Arequipa is the most significantly important city in Peru, where its cobbled-stone streets and colonial mansions tell the never-told history of our country. For that reason, the city holds a variety of museums and cultural centers worth visiting.
The so-called White City was one of the principal Spanish settlements during the colonial era, which is why the entire old town has the authentic characteristics of that time. Each colonial building in Arequipa’s Historical City Center holds a history behind their actual purpose, making it historically important to the entire region.
The city center is composed of over 600 historical monuments and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Likewise, the museums look to preserve all of that heritage acquired by the Spanish conquest and the fusion with pre-Columbian civilizations.
Therefore, if you’re eager to know another side to Peruvian history, you should definitely come to Arequipa. Some historical attractions like the Monasterio de Santa Catalina or the colonial mansion Casa del Moral are living relics of this transitioning period from our past.
Just in case you haven’t made up your mind yet, we have listed four of the most important museums in Arequipa that you can’t miss. Continue reading and learn everything about these places so you can start planning your history route through Peru!
This important museum is located in one of the oldest neighborhoods within the city of Arequipa, in a colonial mansion that dates back to the founding of the city. The MAC Arequipa was born out of the initiative to preserve and portray the artistic heritage of Arequipa.
The Contemporary Art Museum has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and more that are traced back to the 1900s until the current date. That way, the museum looks to study the different art expressions and the evolution of them over the years. This art hub is composed of three galleries:
Room 1: Masters of Paintings
Peru has counted with important artists whose works have enriched the renovation of national painting in the first half of the XX century. This exhibition looks to portray the different trends, styles and pictorial techniques of renowned painters such as: Carlos Baca Flor, Jorge Vinatea Reinoso, Teodoro Núñez Ureta, Camilo Blas, Teresa Carballo, among others.
Room 2: Photography in Arequipa, Vargas Brothers
Peruvian photography has achieved and presents a prevailing role in artistic development, where one can experience an intimate relation to history, society and architecture through its extensive records.
This gallery looks to exhibit the work of the Vargas brothers, who have made an important photography study that marked an era for this artistic development in 1911.
This room looks to exhibit the ever-evolving national cultural and artistic expression in Peru with artworks of renowned Arequipeñans and Limeñans artists. Each of them is recognized for their authentic techniques in paintings and sculptures.
The Santa Teresa Virreinal Art Museum holds the oldest collection of artworks from the XVI to the XIX century in Peru. This gallery exhibits hundreds of pieces such as sculptures, paintings, furniture and other objects from different times, origin and artistic styles.
The museum is part of a 310-year-old religious structure called the Monasterio de las Carmelitas Descalzas de San José, also known as Santa Teresa, founded in 1710. The extensive collection was part of the decorative pieces held in this ancient monastery, gathered during the past 300 years.
However, the site was a mystery to many since it wasn’t until 2005 that they opened their doors to the public, showing just a part of the monastery and leaving the rest to the eye of the devout nuns that still live in this location.
The famous live museum is one of the perfect examples of colonial architecture since it has maintained the usability of its rooms just as they were over 300 years ago. At noon, the convent closes some spaces so the nuns can ring the bells to start their daily ceremony, an incredible experience that can only be heard from the outside.
If you’ve been following our Arequipa travel guide, you must know about the most significant temple of the White City, the Cathedral of Arequipa. This religious building is the first ever constructed in the city since it was built in the 17th century, four years after Arequipa’s foundation.
Nonetheless, the cathedral suffered great damage over the years, though it was reconstructed almost immediately. Nowadays, it is one of the most important religious constructions thanks to its authentic neo-renaissance architectural style with goth touches.
Likewise, this famous construction also holds one of the oldest collections of catholic art since the XVII century. The museum was founded with the mission to educate and inform of the religious development in the region, as well as portraying the 400-year history in a city built under its catholic faith.
The Museo de la Catedral de Arequipa holds over 250 pieces and the second largest organ in South America. If you wish to learn more about the religious side of our country, this is the way to start.
La Recoleta Museum is another catholic construction that dates back to 1648, though it remained closed to the public until the 20th century, also founding one of the most important museums in Arequipa.
The museum holds an extensive collection exhibited in five themed galleries, where two of them are entirely dedicated to the Amazon basin, also known as the “Amazonic Museum.” Other two are dedicated to pre-Columbian civilizations, such as the Chancay, Inca Chimú, Mochica, Churajón cultures among others.
The last gallery is called “Religious Art Museum” that, as the name indicates, holds a great collection of religious artwork along with other art pieces belonging to the Cuzqueñan and Arequipeñan Schools. Likewise, it also holds one of the most important libraries, with over 25,000 books that date back from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
These are a few of the many popular museums in Arequipa. If you wish more information about other galleries and exhibitions, please check our Arequipa travel guide.
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.
Planning a trip couldn’t be easier if you have the necessary information. If you want to visit Arequipa or any other region in Peru, please contact our local expert team, they will surely help you with any inquiry you may have. Dare to uniquely uncover the secrets of our lands with Viagens Machu Picchu.