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.)
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.
- 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
- 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)
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- The highest rental prices will be found here
- Noisy and crowded pretty much all the time
Neighborhoods to Avoid:
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.
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”).