The UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Cusco has a wealth of historic churches in the city center. Many people visit the churches at Plaza de Armas and don’t bother with the others, but it’s worth wandering around the city to see them.
High above Cusco overlooking the city is Iglesia de San Cristóbal. Admission is included on the Boleto Integral. There’s a park in front of the church with great views of the city. For even better views of Cusco, climb the bell tower.
To the south of Plaza de Armas is Convento Santa Catalina de Sena. This former convent is now a museum. It was originally built in 1610 over the Inca Acllawasi (House of the Chosen Women). The museum shows examples of how nuns lived in the 17th century along with some beautiful works of art and paintings. Admission is S/8.
On the back side of the church there’s a street that contains the original Inca wall of the Acllawasi that the convent was built on top of.
Just to the west of Plaza de Armas is the Iglesia de La Merced. It’s one of the most important churches in Cusco and was built in 1535. It is not often visited which is a shame. The courtyard is magnificent and the paintings in the gallery are amazing. Some of the most valuable ecclesiastical artifacts in Cusco are housed here. Also, there is a small “cave” with colorful original wall paintings. Admission is S/6.
A couple blocks west from Iglesia de La Merced is Plaza San Francisco. Yet another historic church is located here, Iglesia de San Francisco. It was originally built in 1549 but rebuilt after an earthquake in 1650. The church was closed almost every time I walked by, but a man at the door told me it was open for visitors after 3pm.
A gate on the southwest corner of the plaza is called the Arco de Santa Clara. Passing through the gate leads to the Iglesia de Santa Clara. This very interesting church was built in 1622. Priests enticed the indigenous people to attend mass by covering the entire inside with mirrors. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit inside.
A bit further west is the Iglesia de San Pedro. It was built in 1572 then rebuilt after an earthquake in 1650.
Finally, to the north of Plaza Regocijo is Iglesia de Santa Teresa. It was built in 1673.