This post is part 2 of 4 in the series Cuzco, Peru City Travel Guide

Peru has become a top travel destination for food lovers, but Cuzo (spelled Cusco locally) was never known as a food town. In recent years that’s started to change and travelers can now expect to find good food in all price points if you know where to look. Use our city travel guide about the best restaurants in Cuzco to make sure you eat and drink well in this UNESCO World Heritage site city.

Restaurants in Cuzco, Peru

Causa Chicha restaurant by Gaston Acurio Cusco

The food was beautiful but bland at Chicha, from Peruvian celebrity chef Gaston Acurio.

Gaston Acurio, often called the father of modern Peruvian cuisine and the country’s first true celebrity chef, has two restaurants in Cuzco. Pachapapa is a casual place with a bar and good burgers (35 soles, or about US$10) on the second floor of a building on the main plaza. It’s a popular, solid option. Acurio’s other restaurant in Cuzco is called Chicha and it’s more upscale and pricier than Pachapapa. Sadly, every dish we at there (from chicharron to ravioli) was bland. It’s possible we were there on an “off” day. It’s also possible that this more ambitious place suffers from the fact that Acurio is rarely, if ever, there.

Pachapapa hamburger by Gaston Acurio Cusco

You can get a solid burger in Cuzco, Peru at Gaston Acurio’s Pachapapa.

It’s cold in Cuzco, so the rich, hot, tasty stews offered at Restaurant Inkazuela (from 34 soles or about US$10) are a welcome, warming change of pace in the city. You can also count on great service.

Museo del Pisco, a sister to the two in Lima and one in Arequipa, is a bar and a restaurant, though we admit that we’ve only gone there for drinks. The talented bartenders serve up classic pisco cocktails and more adventurous concoctions using Peru’s ubiquitous spirit (from 24 soles or about US$7). The music and ambiance are also great.

La Bodega 138 pizza

A lot of restaurants offer pizza in Cuzco. We think the best is found at La Bodega 138.

If you ask us, La Bodega 138 serves up the best pizza in Cuzco (35-45 soles or about US$10-US$13 for a large pie). We keep coming back and the pizza is so good we have yet to try their homemade pasta (which also looks great).  Tip: you can custom order your own pizza with five topping from an extensive list of options. They’ve also got Peruvian craft beers and a decent wine selection. It’s cash only.

When it’s time for a break from meat, head to Organika. There are fish and meat dishes on the menu, but it’s the veg options–made with organic produce from their farm in the Sacred Valley–that really stand out. Huge salads (18 soles or about US$5.50), full veg dishes (from 25 soles or about US$7.50) are good value and very satisfying. Service is good and wine and beer are also available as well as great lemonade. It’s a small place, so you may have to wait for a table.

The folks from Organika recently opened an Italian place nearby called Rucula and it has the same high standards and uses the same high-quality ingredients. Homemade pasta dishes are around 25 soles (about US$7.50). The ragu we had here was terrific.

Kion restaurant Cusco

The striking bar at Kion Peruvian Chinese restaurant in Cuzco.

Peru is famous for its Chifa restaurants–an often delicious fusion between Peruvian ingredients and Chinese techniques. Kion Peruvian Chinese restaurant is a sexy, spacious place serving solid food. We loved our Green Chaufa (28 soles or about US$8.50) with black quinoa and lots of succulent, crunchy vegetables. The Cha Sui sliced pork (25 soles or about US$7) was succulent with a flavorful sauce, and crunchy snap peas and scallions.

Morena Restaurant Cuzco Peru

Morena Peruvian Kitchen in Cuzco, Peru.

Morena Peruvian Kitchen, near the main square, is a large and stylish restaurant where chefs put a modern twist on beloved Peruvian dishes from around the country including ceviche, tacu tau, Andean trout, and much more. Everything we had was fresh and tasty. Portions are large and their fresh juices are addictive.

Morena Restaurant Cuzco

A modern take on a traditional Peruvian potato dish called causa at Morena Peruvian Kitchen in Cuzco.

Affordable set lunch menus are standard in Peru but quality varies widely. We found three very different standouts for a very affordable lunch in Cuzco. Head to Ego’s down a pedestrian street off Plazueleta Santa Catalina near the main plaza for solid versions of set menu standards (chicken milanesa, lomo saltado, etc.) including a soup and a beverage for 12 soles (about US$3.60). During the week expect to wait to share a table with hungry locals. Curry House Korma Sutra does legit Indian food and their set lunch menu (15 soles or about US$4.50) is huge including nan, rice, vegetable curry, and a chicken or tofu kebab, plus a lemonade (UPDATE: during a recent return to Cuzco this restaurant was no longer offering a set menu lunch). In the same building, you’ll find Chalca where a more finessed take on lunch menu standards can be had for 10 soles (about US$3) including soup, a small salad or snack, main course, and a beverage and small dessert. It’s also got better ambiance and music than your standard set lunch menu restaurant and an outdoor patio around a central courtyard.

Three Monkeys Coffee

Three Monkeys Coffee is a sure best in Cuzco.

For a guaranteed great coffee, head to Three Monkeys Coffee across the street from Ego’s down a pedestrian street off Plazueleta Santa Catalina. We first had this biodynamic coffee at Mil (see below) and we got hooked. Hey, if it’s good enough for one of the best chefs in the world, it’s good enough for us. You can buy beans to bring home with you too. Our only complaint is that they serve their coffee in a paper takeaway cup even if you choose to drink it there.

Mil Restaurant Moray

Lunch at Mil, on the edge of the Moray archaeological site, is an eight-course romp through the best of Andean ingredients and techniques and you will remember every bite.

Okay. Mil is not in Cuzco. In fact, it will take over an hour to get to the restaurant from Cuzco. It’s located at the Moray archaeological site toward the Sacred Valley where it was opened in 2017 by Peruvian chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon of Central and Kjolle fame. You will need to make a reservation (lunch only). You will need to hire a taxi or car and driver and pay them to wait for you while you eat (allow at least three hours) before returning you to Cuzco. You will need to save up (the set eight-course tasting menu is 480 soles per person, about US$145, without beverages). It is all worth it.

Craft beer in Cuzco, Peru

Peru is in the midst of a sustained craft beer boom. Here’s where to get a good Peruvian craft beer in Cuzco.

Cholos Craft Beers is considered the original beer heaven in Cuzco and now has 20 craft beers on tap plus ho-hum burgers (17 soles or about US$5) that come with good fries. The music is great (mostly US rock) and there’s also outdoor seating with heat lamps.

In 2017 Barranco Beer Company opened a small outpost in Cuzco (Heladeros 135, Cusco 08000, Peru) in a space that isn’t all that inviting, but their beer is very good.

Nuevo Mundo Draft Bar is a larger, more fully-formed brewpub in Cuzco in an upstairs on the main plaza. Beer, wings, etc. are on offer along with Nuevo Mundo beers on tap and other Peruvian beers in bottles.

Cerveza Zenith Cuzco

Cerveza Zenith is a craft beer made in Cuzco, Peru.

Cerveza Zenith is the only craft beer made right in Cuzco. The owners open a small tap room at the brewery every Friday and Saturday night so you can taste the beer at the source.

Hanz Homemade sells organic craft beer on tap in a tiny brightly lit space along with an eclectic mix of food–from burgers to tempura.

Cuzco travel tips

At 11,152 feet (3,339 meters), Cuzco is definitely a high-altitude town. This means you may feel tired, short of breath (especially when walking along the hilly streets of the city), nauseous, or unable to sleep well when you first arrive. Spend a few days taking it easy, drink a lot of water, drink the ubiquitous coca tea (it works), and your body should slowly acclimatize. The altitude also means that the sun is very, very strong in Cuzco. Wear high SPF sunscreen even on cloudy or cold days.

The high-altitude airport in Cuzco has an extra-long runway so that planes have the space they need to get lift in the thinner air. The altitude also limits the size of the planes that can service the airport which is in a valley surrounded by Andean peaks. Shockingly, this challenging airport doesn’t have an Instrument Landing System, forcing pilots to rely instead on visual landing. This leads to delays any time there’s limited visibility, which is often. There is persistent talk about building a new and controversial airport near the town of Chinchero in the Sacred Valley and closing the city airport. However, few concrete steps had been taken as of this writing.

Compania de Jesus church Cusco

Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in Cuzco, Peru.

Peruvian is the only airline servicing the Cuzco airport that does not charge higher fares to foreigners. It’s got a dubious reputation, but that didn’t stop us from flying Peruvian Airlines. The only hiccup was a slight weather delay on the tarmac in Cuzco during which staff asked for 16 (why 16?) volunteers to get off the plane so we could take off. We eventually made it to Lima in one piece…

Got time and don’t want to fly to Cuzco? We recently took a Cruz del Sur bus from Cuzco to Lima (US$59 per person, 21 hours). We booked suite class seats on the first level of the double-level bus which was more than passably clean. Our seats reclined to nearly flat, there were movies on demand, and the small meals served were actually edible.

Inti Raymi dancing cusco

Dancers during Inti Raymi celebrations in Cuzco.

The month of June is filled with festivals and celebrations in Cuzco which are marked with huge parades featuring bands and costumed dancers who come from around the country to show off in the city’s main plaza. The granddaddy of all the festivals in Cuzco is Inti Raymi which happens near the end of June.

If you’ve come to Cuzco before heading out on one of the many adventures in the area and you need to pick up a piece of gear, fret not. There are a lot of shops selling and renting outdoor gear in Cuzco. If you need to buy clothing or footwear, check the Tatoo store and a store called Cordillera which both stock lots of international brands (Karen bought new Merrell boots at the Cordillera store at the same price they were selling for in the US). There’s also a small and very lightly stocked Patagonia store in Cuzco on the main plaza. For renting gear, head to a small shop called Camping Equipment Rosly in a pedestrian street off the main plaza where a knowledgeable and English-speaking man named Ever probably has what you need. He also does repairs.

Tourists in cussco

Women and girls in traditional clothing are happy to let tourists take their picture in Cuzco, for a fee.

You will notice textiles for sale practically everywhere in Cuzco. You will be tempted. Proceed with caution and remember: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll see a lot of products allegedly made from “baby alpaca” (this refers to ultra-fine fibers which are gathered the first time an alpaca is sheared). The running joke in Cuzco is “maybe alpaca” because many vendors on the street and in public markets are selling factory items made from synthetic fibers.

Textile weaving cusco

A woman at her loom in the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco.

To find legitimate, high quality, handmade textiles head to Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco.  Here you can see traditional weavers at work and choose from a wide array of textile items. there’s also a small museum about Peru’s weaving history with displays in English and Spanish. Another source for authentic Peruvian textiles is Threads of Peru, a not-for-profit offshoot of the Apus Peru tour company which is focused on preserving traditional weaving traditions and techniques and supporting the artisans by providing a marketplace for their products. Threads of Peru is an extensive online store (shop from anywhere!), but they also have a small shop as part of the Apus Peru office (Calle K’uichipunku 366).

Complete your Cuzco, Peru trip planning with our city travel guide to museums, churches, and activities in Cuzco, our city travel guide to hotels in Cuzco, and our city travel guide about an archaeological day trip around Cuzco. And if Machu Picchu is also on your itinerary, don’t miss our 3-part series of posts about travel to Machu Picchu.

 

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