Plaza de Armas—with its palm trees, fountains, and symmetrical landscaped gardens—forms the cultural and social heart of the historic center of Arequipa. On the edge of the square is the twin-towered Basilica Catedral de Arequipa, one of the volcanic-stone structures that give Arequipa its nickname: La Ciudad Blanca (The White City).
Plaza de Armas serves as a starting point for most Arequipa sightseeing tours, which typically cover the highlights of the historic center of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Time-pressed travelers can visit Plaza de Armas as part of an express walking tour, which gives an overview of Arequipa’s colonial history, or during a panoramic bus tour, during which visitors stop at vista points in the districts of Yanahuara and Carmen. Some tours also take you inside the Monastery of St. Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina), which was closed to the public for 400 years.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Plaza de Armas is a great place to wander, relax, and people watch.
- Plaza de Armas is the only square in Peru to have a cathedral that stretches its entire length.
- There are lots of Peruvian cafés and restaurants beneath the arches surrounding the square.
How to Get There
The historic center of Arequipa covers a relatively small area that lends itself well to walking, and the Plaza de Armas is its center. If you’d rather explore with a guide to avoid getting lost among the city’s mazelike streets, opt for a walking tour that’s designed with first-time visitors in mind.
When to Get There
Day or night, Plaza de Armas is the center of activity in Arequipa. If you want to avoid the crowds, head to the square as early as possible. Alternatively, if you want to experience the square at its most vibrant, arrive just after sunset to admire the cathedral and fountains when they’re illuminated.
Rooftop Cocktails at Plaza de Armas
If you’re looking to relax, chill out at one of the cafés or rooftop bars surrounding the square with a coca tea or Pisco Sour cocktail. These rooftop venues are also great for photographers who want a variety of shots, and the mountains behind the provincial buildings make for an interesting contrast.