Built atop the Inca palace Viracocha, the Cusco Cathedral was a triumphant statement for conquering colonists who laid the foundation stones in 1559. Now Plaza de Armas’ showpiece, the cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco and a significant cultural monument holding the largest collection of Cusco School paintings.
Also known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, Cusco Cathedral (Catedral del Cuzco) and its treasures have been handsomely restored, thanks to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Construction lingered more than 100 years, allowing a Gothic-Renaissance style to dominate the facade and its two discreetly baroque domes. The interior features magnificently carved choir stalls and pulpit in cedar and alder, a brilliant silver-plated altar, and 400 canvases from the Cusco School (Escuela Cuzqueña), which paired European ecclesiastical painting styles from the 16th to 18th centuries with the traditional iconography of indigenous Andean art.
There are many options for exploring the cathedral, including private or group day tours and multi-day tours that may combine visits to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and various stops in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You can also explore Cusco as part of a multi-day mountain biking trek.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Cusco Cathedral is a must for art and history lovers, and all first-time visitors to Cusco.
- The cathedral requires a small entrance fee. Admission is included in the city’s Religious Circuit Ticket, which allows entry to three major religious destinations, such as the Cusco Cathedral, Temple of San Blas, and the Archbishop’s Palace.
- As the cathedral is a religious space, modest attire is best—even in summer months.
- Because of the high altitude, be sure to stay hydrated and take it slow. Chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea helps alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness.
- The cathedral is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Cusco Cathedral is located on the city’s historic Plaza de Armas, walkable from most spots in the city center. If farther away, you’re best off booking a tour that includes round-trip transportation as there are few public transportation options.
When to Get There
The cathedral is open typically from 10am to 6pm daily. Masses are generally held at 8:30am and 10:30am on Sunday. One of the city’s most popular attractions, it is busy year-round; consider a visit between November and April for a somewhat quieter experience.
Cusco Cathedral for Painting Buffs
Artworks inside the cathedral, particularly paintings of the Cusco School, are phenomenal. The most famous work on display is The Last Supper, in which Quechua artist Marcos Zapata depicts the final meal of the Lord, adding his own cultural flavor with depictions of traditional Andean foods, such as roast guinea pig (cuy) and chalices of an Inca corn drink (chica).