There is a certain irony that one of the best sites in Cusco really isn’t a site at all. Rather, the Mercado Central de San Pedro (San Pedro Market) is simply the place in the center of Cusco where most of the locals go for their groceries.
The difference, however, is that grocery shopping in Cusco is a little bit different than shopping at the local market back back home. At the Mercado Central de San Pedro, all of the items are on vibrant display and are fascinatingly set right out in the open. You can wander the stalls past towers of fruit and be greeted by a pig’s head on the very next corner. You can shop for a dozen varieties of potatoes and then watch someone purchase a bag of fried guinea pigs. It’s an authentic look at everyday culture which lies outside the circuit of regular sights.
There is also a food court that serves local dishes at a fraction of the cost of most local restaurants. While some of the food might be safer than others (the quinoa and vegetables being a safer bet than meat that is served with visible hair), dining at the market is a unique experience where you can share in the flavors of Cusco with the locals.
In addition to shopping for produce and meat, there are also sections devoted to selling crafts such as textiles and Andean art. Haggling over prices is readily expected, although be sure to keep an eye on your wallet and valuables since pickpockets have been known to troll through the aisles.
All in all, however, the Mercado Central de San Pedro is one of the best stops in Cusco for experiencing everyday Andean life.