A Guide To Cusco San Pedro Market: How To Best Visit Cusco Main Market

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San Pedro Market in Cusco is the biggest market in Peru’s second gastronomy city after Lima.

This impressive market is a must-visit for anyone looking to get a sense of the city’s sights, sounds, smells, and culinary offerings. 

While exploring the local food specialties in Cusco, we ate our way through San Pedro Market.

Here’s what to expect when you visit this colorful and vibrant Cusco market.

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Cusco’s Main Market: Mercado Central de San Pedro

Mercado Central San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Take in the local culture at Mercado Central de San Pedro

Visiting Cusco’s Markets, and in particular, Mercado Central de San Pedro is a uniquely interesting experience and a must-do if you visit Peru.

Known alternatively as ‘Central Market’ or ‘Big Market’, the unmissable San Pedro Market Cusco is worth spending time in to get a sense of the city’s modern and historical heritage and traditions. 

You can shop for practically everything from local food to souvenirs, and clothing, as well as local herbal remedies and medicines. 

Fresh produce is brought in daily by Cusco locals and vendors and it is a place to soak up the local Andean culture.

While visiting the market, vendors will jostle for your attention, inviting you to browse their wares. 

While we advocate for supporting the local economy, don’t hesitate to haggle for a lower price as you shop. Sometimes vendors raise the prices for foreigners. 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: San Pedro Market in Cusco is large and can be intimidating. We recommend taking a walking tour and market visit to learn about the market and local products. This 3-hour walking tour and market visit takes you to several food stalls to try different local specialties. With a local guide,  you’ll learn about the local food culture, while enjoying an interesting experience in the most famous Cusco market.

History of the Market

Cusco's market gastronomy San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Cusco’s market gastronomy stalls

San Pedro Market Cusco has a long history. It has been in operation as a site of commerce since the 18th century and was actually part of the original Inca Trail.

The Mercado de San Pedro was officially inaugurated in the early 20th century when merchants were relocated from both the Plaza des Armas and Plaza de San Francisco.

The building of the current market began in 1925 designed by Gustave Eiffel, who famously also designed the Eiffel Tower.

Due to increased demand from both locals and growing numbers of tourists, the market expanded in 1950 into its current form. 

Cusco San Pedro Market now holds over 1000 stalls, exemplifying the cultural and culinary diversity of Cusco and Peru.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to learn to make Peruvian dishes with fresh ingredients from San Pedro Market, see our detailed guide to the best cooking classes in Cusco to take.

How To Get To San Pedro Market

Cusco San Pedro Market by Authentic Food Quest
The market is a short walk from Plaza de Armas

Mercado San Pedro Cusco is conveniently located a short walk away from Plaza de Armas, in Cusco’s historic center or Centro Histórico.

Depending on your walking speed, it should take eight to ten minutes to walk to San Pedro Market from the Plaza de Armas. Walk five blocks southwest from Plaza de Armas, taking Calle Mantas. 

The Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús should be on your left-hand side. And, you will also pass the convent of La Merced or Basilica Menor de la Merced on your left. 

You’ll know you’re approaching San Pedro Market Cusco when you start seeing colorful stands surrounding the market.

You’ll see street vendors squished together with women wearing traditional Peruvian attire including the unmissable bowler hats.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of the highlights of our trip in Cusco was visiting Machu Picchu despite the hit and miss of organizing it ourselves. To avoid pitfalls and time wasted, we highly recommend to take an organized tours. This Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco takes you to one of the most famous Wonders of the World. An all-inclusive experience, the trip takes 14 hours – starting in Cusco city all the way to the Lost City of the Incas. Your local guide will share the history and culture of the sacred city and Inca Empire. Believe us when we say: this is an experience of a lifetime.

San Pedro Market Hours

Vegetable Stands San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Ladies selling colorful vegetables

San Pedro market is open every day of the week with limited hours on Sundays. We recommend going with an empty belly and an open mind. 

This is the perfect place to taste the local food alongside a slice of local life. 

Monday to Saturday, the market is open from 6:30 am to 5:00 pm. 

However, some stalls remain open until about 6:30 pm.

On Sundays, the market is open until noon.

What To Expect At San Pedro Market

Food Seller San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
San Pedro market is organized into distinct sections

When we walked into the market, we were immediately blown away. The noise, the chaos, the scents, colors, smells, and activity was overwhelming. 

In the midst of the chaos, we quickly noticed, that the market was organized around a handful of sections.

 About half the market is dedicated to selling local produce like fruits, grains, meats, cheeses, and bread.

The other half of the market was centered around a gastronomy section with stalls and vendors where you can try prepared foods.

In the middle are long alleys with indigenous produce like “Papas Andinas” or local potatoes, grains, grains, fish eggs, and more.

RELATED: How to Eat Local and Safely on Your Travels

San Pedro Cusco Market Gastronomy

Gastronomy Mercado San Pedro Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Taste authentic Peruvian dishes in the gastronomy section

The Gastronomy section of San Pedro Market Cusco is the perfect place to sample traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, and more.

All stalls sell local cuisine at very affordable prices – expect to pay around 5 soles ($1.50 USD) for each meal or menu.

RELATED: Cusco Food Guide: What and Where to Eat in Cusco

What To Eat At San Pedro Market

Rosemary Claire Mercado Central De San Pedro by Authentic Food Quest
Be prepared to rub shoulders while enjoying your lunch

Lunch menus at the San Pedro Market Cusco are typically made up of a soup to start, followed by a main meal. 

You can choose from some of Cusco’s food specialties, such as lomo saltado, beef stir fry with potatoes. Chicken stew or estofado de pollo is another local lunch specialty you can try. 

Or for vegetarian options choose the lentejas o arroz con huevos or lentils or rice with eggs. You might want to stay away from salads, which is how we got a stomach flu while eating at one of Cusco’s market.

Lomo Saltado – A Peruvian Specialty

Lomo saltado Cusco market San Pedro by Authentic Food Quest
Don’t miss out on tasting lomo saltado

When we visited this Cusco market, our meal started with a steaming bowl of vegetable soup or sopa de verdura. 

It was a large, filling bowl of broth made of fresh vegetables, including potatoes, corn, leeks, and carrots. 

We then had lomo saltado, a typical dish of Peru. It was a delicious combination of rice, lentils, strips of beef sirloin with onions, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Local Soups

Local Soups Stall Mercado San Pedro Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
We suggest trying the delicious Sopa de Gallina

A key section of San Pedro Market’s gastronomy area is dedicated to soup. Here, you can sample local Cusquena soups such as Sopa de Gallina or hen soup or Sopa de Pollo, chicken soup. 

On one cold rainy day, we made a return trip to the market to try the local specialty Sopa de Gallina. 

Freshly prepared for us, this simple soup was made with onions, carrots, ginger, noodles, and a huge piece of chicken. 

Flavorful and hearty, it was the perfect meal for a dreary day.

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Breakfast Section

Cusco's market breakfast San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentoc Food Quest
Breakfast stalls at Cusco San Pedro Market

Open primarily in the morning hours, the breakfast section is an ideal place to get morning drinks like coffee, tea, or freshly squeezed juices.

It was in this section that we discovered the local specialty drink of Maca. It is typically consumed at breakfast and is known for its energetic properties.

Maca is a member of the radish family and has been cultivated in Peru for thousands of years.

It is known to have been widely used by the Incas and is considered a sacred plant for fertility and energy. 

We tried Maca at the market as a tea where it was mixed with hot water and cinnamon. The consistency takes some getting used to – it’s thick and slimy, very much like a hot thick drinkable cereal. 

It is a specialty drink of Cusco and one we recommend trying from the breakfast section in San Pedro market.

READ MORE: 10 Authentic Peruvian Drinks You Will Absolutely Love

San Pedro Market Produce Area

San Pedro Market Papas Andinas Section

Papas Andinas Cusco Market by Authentic Food Quest
Local papas andinas are nutrient-rich

The local produce all around the aisles of San Pedro market is quite remarkable. The native potatoes which come in a variety of shapes and sizes were the most fascinating.

Native to the Andean region of South America, these local papas andinas potatoes grow in high altitudes. They are not large in size but small with concentrated minerals and high nutritional value.

These potatoes are used in a number of traditional dishes. Marvel at the different shapes and sizes don’t miss the dehydrated potatoes.

San Pedro Market Grain Section

Cusco Market Stall mercado central de San Pedro by Authentic Food Quest
Selection of grains at the market

You’ll find Peruvian superfoods in this section of the market, with a range of native grains. Some of the popular grains you’ll find are purple and white corn, quinoa, and kiwicha.

Quinoa is one of the best-known exports of Peru, but it’s also a vital source of protein for local Cusco residents.

San Pedro Market Vegetables and Fruits Section

Cusco’s market fruit stand San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Try indigenous Peruvian fruits

The fruit and vegetable section of the market is full of the aroma of fresh produce. 

Here, you’ll spot fresh vegetables, including squash varieties bigger than your head, all jostling for attention.

You can also try local fruits native to Peru including a local passion fruit called granadilla, which is juicy, tangy, and sweet. 

Another fruit that’s unique to Peru that you can try is chirimoya, which tastes something like a pear combined with lychee. 

Pitahaya, similar to dragon fruit, is juicy and grows throughout Peru and South America on cacti. 

READ MORE: 10 Strange Amazonian Fruits From Peru That Will Surprise You

San Pedro Market Meat Section

Meat Cusco Markets by Authentic Food Quest
Whole animals at the meat section

Meats are mostly in the market’s back corner, next to cured meats and a section where you can see fresh sausages being made. 

In the meat section of San Pedro Market Cusco, you will see the heads and innards of animals including cows, pigs, and lamb. 

This is part of a long tradition of using all of the entire animals to avoid any waste.

Be aware if you are planning to purchase any meat that it is often exposed and not refrigerated.

San Pedro Market Cheese Section

Cusco market cheese stand San Pedro Market Cusco by Authentic Food Quest
Visit early for fresh local cheese

You’ll find stalls upon stalls selling local cheese in the shape of large wheels. Prices range from about $1 to $5 USD, depending on the size of the wheel you choose. 

While stall owners will let you try small samples of cheese, they don’t like cutting the wheel into smaller pieces.

Be aware that the cheese is exposed to the open air and not refrigerated. Visiting in the morning means that it won’t have been sitting out all day.

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In Summary

San Pedro Market Cusco is unlike any sanitized American or European farmers market. During the busy lunch hours, the market is crowded with vendors and hundreds of locals eating lunch.

You may have to work up the courage to eat at food stalls that have a lower standard of hygiene than you may be used to.

However, eating local is part of the experience and the quality of Peru’s local gastronomy does not disappoint.

This market in Cusco takes you right into the heart of the local Cusquena food culture. An eye-opening experience touring the San Pedro market is unmissable.

Have you visited San Pedro Market in Cusco? Please let us know what you thought of the experience in the comments below.

Savor The Adventure!

More Peruvian Food Experiences

Our book, Authentic Food Quest Peru takes you on a journey through the regional food specialties in Peru. Get an introduction to Peruvian food and the history of how this unique gastronomy came to be.

Discover the authentic foods in Lima and Cusco as well as the top Peruvian drinks and dishes that should not be missed. 

Take this guide with you as you explore Peru’s magnificent cuisine.

Available on Amazon 

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16 Comments on “A Guide To Cusco San Pedro Market: How To Best Visit Cusco Main Market”

  1. Wow. They really managed to find everything that was yellow or a shade of yellow. I really enjoyed Cuzco and would like to go back again soon. It’s such a traditional town with so many great markets and places to eat.

  2. I adore markets, totally the best way to get a snap shot of the heart of a culture, totes getting on the yellow underwear bit if it will bring luck in my love life. Haha! 🙂 Awesome post, kinda jelly of all the awesome you are seeing.

    • Thanks Anna for your comments. We were so blown away by all the yellow for good luck. What surprised us even more was when our airbnb hosts told us that they also wear yellow underwear as well. A really fun tradition to observe! Glad you liked the post!

  3. The Inca civilisation has always fascinated me! The Cusco market looks amazing, your photographs really capture the enormous range of foodie (and otherwise) products available and I love how many local speciality dishes you featured. Things like that are the things you hope to find on such visits – thank you 🙂

    • Thanks Lauren for your comments. We really enjoyed discovering the Cusco market and all the wonderful things available. In the markets you really get a sense of what is really local and authentic. Glad you like the pictures and dishes. A delicious experience!

  4. What a wonderful place!! I’m so intrigued by natural medicines. I study and use them a lot at home and in my hobby as a medieval enactor. I’d love to explore here and learn, learn, learn. 🙂

    • Thanks Krista for your comments. We have been really surprised by how much the Peruvians use natural remedies. This comes from their Inca heritage and you still see so much influence today. If you get a chance to visit the farmers market in Peru, you will see the strangest and most interesting fruits and vegetables, all with many health benefits. Cheers!!


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