Machu Picchu Travel

Historical City Center

Historical City Center

If you’re planning a trip to Peru, you surely have heard about the famous White City or even about the Colca Canyon, one of deepest canyons in the world. Otherwise, here you’ll learn everything about this authentic travel destination.

Arequipa is a city located in the Peruvian highlands, a mystical place surrounded by imposing natural wonders, with a great cultural and historical heritage. It is the second largest city in Peru and one of the most important since colonial times.

The Spanish influence can be experienced from every corner of the city, where towering religious buildings and cobbled stone streets harmonize with the surrounding volcanoes that guard the so-called White City.

To put you in context, the Spaniards managed to use a volcanic stone called Sillar Blanco, or white ashlar in English. These carved stones are part of almost all the historic center of Arequipa, which is why it’s now known as the White City of Peru.

Therefore, the old town itself is an authentic urban scenery, one of the most astonishing in the country, without leaving Cusco behind. If you’re visiting Peru and would love to see a place full of uniqueness, then Arequipa should be your N° 1 option.

The Historic Centre of Arequipa holds over 500 historical monuments of great architectural style, which some of them date back to the 18th century. For that reason, this famous old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. 

Would you like to learn more about it? Here we have listed some of the most important attractions within Arequipa’s city center.

Attractions in Arequipa’s Old Town

1. Plaza de Armas
Arequipa’s main square defines the heart of the old town, it is surrounded by three large portals made entirely of granite, as well as the Catedral de Arequipa, La Compañia de Jesus Church, and Nuestra Señora de la Merced Church.

The city of Arequipa was founded in 1540, and as the Spanish conquerors started the construction of the city, the main square was one of its first structures. Just like most colonial centers in Peru, the city was thoughtfully distributed around it since it was the main public space of the area.

In addition to the sillar constructions on its surroundings, the Plaza de Armas holds a central water fountain made entirely of bronze. This beautiful artwork has a statue of a gnome holding a trumpet called “Tuturutu,” which is thought to represent a soldier of the XVI century, though some other theories claim that it was an official messenger during Inca times.

2. Cathedral of Arequipa
It is the principal church in the city and one of the first religious monuments in Arequipa. The construction took around 15 years, and it was completed in 1656. 

The Cathedral of Arequipa is one of those sillar examplaries worth visiting, its whole structure is made entirely of White Ashlar and it presents Neo-Renaissance styles with some Gothic influences. 

However, as Arequipa is situated in a region of great seismic activity, the Cathedral has been struck by many earthquakes since then. Luckily, the structure remained intact but some parts were severely damaged but eventually reconstructed.

This historical and religious monument is surely the most beautiful of the region thanks to its authentic architectural style, characterized for its 60-column facade, portals and side arches.

3. Santa Teresa Virreinal Art Museum
The San Jose and Santa Teresa Monastery of the Barefoot Carmelite Sisters holds a collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, and even more objects that date back to 300 years ago. 

It wasn’t until 2005 that they opened their doors to the public, offering a glimpse at the extensive history of the convent and the cultural development of the region during virreinal times.

The museum is organized by several galleries, while keeping some rooms in their original disposition, as the exact way they used them during those times. Also, the site itself can be referred to as a live museum, since many ambients are nearly intact and serve the same purpose they did over three centuries ago.

The Santa Teresa Virreinal Art Museum exhibits over 300 pieces and it’s one of the most important things to do in Arequipa. If you’re eager to know the other side of our history, then this is surely the way to go!

4. Monasterio de Santa Catalina
This religious tourist attraction is considered a masterpiece of the colonial era. It dates back to the XVI century and extends to 20,000 km2. The monastery remained as a cloistered convent that housed over 300 nuns until 1970 when the convent opened its doors to the public light.

The Santa Catalina Monastery is known as the city within the city due to its massive extension. However, part of this building is closed to public transit since some nuns still live in the northern area of the complex.

The site remains a paid tourist attraction and it’s open from Monday to Sunday. It is located at walking distance from the main square of Arequipa. Would you like to know more about this colonial gem? Check this Santa Catalina Monastery blog we have for you.

5. Yanahuara Viewpoint
This viewpoint offers an incredible view of the city and its surroundings, including the Misti and Chachani Volcanoes, two of the three mounts that guard the White City.

It is located 17 kilometers away from the main square in the Yanahuara neighborhood, one of the oldest suburbs in Arequipa and a National Cultural Heritage since 1972. The Yanahuara Viewpoint is composed of a series of portals made entirely of white ashlar.

The famous Yanahuara Viewpoint in Arequipa was founded in 1750, just next to the San Juan de Yanahuara Church. If you’re visiting this attraction from the main square, you’ll be captivated by its cobbled stone streets and old sillar houses. Make sure to visit it at dusk, the view will leave you spellbound to its magic.

How to Visit the Historic Center of Arequipa?

For those eager to know the beautiful colonial scenery of Arequipa, we highly recommend you taking a guided tour through its attraction. That way, you won’t miss any details regarding this astonishing old town.

Luckily for you, we have a special city tour that will take you to the most beautiful historicals monuments in town. Also, this would be the perfect way to get to know the touristic part of the city, perfect to get around while on your own.

The Arequipa City Tour will let you experience the city in a more intimate way, passing by the beautiful Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral of Arequipa and even the Santa Catalina Monastery, without forgetting about the Yanahuara viewpoint and other significant attractions.

If you’d like to join this experience, make sure to contact our travel specialists, they’ll help you with any inquiry you may have as well as helping you organize the best travel itinerary.

Arequipa is a region full of natural wonders, history and culture, which is why we'd love to show you everything about it. If you would like to know more about the famous White City, here you have a blog about the top things to do in Arequipa.

Would you like to know more about Peru? Here you’ll find all the information you need for your trip. Our local expert team has prepared the most complete informative guides for you! Also, if you’re eager to know Peru at its fullest, check our travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu