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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.
Cusco’s Main Market: 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
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
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
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
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.
San Pedro Cusco Market Gastronomy
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.
What To Eat At San Pedro Market
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
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.
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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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.
San Pedro Market Produce Area
San Pedro Market Papas Andinas Section
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
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
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.
San Pedro Market 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
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.
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.
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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.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest