At over 11,000 feet elevation, Cuzco is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The Lonely Planet Guide to Peru says, "Going to Peru and missing Cuzco is as unthinkable as visiting Egypt and skipping the Pyramids." Visitors travel to Cuzco to see a unique city, but also to step back in time to an ancient culture very different from the 21st century. Lima is a Spanish city, and Cuzco is a Quechuan one. Cuzco is South America's oldest continuously inhabited city. This ancient city was once the capital of the Inca empire, and many residents are of Quechuan (native Peruvian) descent. The Inca civilization permeates the city, with huge stone walls, narrow stepped streets, and a colonial atmosphere. I visited Cuzco on a land tour of Peru that also included time at Machu Picchu, Lima, and in the Sacred Valley.
The main plaza in all Peruvian cities is called the Plaza de Armas, and Cuzco is no different. Cuzco's Plaza de Armas is surrounded by colonial arcades, and two cathedrals face each other across the square. Since Cuzco is a major tourist mecca, there are plenty of activities for all interests. In addition to touring Inca ruins, churches, museums, and colonial building, visitors can go hiking, trekking, river rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, bird watching, or even skiing.
Shopping for handicrafts made by local artisans is also a popular activity in Cuzco. The Plaza San Blas and the streets leading to it from the Plaza de Armas are the best places to shop in Cuzco. You can also watch the artisans at work in the Plaza San Blas area. The market near the Machu Picchu train station sells mostly food and household products, so it is not a good place to look for local crafts.
After dinner most people go to bed early to rest up for a tour the the next day to Machu Picchu.