay in a 3, 4 or 5 star hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Cusco

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cusco

Though often used as a gateway, Cusco has a lot to offer in its own right. The heart of the Puma that was the heart of the Inca empire, to stand in these streets is to stand on centuries of history. Unlike in much of the world, this history is still alive and visible today.

So that’s it for our travel experts’ ideas on where to stay in Cusco. Remember – Cusco is in the mountains, so rug up warm with one of those alpaca jumpers! If you want to stay somewhere close to the mountains and be out of the hustle and bustle of the city, consider staying at an eco-lodge just outside of Cusco.

“Does travel bring wisdom? I think there is probably no better place to find out than Peru.”— Anthony Bourdain

While Peru can be very safe, it’s super important to make sure you get travel insurance!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

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