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Best Neighborhoods to Live in Cusco, Peru (and the Ones to Avoid)

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Many people have been emailing me to ask about the best neighborhoods in Cusco, Peru. Below are my personal favorites. I have rented places in the top three. (Okay, so maybe I rented the apartment in San Blas for only one night–but that’s a story for another time.)

Best Places to Live in Cusco, Peru

1. San Blas

Yes, this will be at the top of everyone’s list, and yes, it’s where most of the foreigners live–but for good reason! It’s known as the artsy, bohemian barrio in Cusco, featuring a little plaza with a huge fountain where artists sell their handcrafts daily, and an outdoor artisan market on Saturdays.

Plazoleta de San Blas

Cobblestone in San Blas Cusco

Butterfly artwork in San Blas
Typical things you find in San Blas…

Pros

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    • Walking distance (about 10 minutes) to the Plaza de Armas
    • Cool nightlife (bars, live music, dancing)
    • Beautiful cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings
    • Lots of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and yoga studios

    Cons

    • Cobblestone streets can be very narrow, with no sidewalks, making it difficult to walk on when cars are coming
    • Some of the highest rental prices because of desirability

    Note: This probably goes without saying for most people, but just in case… DO NOT DO NOT live in any of the apartments above the bars in San Blas. No matter how cute the apartment is or how great the location, it is not worth it if you cannot work, think, or sleep until 3 am when the bar shuts down and the music shuts off. Again, full story to come later…

    2. Lucrepata (also Zaguan del Cielo and Jardines del Inkas)

    Park in Lucrepata, Cusco
    Lovely, green park I walked out to every morning in Lucrepata. Once you realize how very few trees and greenery there are in Cusco, you will realize why this was such a treat!

    Situated right next to San Blas, a little farther from the Plaza de Armas, Lucrepata is an up-and-coming neighborhood that has a very residential feel, yet is still within walking distance to the main attractions.

    Pros

    • Directly beside San Blas, and walking distance to the Plaza de Armas (about 15 minutes)
    • Very residential with lots of expat families
    • Quieter than most other neighborhoods

    Cons

    • Since it’s so close to San Blas, you’ll have to walk the same narrow, harrowing streets to get to downtown
    • Not exactly the center of nightlife (not any major businesses or bars here), but well within walking distance to many

    Jardines del Inka is the neighborhood on the hill just above Lucrepata, and Zaguan del Cielo is just below Lucrepata, so they share very similar attributes if for some reason you are unable to snag a place in Lucrepata itself.

    3. San Cristóbal

    High up in the hills of Cusco beside a church of the same name, San Cristóbal’s view of the rest of the city below is breathtaking–and not just because of that massive hill you have to climb to get there.

    Headed to Machu Picchu? Check out these tours!

    San Cristobal from the Plaza de Armas
    Standing in the Plaza de Armas (downtown), look up. Do you see that church at the top of the hill in this photo? THAT is San Cristobal. Happy hiking!

    view from San Cristobal Cusco

     

    Pros

    • Walking distance to the Plaza de Armas (about 10 minutes if you’re going downhill)
    • If you’re looking for a more “authentic” experience, this neighborhood’s a bit more out of the way, so not as many foreigners live here
    • Awesome views of the city

    Cons

    • HUGE hill to climb to get here (it’s at the top of the city, almost to the ancient Inca site Saksaywaman)
    • Most taxis will charge you extra because they will have to climb the steep hill in their tiny cars (even so, the fare is never more than 10 soles, which equates to about US$3.50)

    4. Plaza de Armas

    The center of the city, the Plaza de Armas has a mashup of baroque churches, tourist buses, bars and clubs, original Inca constructions, and even a Starbucks. Almost every festival or parade in the city will either originate or end up here.

    plaza de armas

    Church in Plaza de Armas at night

    Pros

    • The center of everything
    • If you want a taste of the thriving nightlife, this is the place to be
    • You’ll have a front-row seat to the countless fiestas Cusco celebrates

    Cons

    • The highest rental prices will be found here
    • Noisy and crowded pretty much all the time

    Neighborhoods to Avoid:

    San Pedro

    Well-known as a dangerous area of town, mostly because of thieves.

    Avenida el Sol

    Extremely busy main street in Cusco (lots of car traffic), so it will be noisy.

    Traffic on Avenida el Sol
    Just a typical congested day on Avenida el Sol

    Cusco is a huge city, and these are definitely not all of the neighborhoods it has to offer, but for travelers, I think these are ideal based on their location and the countless activities and restaurants. Now that you know the best neighborhoods to live in, stay tuned for my next post on how to find an apartment in Cusco (a craft I perfected during the course of my nearly 3-month search for the ever-elusive “perfect apartment”).

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