Cusco’s Mercado San Pedro

One of the best places to be on just about any day of the week in Cusco is the Mercado San Pedro.  Here they offer every type of food you can imagine from Amazonian fruits and veggies to fresh meats and seafoods to baked goods and everything in between.  The market was design by none other that the famous Gustave Eiffel who sent the blueprints over to Cusco but never actually visited the market.  Interestingly he made the market naturally cooling with an intricate three tiered ventilation system making the market continually breezy and cooler than the surrounding square and area. I think that the most characteristic feature of the market is that they laid it out in an interesting way separating the prepared food sections from the produce markets and the raw foods and wool goods in an interesting and weird way that somehow makes sense.  The upper part  of the market has aisles that are mostly unique to a type of food or product. Meats down one aisle, dried veggies another, corns and potatoes down another.  Fruit stalls, juice stands, chicken soup aisle, spices, clothing aisle, and woven goods all can be found here.  If you get a juice make sure they use bottled water to make the drinks.  They have all types of pepper pastes based on Aji Amarillo chilis and garlic mixed with all types of herbs and spices.  Exotic fruits from the amazon can be explored here so try everything you never even knew existed before!  They have dried fish roe and whole salted lama jerky piled to the sky, breads and corns and potatoes and cheeses are all specifically located in their various rows in the market.  Down half a level the food stalls, again separated by type or style of cuisine, are lined up next to each other serving rice and egg plates to ceviches to typical creole and even Chinese dishes from the diverse cultures that make up today’s Peru.  Most people don’t know it but Peru has a lot of Japanese and Chinese after an influx after WWII and even before that when Peru abolished slavery and started hiring Asian laborers in the late 1800s.  As a result there is plenty of amazing sushi, sahimi, and ceviche dishes among the many other awesome Chinese and Japanese dishes found all over the market and entire country.  Walking through the market truly transports you through time and this unique Peruvian experience just cannot be replicated.  You have to see it for yourself!

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Avoid eating at the first place you walk by as the vendors are aggressive for business and its competitive so you may miss out on a type of cuisine you didn’t even see available until after its too late…just take your time and make a round before stopping.  Eat light and try a few places, share some stuff to get a great variety as elevation makes you full quicker and make the elevation sickness set in faster and deeper if you are prone to getting sickness. I definitely recommend taking it easy on your first few days.

If I went back I would definitely recommend visiting the roasted lechon pork ladies and the creole food stalls along the wall.  Also try some of the ceviche or the rice plates.  Don’t leave the market without taking a few bags of the exotic dried fruits and some corn nuts from all of the varieties of corn! We also tried some coffees and cocoa beans and some of the aji amarillo chilis and powders that are found in all of the dishes. The salt from the Moray mines is also popular if you can spare the baggage weight. Watch out for fake wool products with synthetic blends.  Outside on the sides of the market and down the street are some of the local sellers and you can also find some interesting bargains and street performers entertaining the crowds of shoppers.  Its a great area to explore and enjoy for lunch.

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