With centuries upon centuries of history and shifting cultures to share, Peru is home to more museums than you could possibly squeeze into one Peru trip. For this reason, we’ve pulled together a list of our top picks for the must-visit museums in Peru, with recommendations for each of the regions you’re most likely to visit on your Peru tour, plus one you may have never even considered before. Let’s dive in!
1. Larco Museum
Home to the world’s largest private collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, the Larco Museum in Lima is deservedly at the top of this list of must-visit museums in Peru. Nestled inside of an elegant 18th century vice-royal building with a gorgeous garden and patio restaurant, this Lima museum has an air of warmth and hospitality to it. Its collections and open-to-the-public storerooms walk you through 5,000 years of ancient Peruvian history featuring more than 45,000 ceramics, jewelry, and yes, even erotic pottery, that each culture left behind.
2. MATE Museum
Situated in the heart of Barranco in Lima, the MATE Museum takes you inside the world and work of Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino. Relatively new to Lima’s art and cultural scene, the MATE gallery opened in 2012 with the aim of bringing Peruvian art and culture to the world’s attention. The gallery features the best of contemporary art and photography, including many of Testino’s own celebrity portraits and inspiring collections, like Alta Moda – a series of photographs featuring women from the high Andes wearing their colorful traditional dress.
3. Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (MAP)
The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Cusco offers yet another glimpse into Peru’s pre-Columbian past through its collection of artifacts dating back 3,000 years. Housed in the historic Casa Cabrera, a colonial-era mansion located in the Las Nazarenas square of Cusco, the museum’s 10 rooms feature roughly 400 pieces of pre-Columbian art, materials, and tools curated from the Larco Museum’s vast collection in Lima. Fun Fact: Some scholars believe the building that houses the MAP was originally used as a school for the children of Inca nobility.
4. Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán
The Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán is home to the treasures found in one of Peru’s most important archaeological discoveries – the tomb of a Mochica royal known as the Lord of Sipán. Built to resemble the pyramid-shaped tombs of the Mochica Culture, this museum in northern Peru is a trove of thousand-year-old gold and silver objects, jewels, ceramics and carved wood artifacts. In other words, it’s well worth the trip to North Peru for a chance to lay eyes on all of it firsthand.
5. Convent of Santa Catalina
If you visit just one museum during your visit to Arequipa, let it be the picturesque Convent of Santa Catalina. Founded in 1579, some consider it to be the most important religious monument in Peru and a perfect example of vice-royal architecture. Its scenic passageways, plazas, and cloisters are as photo-worthy as they are brimming with stories from the days when more than 200 nuns lived sequestered within its walls. While it is still a functioning religious complex, it’s better known today as one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Arequipa.