Main Square, Cusco
After 4 days of basing ourselves in Huayllabamba, we returned to Cusco, UNESCO World Heritage Site, where our first introduction to this city's historical center was seeing the Plaza de Armas as we were walking through it on our way to lunch at a local restaurant. We found it very inviting with its lovely flowering gardens, criss-crossed walkways, benches and elaborate lighting fixtures, an interesting centrally located fountain, not to mention it being surrounded by an abundance of culturally significant architecture.
Surrounding the Plaza and within short walks of each, the Spanish left a legacy of architecture in the form of the Cusco Cathedral, the Iglesia La Campanía de Jesús, Iglesia del Triunfo, and the colonnaded walkways fronting other buildings, just to name a few. There are any number of shops, restaurants and cafes, and an "iPeru" tourist information office, all of which face directly on the Plaza. Several of the buildings facing the Plaza including churches and other buildings, were constructed with stone plundered from Inca buildings, and then built on the very top of Inca building foundations. The Spanish were clearly trying to flaunt their superiority, but it leaves one to wonder what Cusco and the Plaza de Armas would have looked like if the Spanish had not destroyed the original Incan engineering feats. Still, don't miss the remaining remnants of nearby Incan architecture and stone work -- Hatun Rumiyoc, the 12-sided stone for one -- with the informative Museo Inka, Iglesia Santo Domingo, and Qorikancha all nearby.
Today, the historic Plaza brims with life as it plays host to locals and tourists alike, but it seems somewhat of an ironic twist that the Plaza has an infamously, bloody history. The Incas named this plaza "Huacaypata" which some translate as "Place of Tears," "Weeping Square," or "Square of the Warrior," although I've seen other various translations offered as well. The Plaza was used as an important ceremonial ground by the Inca, but it was also the scene of rebellions, marauding Spanish conquistadors, battles and bloody executions, most notably that of the last Inca leader, Túpac Amaru II.
It is interesting to note that the Plaza was originally much larger and was a marsh area. It was divided into "Huacaypata," the place of tears and "Cusipata," the place of happiness, and these two sections were divided by the Saphi River, which today is channeled beneath the Plaza.
Whether you call this square Plaza de Armas or Huacaypata, the Andean culture is still perpetuated by the use of the "Quechua" language of their predecessors, which some consider the lingua franca in this area!
On Day 6 of our itinerary following our walk through the Plaza de Armas, a nearby restaurant where we would have lunch was the next stop on the itinerary, Sara the Organic Cafe and Bistro.
Plaza de Armas has always been the centre of Cusco, but was originally much bigger than today and was surrounded by beautiful Inca palaces and temples. At that time, Plaza de Armas was the scene of offerings, ‘Inti Raymi’ (the Sun Festival), and other important ceremonies. Many historic events took place here during the Spanish Empire; Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco, and later several famous people (for example Tupac Amaru I + II) were executed on Plaza de Armas.
The old Inca buildings are now long gone, but the present colonial buildings are absolute worth a visit. Two of the most impressive examples are the Cathedral and La Compania. Plaza de Armas is also a nice place for a rest; have a sit on one of the benches around the fountain, enjoy the flower beds, and watch the daily life on the square. It’s very lively with lots of tourists, street vendors, shoe shiners, and women offering massage…
The Plaza de Armas, originally ‘Huacaypata’ or Square of the Warrior was the heart of the Inca Empire. It is located in the centre of the capital of the empire - Cusco. Cusco was designed in the shape of the Inca Puma and the square was its heart. It was renamed in 1532 after the Incas were defeated by Francisco Pizzaro.
Originally twice its current size the square was enclosed by the construction of the Cathedral and the church of the Company of Jesus (finished in 1571).
The Plaza offers shady trees and benches and walls to sit on. It is within easy walking distance of most accommodation. It is the venue for most cultural events.
The Main Square of Cusco (also known before as Plaza Armas) was also known during Inca times as Huacaypata, meaning The Warrior’s Square.
On this very square, Pizarro declared Cusco under Spanish rule.
Likewise, Tupac Amaru I who defied the Spaniards was killed here. It’s like you can feel the ground talking to you and telling you what happened here – a long time ago.
Nowadays, this is where the Inti Raymi or the Festival of the Sun is held every June if I am not mistaken. The cathedral and the La Compania Church are excellent backdrops to this nice meeting point.
The Plaza the Armas is the main square of Cusco, as well as one of the most touristy spots. This was already a main square during the Inca empire, and has been the spot of many important events, such as the conquering of the city by Francisco Pizarro, or the death of one of the main leaders of the resistance, Túpac Amaru II.
Nowadays the plaza is surrounded by plenty of cafes, restaurants, shops and tourist information points. Still the most important things to see in the plaza, apart from the great atmosphere are the Cathedral, and the Compañía church.
I had arrived in Cusco at night and because of my earlier robbery in Arequipa, my dear concerned travel agent (for my upcoming Inca's Trail) sent someone to pick me up from the train station and I was whizzed to their office safely.
When I looked up as I got off the taxi, I went like 'WOW!!!' and nearly collapsed from weak knees.
The office was located right at the Plaza de Armas, facing the Cathedral. Cusco Cusco Cusco is already magic... and Cusco's Plaza de Armas and Cathedral at night were just BEYOND MAGIC!! The whole place is lighted up like permanent Christmas decoration. Impressive!!!
The Plaza de Armas used to tbe the heart of the city during the Inca days. It was then known as Huacaypata - the place of tears.
The 17-century baroque Cathedral was built on the site of the Palace of Inca Wiracocha. It has a very impressive solid silver high altar and interesting Andean wood carvings and local version of the Last Supper (complete with cuy and chica). Also, the crucifix of El Senor de los Temblores is revered as a guardian against earthquakes.
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire and the area where the Plaza de Armas is located was an important ceremonial place. It was called "Huacaypata" which means the place of weeping or meeting in Quechua. This is where the festival of the sun was held every year. The festivalof the sun is also called the Inti Raymi. The sun is a very important god to the Incas and on June 24th is the festival to worshop the sun.
Adriana used the Plaza de Armas as a focal point by which to get around by. If we needed to go somewhere we looked to see how far from the Plaza de Armas it was and make our way from there. On a map everything looked alittle further or spread out than it actually was.
You will find people here all day and night. There are restaurants, disco, and other places to hang out here. One night Adriana and I sat on the steps of the Cathedral and people watched and talked for hours. The weather was alittle cold but it was a clear night and there were alot of people around. There are also alot of security and police around this area as well.
The main plaza in the middle of Cuzco is unique and beautiful with gigantic Churches (sadly supported on top of ancient Incan ruins), shopping areas, restaurants, local flair is everywhere. The city center is nice, a far cry from the surrounding areas of the city where many people live in the most extreme poverty imaginable. Of course if you go a little further to the country side it becomes a beautiful and safe area again.
It is where you will congregate first when you come to Cuzco. This is where you will come for your meals, to book your tours, to board your tour buses, visit the many different cathedrals or museums, check out your e-mails from an internet cafe. It is the main place for tourists and for locals. Locals know tourists come here, so they take the opportunity to sell what they have. Tourists know locals come here, so they have their camera ready for action.
The area around the main square is quite unique filled with Churches, Shops and History. I walked without stopping or sitting for about six hours and then only stopped for about 30 minuets before walking another four hours. I only had one day in Cuzco and thoufht I should make the most of it.
The Plaza de Armas is called Huacaypata by the Quechuas, which means cry or moan. This name originated in the expressions of reverence and submission with which the religious or military ceremonies were carried out here. The plaza, lined by arcades and carved wooden balconies, and framed by the Andes, is the focal point of Cusco. In fact, after Machu Picchu, it is one of the most familiar sights in Peru! You will cross it, relax on the benches in its center, and pass under the porticoes that line the square with shops, restaurants, travel agencies, and bars innumerable times during your stay in Cusco. The plaza -- which was twice its present size in Inca days -- has two of Cusco's most famous cathedrals, as well as the remains of original Inca walls, thought to be the foundation of the Inca Pachacútec's palace. Colonial arcades and the remains of ancient Inca temples and churches surround the plaza.
The square is a great place to get your bearings. All around the edges are restaurants. and gift shops. The mountains surrounding add the special drama. We had lots of fun choosing a different restaurant everynight....for as little as $15.00 two people can have a wonderful meal and a hot cup of coca tea!!
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SQUARE IN THE WORLD, is...is only my opinion!!
In the catedral, get the 3 places pass (Catedral, Arzobispado and iglesia de san Blas).
In the tourits office get the pass for 15 places and museums.
All visitors to Cusco will find themselves admiring the beautiful Plaza de Arma, so you should too. Linger here for a while and enjoy the fantastic cityscape on all sides. Be careful, though -- thinger too long and you'll be surrounded by children wanting to sell you trinkets.
While you're here, take note that the main square for the Inca capital city was also in this spot, but it was three times as large. The Spanish cut down its size before lining it with beautiful churches and wonderful arcades with balconies. When you look around, you understand why Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage site and this is one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
I recommend the Plaza des Armes in Cusco if for no other reason than this is the part that the locals want you to see (and spend your money in). As Cusco was the first Peruvian (or South American for that matter) city that I'd been to, I enjoyed the square. Tourists are bombarded with street 'merchants', children trying to sell knick knacks as well as restaurant workers trying to convince them to dine in their establishments so you can't really enjoy the stroll for an extended period of time - but it is here that you will find all sorts of shops and restaurants.