Most of Trujillo’s wonderful Colonial and Republican buildings are to be found within a few blocks of the central square, the Plaza de Armas, and so it makes an ideal location to explore on foot.
Please note that many of the noteworthy establishments are privately-owned, and lack regular opening hours, so a stroll through this historic town requires a sense of flexibility and adventure.
Alternatively, going with a certified guide will open doors and provide historical background.
Start at the aforementioned Plaza de Armas, one of the largest and most relaxed in Peru. On Friday and Saturday nights, the municipal band entertains with live music, and on Sunday mornings, the ceremonial flag-raising might include Peruvian paso horses or a marinera dance performance.
Created by German sculptor Edmund Moeller (1885 -1958), the massive marble statue of La Libertad was erected to celebrate the department’s centenary and dominates the square. Buildings painted in bright pastels look on to the plaza from all sides.
The relatively unadorned Cathedral, a replacement for earlier churches, dates from 1666 and contains the Cathedral Museum, which exhibits religious canvases and liturgical clothing.
Next door, the Archbishop’s Palace - restored and opened to the public in 2007 - has a superb courtyard surrounded by three walls, covered in 17th-century Seville tiles.
In the Plaza’s southern corner, the 19th-century Municipalidad, where Trujillo declared independence from Spain in 1820, houses the city offices.
Nearby, the elegant Casa de Urquiaga, now the Banco Central de la Reserva, once accommodated the liberator, Simon Bolivar, whose writing desk and personal objects are on display along with gold and ceramics from several cultures. The three interior courtyards are typical of early Trujillo construction, although the present structure, beautifully restored, dates mainly to the 19th century.
If you walk up the pedestrian Pizarro Street, from the Plaza, you soon come to La Merced Church, which has a small courtyard fronting the Superior Court. Rebuilt in 1630, this church is among Trujillo’s oldest buildings and boasts a baroque facade and superb cupola.
Continuing up Pizarro Street, you soon come across Casa de la Emancipacion, where Trujillo’s leaders once prepared the city’s declaration of independence, and which now houses Banco Continental offices and features photographs of celebrated local poet Cesar Vallejo (1892 - 1938), changing displays of local art, and free cultural events.
Painted gun-metal grey, Iturregui Palace, now home to the traditional Club Central, is a 19th-century mansion celebrated for its marble statues, interior window ironwork, and delicate columns. You are allowed into the courtyard, and can peer into the plush, old-fashioned rooms of the club.
At the end of Pizarro Street's pedestrian section, you come to Plazuela El Recreo, a petite plaza containing a fountain built by Eiffel (that was originally in the Plaza de Armas) and a stone gateway which was once the northern exit out of town.
Remnants of the old city wall, built in 1687 to protect the residents from pirates, and water distribution system are visible here.
Returning back towards the Plaza de Armas along Bolivar Street, the Monasterio El Carmen occupies a whole block. This cloistered, early-18th-century Carmelite nunnery and Baroque church contains some of Trujillo’s best Colonial art and an admirable, gilded altar.
Turn right onto Colon Street, and then left onto Independencia Street, to visit the Toy Museum. Located up a narrow staircase, this small and eclectic private collection includes 150 examples of children’s toys, ranging from ancient Moche rattles to 19th-century lead soldiers ... and an eerie room full of dolls. It is a surreal, but enjoyable, experience!
If in need of refreshment, the Cafe-Bar Chez Gerard, directly beneath the museum, is an atmospheric French-inspired venue, filled with photos, posters and memorabilia from Trujillo's artistic community of the past 100 years.
Continue down Independencia Street to the Casa Ganoza Chopitea. A hotch-potch of different styles and colours, the building features a Baroque entrance, Rococo facade, Moorish balcony, and a 19th-century wrought-iron window. Of the three traditional inner courtyards, the first two are original. Contemporary art may be on show when you visit.
Two more blocks and you are back at the Plaza de Armas.