Markets are one of the best ways to get to know a city. They have the hustle and bustle of life and bring people of all walks of life together.
Cusco, the city of the Inca is no exception that. The city, located high in the Andes Mountains is famous for its treks, food, and history. So for those going to the city, one of the best places to explore is the San Pedro Market.
About the Market
The Original Central Market in Cusco was Built in 1925, located in a different square, San Francisco. However, years later it was moved to it's present location on the Plaza San Pedro, which is where it also got its name.
The Market is a set of stalls that sell various different wares for people and tourists alike. Among those you'll see each section specializing in a particular type of product. Those looking for meats, fruit, and more can find what they are looking for. Often, many of the sellers will be selling similar products. However, there are still ways to find unique things.
This can be a problem though, as we noticed in the "fruit juice" section, as soon as you walk in everyone is passing out a menu to you. How do you even decide which person to go with?
What To Buy in San Pedro
Unless you live in the city, you probably are not looking for basic home products or meats. But, don't fret, there's still a lot for you to purchase.
Around the front and edge of the market you'll see lots of vendors selling tourist related gifts and merchandize. Overall, we found the wares to be similar as to what you'll find throughout the city. Sometimes, you can get pretty good deals, however I found Alpaca clothing products (hats, scarves, ponchos) to be better at many of the other smaller markets around the city. Same goes for t-shirts. You can try to haggle if you prefer, however, haggling I found less receptive in the market than elsewhere.
One thing I found good to buy in the market was chocolate. There were a lot of chocolate vendors in the central are of the market. Chocolate, is a popular gift from Cusco, as a lot of chocolate comes from Peru. Each region seems to have slightly different makers and flavors in their chocolate. There's also a chocolate "museum" in the city, and while you can buy chocolate there you'll often pay more than the market.
Also, check out the fruit and fruit juices. There are a lot of options for things that you likely won't find elsewhere. It was the first place I tried some incredible options such as Lucuma, Chirimoya, and Pacay.
What to Avoid
If you are traveling with goods out of the country, be certain to know the rules on some of the products. For instance in the United States, you cannot import any raw Coca Leaf products. This include things like teas and perhaps even some of the chocolates. While the worst that is likely to happen is it will be confiscated, you still want to avoid risking potentially harsher penalties.
My absolute favorite part of the market is the restaurant/food vendors in the back of the market. Here you'll see folks selling local cuisine from Cusco as well as around Peru.
Keep an eye on where the locals are going. This will help you determine which are probably the best restaurants to try. One thing I would recommend to try is some of the slow cooking lamb. It was amongst the best food I had while in Cusco. Also other local favorites like Lomo Saltado are worth trying.
You can also get things like Cuy (Guinea Pig) in the market. However, it didn't seem as popular here as in other areas. So, while I did try it in Peru, I can't speak for the quality at the market.
I also find that these restaurants are a family affair. You'll usually see several generations helping out their family businesses.
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