The San Pedro Market in Cusco sits about an eight minute walk south from Plaza de Armas but couldn’t be more different!! On the walk to it you’ll generally notice more and more street vendors and ladies in traditional dress sitting on the side of the streets selling nuts, popcorn and other small bags of dried foods. You’ll spot more and more local shops (tiendas) selling the most random of things all in the one tienda. If you’re looking for an alpaca jumper, a freshly made juice, a bag of nectarines, some plantains to fry, buttifaras (ham sandwiches served on French bread) or some cheesy gifts for your parents or friends back home you’re definitely on your way to the right place!
What to Expect
As you enter the market all your senses come in to play. The array of colours that you’re quickly met with will open your eyes! The smell of raw meats and spices will invade your nostrils. The taste of frying chicken and lomo saltado (stir fried beef) will make your mouth water! The sound of the local women each fighting for your attention to buy their juices will make you smile! You’ll all of a sudden feel “ah yes, so this is Cusco!!”
A trip to the San Pedro market can take up a whole morning or afternoon of your stay in Cusco. But is definitely well worth the visit. It can be a real buzz trying to get the right prices for things, haggling with a local “mami” for food and souvenirs and just chatting with locals. You’ll probably be quite puzzled at some stage as to how some of them make any money. Many of the stalls right next to eat other sell the exact same things. There are about 30 juice stands. Generally they all sell the same juices and combinations for the same prices. It’s purely a game of who can shout louder at the market goers and who has the best sales pitch or even who is playing the best music! No matter who you go to though, no doubt they’ll be super friendly and chatty. A good thing to remember is to ask before you buy your juice if it’s made with bottled water. If it’s not go elsewhere, you don’t want an upset stomach!! But do be adventurous. Try some local fruits such as lucuma, granadilla, chirimoya (custard apple).
There are rows and rows of fruits and vegetables. The smiling faces of the little women with hats and plaits in their hair tucked in beside the fruits and the array of colours make it hard not to stop and buy bags full of avocados (paltas) and tomatoes! If you are buying fresh fruits and vegetables make sure to wash them before you eat them. But sometimes fruit and vegetables in the local supermarket Orion or Mega can work out cheaper as they are priced already and can’t change all of a sudden to gringo prices!
Eating in the market is fun too. A lot of it is not very healthy and is generally fried but it’s an interesting experience. You can try some local delicacies and of Peru´s traditional cuisine in San Pedro market. A good one to try is salchipapas (fried sausages and potatoes). An easy option for most travelers is the empanada. You can get them with meat, chicken or cheese or even a mixture. They are really tasty and cheap too! If you’re feeling a bit more courageous give the beef hearts (antichucos) a taste. Having food at the market is a good way to test the strength of your stomach and your tolerance for market cooked foods!! In saying that it can be helpful to try go to a food stand that has other people at it, that’s busy and it’s no harm to have a look for cleanliness.
Don’t Get Ripped Off!
You’ll find hundreds of souvenirs here too. You can buy really good quality jumpers, cardigans, hats and scarves made from alpaca and llama. Shop around though and get a good price. You’ll also get little knick-knacks like pens, key rings, lighters, fridge magnets and novelty mementoes like bottle covers and pachamama dolls; all of which are decorated in beautiful colour and handmade designs. It’s a nice gesture to buy things in the market because you are supporting and encouraging local cusqueñans. Be wary though, some of the sellers see dollar signs when they see gringos coming. They can pull prices just out of their heads for things. So don’t be afraid to walk away, try another stall or even challenge them on it. Make a trip to the San Pedro market a to-do on your list!
Mon-Sun 9am to 6pm. Mornings are best.
Calles Tupac Amaru and Cascaparo
From Plaza de Armas head south along Calle Manta, past Plazoleta Espinar. As you pass Plaza San Fansisco, an archway will appear in front of you. Head under the arch and walk straight for 2 approx. minutes. San Pedro market will be on your left hand side.