When finding your bearings in Peru, one of the first stops in any city should be the local market. So, if you’re headed to Cusco, be sure to take a day or an afternoon to explore the city on foot. Of particular note is the San Pedro Market—a covered open-air market encompassing three city blocks. Located West of the Plaza de Armas near the San Pedro Train Station, Cusco’s central market is a vibrant spot where the countryside convenes each morning.
Enjoy a first-hand look at how local residents live day-to-day outside the postcard perfection of Cusco’s main square. Make sure that you’ve got a few extra memory cards—San Pedro is very photogenic.
Part of the fun is listening to the witty exchanges between neighbouring vendors, as they compete for the attention of customers. Once the goods are selected, buyers and sellers set about haggling.
Often referred to as the “Big Market” or the “Central Market”, San Pedro was one of the earliest markets to open in Cusco. It’s been in continuous operation since the beginning of the eighteenth century. As Cusco has grown, other markets have opened up—including big box grocers—but San Pedro still stands out.
It’s comprised of different stands housed under a roof of corrugated metal. The stands are organized according to their wares, so that all the butchers are grouped together as are the fruit juice vendors and vegetable hawkers.
Early each morning, the proprietors come in from the countryside around Cusco and deposit their goods—or spread them out on the ground and spill over onto the steps of the nearby church. While the main market is interesting in its own right, you really need to wander through the back streets to capture a different kind of vibe.
What boggles the mind is that each of these vendors closes down their stand every evening and returns home, coming back the following morning in the dark with their goods. We are talking about a massive inventory of goods—rivalling the big box stores of the West—brought in each day and taken away each night.
There are also vendors that have dry goods for sale so that it’s possible to get pretty much everything you need without stepping foot in a grocery store. You’ll find blankets and clothes here, too.
The tight, meandering aisles, the frantic hubbub, the pervasive energy, the exotic stenches and the vortex of colours make markets the perfect place to start a journey. If you really want to get a feel for the sights and smells of an ordinary day for the residents of Cusco, San Pedro is a side trip not to be missed!
Cradle to the vast Incan Empire, the largest in pre-Colombian America, Peru's power and gold attracted the Spanish conquistadors who used it to fund their own vast empire in the Americas. G Adventures runs a number of departures in Peru encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.