If you’re passing through Arequipa, definitely take time to experience the city’s unique plazas and neighborhoods. And if you’re not sure where to start, here is a summary of our favorites after living in this lovely city for two years.
What’s in a plaza?
In much of Latin America, plazas are an integral part of the culture, and Peru is no exception. You’ll most often find a cathedral towering over these sun-drenched squares, which serve as gathering places for friends, families, and community events.
Plaza las Americas
Plaza las Americas is located in Cerro Colorado, which is a very active Arequipeño neighborhood. This park is always bustling with people going to and from work, children playing, and people chatting with friends or loved ones. The park is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and food carts, and there is a market nearby. This cozy plaza has a lot of shade and flowers. It’s dedicated to all of the Americas, north, south, and central, and there’s a large globe highlighting these regions along with all of their flags blowing in the wind. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and sit in the shade to people watch.
Plaza de Cayma
Right off of busy Avendida Cayma and named for the neighborhood, Plaza Cayma is a good place to rest or visit with friends. Even with the busy street traffic, the plaza has a stillness that is peaceful. Though there’s not much shade against the harsh Arequipa sun, it’s a beautiful square filled with flowers and surrounded by beautiful buildings made of white volcanic rock, and the view of Misti Volcano and Chachani Volcano is amazing. In the evenings, Plaza Cayma seems to come alive. If you’re able to make it during this time of day, be sure to keep a lookout for the city’s best pop-up food cart, which serves anticucho and bunuelos and is located just a few blocks from the square.
Yanahuara is one of Arequipa’s oldest neighborhoods, and Plaza Yanahuara is, in our opinion, one of the prettiest plazas in the city. There are two connected plazas that both have huge, well-kept palm trees, flowers, cacti, and plenty of grass. There are benches in the shade of the palms, which are great places for sitting and chatting with friends and family. This is why you’ll notice that many people come here to rest or to bring their dogs to play. It’s also common for people to come in order to take professional photographs. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants surrounding the two squares, and there are a constant stream of events, day and night, such as children’s programs, music, and dancing. Situated on a hill, the Mirador de Yanahuara overlooks the city and Misti Volcano, and is certainly a sight to see. There’s also a Pisco and Wine Museum, and you can buy souvenirs by the mirador (overlook).
Plaza Campo Redondo (San Lazaro)
Located in El Cercado, tucked away off picturesque, narrow streets, you’ll find Plaza Campo Redondo in the San Lazaro neighborhood. San Lazaro is another very old area in Arequipa, many of its buildings dating back to the early 1900s. This a very small plaza, but it has a lot to offer. It definitely caters to a trendy crowd with cool restaurants and a nightlife. There are a few hotels, a craft brewpub, some outdoor seating for the restaurants, and some benches by the big tree overlooking the plaza. This is a good place to sit, relax, grab a meal, and take in the beautiful architecture of Arequipa’s central district.
Plaza San Francisco
Plaza San Francisco is also located in El Cercado just a few blocks from the main plaza. Plaza San Francisco has more of a local scene with a lot of people taking a break to eat their lunch in the shade of the church, and there always seems to be children playing near the unique fountain. This plaza has a walking street where vendors sell fresh fruit, and it’s also where the Museum of the City is located. While locals frequent this park, there are also a ton of souvenir shops on the walking street and in the area. This is a nice spot to relax in the shade. It’s still in the hustle and bustle of downtown, but a little more laid-back.
Plaza de Armas
The crowning plaza of the city, Plaza de Armas, is in the heart of the city. Arequipa is nicknamed “The White City”, and once you see the main plaza, you will understand why. The main cathedral of the city, La Catedral de Arequipa, overlooks the plaza on one side, and the other three sides of the plaza are lined with arches, all made of the white volcanic rock that Arequipa is famous for. Locals and tourists, alike, hang out around the plaza to rest on a bench, watch some pigeons, or just take in the sights. There are frequent events in Plaza de Armas, such as book festivals, cultural festivals, and music, and there is no through traffic around the square. There are tall palms and flowering trees to create shade, but spots out of the sun are hard to come by due to the popularity of the city’s main plaza. Day or night, this is the place to go to find restaurants, tours, souvenirs, or anything your heart desires.
When you’re passing through Arequipa, definitely check out a few of these beautiful plazas, relax, and take in the culture of the city.