Guide to the Best Museums in Cusco
Inka Museum / Museo Inka
Corner of Tucaman and Ataud, up the street to the left of the Cathedral, S/.10 entrance fee (about US$4), open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-4pm
The Museo Inka run by the San Antonio Abad University is the best museum in Cusco for those interested in Inca history. The museum is housed in the ornate 16th Century Admiral's House. This grand colonial mansion first belonged to Admiral Francisco Aldrete Maldonado and was built, like much of Cusco, on Inca foundations. It was completely rebuilt after the 1950 earthquake. The museum's collection is well displayed and informative and includes the culture in the region from pre-Inca, through Inca times to the present day. The collection includes ceramics, textiles, metal and gold work, jewellery, skulls that have been deformed by trepanning, and tomb containing several mummies. An English-speaking guide is a good investment. During the high season local weavers from the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco can be seen working in the courtyard. Prices are quite expensive but the quality is high. Official museum website: http://museoinka.unsaac.edu.pe (website only in Spanish)
Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Colombian Art Museum)
Northwest side of the Plaza de las Nazarenas, open daily 9am-10pm, General admission S/.20, Students S/.10
This beautiful museum, set around a spacious courtyard, was opened in 2003 and contains a collection of more than 450 artefacts which were taken from the storage rooms of the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera in Lima. On display are jewellery, pottery, metalwork (gold and silver), stone-carvings and weavings from the Pre-Colombian cultures (before Columbus arrived) including the Nasca, Moche, Chimu, Paracas, Nasca and Inca cultures. Pieces are well chosen and well displayed. The building which houses the Museo de Arte Precolombino was formerly the mansion of the conqueror Alonso Diaz and later the residence of the Earl of Cabrera. The structure was built on the ruins of an Inca ceremonial court. The museum has a cafe and a good but expensive restaurant. Official museum website: http://map.museolarco.org/home_en.html
Museo Machu Picchu
Casa Concha, Santa Catalina Ancha 320, Cusco. Admission S/.20, S/.10 students. open 9am-5pm Mon-Sat.
This is a new museum dedicated to the history of Machu Picchu and houses more than 360 artefacts from Machu Picchu returned by Yale University in 2011. The museum contains many exhibit rooms with displays and interactive videos and maps. On the ground floor is a model of the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. Casa Concha is a beautifully restored colonial mansion which was built on the site of Puka Marka - the residence of the royal lineage of Tupaq Inka Yupanqui. More recently it served as an army barracks and later a police station before being donated by the government to the local university of San Antonio Abad. Official museum website http://www.museomachupicchu.com
Monasterio y Museo de Arte de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Convent and Art Museum)
Santa Catalina Angosta, Sat-Thurs 09:00-17:30, Fri 09:00-15:00
The Santa Catalina Convent and Museum (Monasterio y Museo de Arte de Santa Catalina) was built over the ruins of the ancient Acllawasi, or "House of the Chosen Women" one of the most important Inca buildings overlooking the main plaza. These "Virgins of the Sun" as the Spanish called them, were devoted to the cult of the Sun God and wove exquisite textiles of vicuna and alpaca for the Inca and ceremonial purposes as well as preparing the sacred chicha beer. Many were chosen to bear the Inca's children. After the Conquest the Acllawasi became home to a cloistered order of nuns who still occupy part of the building today. Lucia Isabel Rivera de Padilla founded the Santa Catalina Convent in 1601. She also founded the beautiful convent of the same name in Arequipa several years earlier. The Santa Catalina convent was named after Saint Catherine of Siena, who was the founder of the female part of the Dominican Order. Today the convent houses a religious art collection, including paintings from the famous Escuela Cusquena.
Museo de Historia Regional (Regional History Museum)
Casa Garcilaso, Corner of Calle Garcilaso and Heladeros (just off Plaza Regocijo) 8am-5pm Tues-Sun. Admission is with the Boleto Turistico
An eclectic collection of items from Cusco's history chronologically arranged but often poorly labelled. Artefacts include some Nazca mummies, gold ornaments, plenty of ceramics, photos of Cusco just after a major earthquake, Inca weavings and some paintings. Although all very interesting I would recommend visiting the museums listed above before this one. You may have had enough off museums before you get this far - however entrance is included with the Cusco Tourist Ticket so may be worth a quick visit.
Museo de Arte Religioso (Archbishop's Palace / Religious Art Museum)
Corner of Hatun Rumiyoc and Herrajes. Admission S/.10 open 8-11am & 3-6pm Mon-Sat
Built on the foundations of the palace of the Inca Roca, this remarkable building once belonged to the Marquis de Buenavista and later became the Archbishop's Palace. The museum has a fine collection of colonial paintings and furniture.
www.chocomuseo.com Calle Garcilaso 210 (2nd floor) - just 2 blocks from the Plaza de Armas, Cusco. Admission is free but the Chocolate tour & workshop costs S/.70 per person and should be booked in advance online. open 10.30am-6.30pm
Small privately run museum dedicated to cacao and the art of making chocolate, French owned. The tours fill up pretty quick so we recommend that you book in advance online if you can. Allow about 2hrs 30mins for the tour/workshop. You can also just pop in for a great fair-trade hot chocolate, chocolate fondue or crepes & ice-cream. Always a winner with the kids. Staff speak excellent English. Small store & restaurant area.
Museo de la Coca
Plazoleta San Blas, Cusco. open 9am-6pm admission fee S/.10, free to visit the shop
This small, but informative museum tells the fascinating history of the coca leaf. Your journey begins with the pre-Inca cultures to whom the leaf was considered sacred. Medicinal values and benefits are well explained before moving through to the modern day and the dramatic impact of the cocaine industry. There is a little shop where you can buy coca leaves, herbal tea and other products including candies (don't take coca leaves out of the country, they are still illegal in most countries)
Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo
Plaza Regocijo (1 block from the Plaza de Armas), Cusco. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Sat, Admission with the Boleto Turistico
Rather a small museum / art gallery, a bit disappointing really and well down the list of museums you should visit when in Cusco. However it is free, and if you are passing through Plaza Regocijo when it starts to rain ...
Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha
Avenida El Sol, Cusco (down Avenida El Sol just past the turning left for the Qoricancha). Admission included with the Boleto Turistico.
Not much to say about this rather small, uninteresting, underground archaeological museum apart from the fact that if it wasn't included on the Boleto Turistico not many people would make the effort to go. Enough said.
Next >> Sacsayhuaman & nearby Inca ruins