Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (1200s-1532). Many believe that the city was planned to be shaped like a puma. The city had two sectors: the urin and hanan, which were further divided to each encompass two of the four provinces, Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Qontisuyu (SW) and Collasuyu (SE). A road led from each of these quarters to the corresponding quarter of the empire. Each local leader was required to build a house in the city and live part of the year in Cusco, but only in the quarter of Cusco that corresponded to the quarter of the empire in which he had territory. After Pachacuti, when an Inca died his title went to one son and his property was given to a corporation controlled by his other relatives (a process called split inheritance), so each title holder had to build a new house and add new lands to the empire, in order to own the land his family needed to maintain after his death.
According to Inca legend, the city was built by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cusco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire of Tahuantinsuyu. But archaeological evidence points to a slower, more organic growth of the city beginning before Pachacuti. There was however a city plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city.
The city fell to the sphere of Huáscar in the division of the empire after the death of Huayna Capac in 1527. It was captured by the generals of Atahualpa in April 1532 in the Battle of Quipaipan, and nineteen months later by the Spaniards (see battle of Cuzco).
The first Spaniards arrived in the city on November 15 1533. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro officially discovered Cusco on March 23 1534, naming it the "Very noble and great city of Cusco". The many buildings constructed after the Spanish conquest are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas barrios. The Spanish undertook the construction of a new city on the foundations of the old Inca city, replacing temples with churches and palaces with mansions for the conquerors. During the colony, Cusco was very prosperous thanks to the agriculture, cattle raising, mining as well as the trade with Spain. This allowed the construction of many churches and convents, and even a cathedral, university and Archbishopric. Often, Spanish buildings were juxtaposed atop the massive stone walls built by the Inca.
A major earthquake in 1950 badly destroyed the Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). The city's Inca architecture, however, withstood the earthquake. Many of the old Inca walls were thought to have been lost after the earthquake, but the granite walls of the Coricancha were exposed, as well as many walls throughout the city. While some wanted to restore the buildings to their colonial splendor, a contingent of Cusco citizens urged city officials to retain the exposed walls. Eventually they won out. Cusco was also hit by a major earthquake in 1650.
Thanks to remodelling, Cusco's main stadium, Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega, attracted many more tourists during South America's continental soccer championship, the Copa América 2004 held in Peru. The stadium is home to one of the country's most successful soccer clubs, Cienciano. Cusco's local team has made a name for itself in the world of club soccer, as it has won several international competitions in South America, although it has yet to achieve such success in its home country. Nonetheless, it is still considered to be one of the best teams in Peru. The team is strongly supported throughout Cusco; men without a set at home will stand in the street and watch the game on televisions in shop windows. Tickets are sought-after and buying them entails long queueing.
The city is served by Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport.
Cusco was found in 2006 to be the spot on Earth with the highest ultraviolet light level.
As headquarters to the Inca Empire, Cusco was an important agricultural region and a natural reserve for thousands of native Peruvian species, including hundreds of potato varieties.
More recently, thanks to Peruvian and foreign cooks, Cusco has begun to offer many fusion and neo-Andean restaurants in which the cuisine, prepared with modern techniques and incorporating a blend of traditional Andean and international ingredients, delivers an innovative, exciting dining experience.. Cusco is one of the Andean cities in which visitors can taste many spices, of different origins, and agricultural produce, mostly organic, treated and grown in environmental friendly and traditional ways, frequently using ancient techniques such as the "Chaquitaclla" (foot plough)..