Spend one month anywhere while traveling, and you will easily get to know the local restaurants, bars, and quickly start frequenting many of them. This was the case for me in Cusco. A huge part of why I fell in love with this city was the delicious food, beautiful culture, great places to stay, and the vibrant nightlife. While spending one incredible month in Cusco, I discovered places that I miss and still crave. Here is a roundup of my favorite spots – including accommodations, restaurants, and of course – bars!
Where to SLEEP:
- Loki Hostel ($) – If you’re looking for a place to meet people and get the party started, this is the place for YOU! Loki has super comfortable dorms as well as private rooms. There is even a super luxe, deluxe matrimonial suite with a king size bed, a view of the entire city, private WiFi, a beautiful 300 year old mural on the wall, and more! Loki has everything you will want in a good backpacker’s hostel. There’s an amazing bar with a party every night, GREAT food, free breakfast each morning (bread, jam, banana), a TV room to relax with endless movies, a helpful travel desk, and so much more. You’ll meet new friends at the themed parties, “Karaloki” night, or simply by enjoying a beer in the courtyard. If you’re not into partying, this may not be the place for you. The bar can get loud well into the night. If you’re looking to save money and stay in Cusco for at least two weeks, you can also work at Loki! Loki hires travellers to work at the bar in exchange for free accommodation, one free meal a day, and 40% off of everything else from the restaurant and bar. The only downside is the hill you have to walk up to get to the hostel. But after all the pisco sours you drank from the night before, your ass might thank you!
- Dragonfly Hostel ($) – If Loki sounds like a bit too much of a party scene for you, then Dragonfly hostel is the place to be for a more “chill” experience. It’s a fairly quiet hostel close to the main square (5 minute walk) and set in a beautiful old colonial house. The open air bar area is a great place to relax and enjoy a Dragonfly micro brew beer! Yes, the hostel brews their very own beer right there, and it is delicious! Also a nice escape from the same old Peruvian beer, which doesn’t have a ton of variety. The hostel also has weekly events, making it easy to meet other travellers. Breakfast is included each morning along with tea (including coca tea to help with the altitude) all day long. There is also a kitchen available to all guests, a TV room, and laundry service. The only downside was that the WiFi can tend to be VERY slow. But hey, you’re in Cusco – so maybe get the hell off the internet and go explore anyway!
- Palacio del Inka ($$$) – Talk about luxury! If you’re looking for a super posh visit to this beautiful city, then Palacio del Inka is just the place. This exquisite hotel is located just a few minutes from Plaza de Armas and is the perfect blend of a historically beautiful building yet fitting the needs of the modern day traveller. In some of the rooms, you legitimately feel as though you are in a palace with it’s lush décor and beautiful paintings. The hotel also features up-scale, resort-like amenities including their delicious restaurant, indoor pool, full-service spa, turn down service, and more. If you can afford it, book it. If you can’t, find a way to get your hands on some Starwood points ASAP. It will be worth it!
- J.W. Marriott Cusco ($$$) – Located in the city’s historical center, the J.W. Marriott is where you want to be after a long day of exploring Cusco. You might as well be sleeping on a cloud because the beds are beyond comfortable. This five star hotel boats incredible service as well as a beautifully modern yet elegant bar and lounge where the food and drinks speak for themselves. The outdoor seating area is the perfect place to read a book and sip a cup of coffee. And the indoor pool and spa will cure your sore muscles after a trip to Manchu Picchu. The only downside was that I couldn’t stay here for the entire month!
Where to EAT:
- Menu del Dia ($) – If you want to eat for super cheap in Cusco, you can hit up just about any menu del dia at the local Peruvian restaurants and for me, they hardly ever failed. There is a local spot around the corner from Dragonfly where you can get a delicious four course meal for as little as 9soles (about $3).
- Jack’s Café ($) – After traveling for a few months, you realllllly start to miss home comforts. To fix this, I’d be more than likely to stop by Jack’s for their mouth watering breakfast. It’s served all day so even after a long night, there is always a hangover cure awaiting.
- Cafe Y Chocolate ($) – Whether I wanted some good WiFi, a delicious cappuccino, or a cheap breakfast, this was my go to spot on most mornings. It’s right by the square and I would sometimes spend hours writing on the comfy couches in the nicely decorated upstairs portion of the café.
- Marcelo Batata ($$) – By FAR my favorite spot in Cusco. This is the one place I didn’t feel at all guilty for breaking my backpacker budget every now and again. The interior of the restaurant has a trendy ambiance and if you pop in for lunch I’d highly recommend sitting on their upstairs patio that boasts a gorgeous panoramic view of Cusco. The food is terrific with some of the best lomo saltado, causa, and handmade cocktails, including pisco sours – of course! An added bonus – they hold cooking classes for any gastronomic enthusiasts out there!
- LIMO ($$) – This upscale Peruvian restaurant and pisco bar is an ideal place for a nice lunch or romantic dinner. Located in the center of Plaza de Armas, you can sit up on the enclosed patio while people watching and enjoying the beauty of the entire square in sight. Their cocktails are top notch and the food is spectacular. Whether you try their fresh ceviche, yucca balls, sushi, lomo saltado – you can’t go wrong!
- Chicha ($$) – Chicha, which is named after Peru’s popular drink derived from maize (aka corn), is the perfect place to splurge or treat yourself to a fun dinner with family or friends. There is a a nice wine selection and the menu lists a variety of tasty and unique dishes from the different regions of Peru. My favorite – the alpaca pizza and the lamb!
- Inka Grill ($$) – This spot is a bit touristy, but I can’t deny that they have great food. Set in the heart of Plaza de Armas, the restaurant’s large windows allow guests to admire the gorgeous cathedral in the distance. I’d recomend getting a few things (perhaps the alpaca skewers, goat cheese stuffed peppers with quinoa, or the causa!) and sharing because everything I had was so flavorful!
- Bambu ($) – If there was one thing I missed from home, it was sushi and Bambu, was the perfect place to get my fix. The food and ingredients are fresh and delicious, they have tasty appetizers, and there is a great, affordable lunch combo that leaves you completely satisfied. I also love how this place combines traditional Asian dishes with unique Peruvian flavors.
Where to DRINK:
- Hostel Bars – For those on a budget, throwing a couple back at either Loki or Wild Rover Hostel is your best bet. Both guarantee a party every night with cheap drink specials and of course, a great place to meet other travelers. Hey, you might have so much fun with you new found friends that you forget to even hit the town that night.
- Hotel Swank – Feeling classy? Be sure to check out Rumi Bar at Palacio Del Inka or the bar at Cusco’s J.W. Marriott for delicious cocktails, appetizers, and more!
- Paddy’s Irish Pub – Considered “the highest Irish owned pup in the world” and nestled in Plaza de Armas, Paddy’s is the perfect place to grab a beer with friends, watch a fùtbol, rugby, or American football game, or simply nurse your hangover with some pup-style grub – and maybe a pisco sour or two!
- Mama Africa – This place is one of the most popular bars/night club in Cusco. Also located in the famous plaza, you will often hear salsa music early on in the night with salsa lessons and you’ll definitely witness some super talented dancers! Later on, the music shifts to a more typical club scene that leaved people dancing into the early hours.
- Temple – Temple is jam packed with travelers, electronica music, and people usually dancing on the bar well into the night. If you’re looking for a laid back night, this is definitely not the place for you. Get your party pants on and be sure to leave enough extra cash after your done fist pumping so that you can grab a felafel next door from the window that’s open light night.
- Mythology – This was my top choice when going out. Mythology has free salsa lessons every night followed by some serious salsa dancing. Afterwards, the DJ plays a variety of music that will leave you walking home at sunrise!
There is so much more to enjoy and indulge in while in Cusco that a month sometimes didn’t seem nearly long enough. All of these recommendations are based on my own personal experiences, but I’d love to hear about some of your favorites too! Be sure to comment below and let me know what I missed!