The Plaza de Armas (Wiki)
The Plaza de Armas is the center of the historic section in Cuzco. The original plaza was built by the Incas and was known as the “square of the warrior”. Almost twice the current size, it functioned as the cultural center of Inca life. Cuzco was designed in the shape of a Puma and the plaza was intentionally built at the location of the heart. The Spanish reduced the size of the plaza by building two Churches, the Cathedral and the Church of La Compañía. It’s worth visiting the plaza at least twice, by day and by night, as it takes on a strikingly different look after dark, all lit up.
Located high above Cusco at an elevation of 3,700 meters (12,000 feet), Sacsayhuamán today is considered one of the World’s greatest walled complex. The Inca captial was laid out in the form of a puma, the animal that symbolized the Inca dynasty. The belly of the puma was the main plaza; the river Tullumayo formed its spine, and the hill of Sacsayhuamán its head. There are three parallel walls built in different levels with carved limestones of enormous sizes. It is suggested that the zigzagging walls represent the teeth of the puma’s head.
Cusco Cathedral (gruesomeblog.com)
Cusco Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, took nearly 100 years to build, beginning in 1559, but the exterior, shaped like a Latin cross, is stunning. The conquering Spanish forced the Incas to build the church on the foundation of a former Inca temple; the Spanish chose to build the cathedral here because they wanted to eradicate the Incas’ religion. The stones were taken from another Inca holy building. The church is the most important Catholic church in Cusco. Situated on the Plaza de Armas, the cathedral also showcases artworks from Cusco’s colonial past.
Coricancha (source: wiki)
The Coricancha, originally named Inti Kancha (‘Temple of the Sun’) was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. The walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solid gold, and the courtyard was filled with golden statues. The Spanish ransacked and looted the temple before building the 17th century Baroque church on top of it while using the Inca foundations for the new construction. Major earthquakes severely damaged the church, but the Inca stone walls still stand. These walls are a fine example of the excellent stonemason work done by the Incas.
Barrio de San Blas (turismoencusco)
Travelers who want to buy locally made art works and handcrafts gravitate to the Barrio de San Blas, one of Cusco’s most picturesque neighborhoods. Its narrow streets, many of which are pedestrian only, are lined with studios and workshops, as well as bars and restaurants for travelers looking for some nightlife. The neighborhood is located not too far from the Plaza de Armas, but visitors should be prepared to climb seep streets to get there. A good place to view the city, the Templo de San Blas, the city’s oldest parish church, is located here.
A great example of stonemason techniques practiced by the Incas is the Twelve Angle Stone found in the middle of Hatunrumiyoc, a narrow cobblestone street that is one of the best preserved Inca roads in Cusco. A wall that was once part of an Inca palace, dominates the street. The 12-sided stone structure features 12 perfect corners. The stones come together so tightly that nothing can be inserted between them, though no mortar is used. Visitors say night is the best time to get photos of the stones.