Attractions and things to do for history buffs in Trujillo, Peru

Welcome to Trujillo, Peru, a city rich in history and filled with captivating tourist attractions. Trujillo boasts an abundance of cultural treasures and archaeological wonders, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.

Explore the remnants of the Chimu culture at the ruins surrounding Trujillo, offering a glimpse into ancient civilizations. Stroll through the charming Plaza de Armas, adorned with the impressive Freedom Monument, and discover the architectural marvels like the Cathedral of Trujillo and its accompanying Cathedral Museum.

Trujillo’s cultural heritage continues to shine through its historic landmarks, including the Trujillo Town Hall, Casa Urquiaga, Teatro Municipal de Trujillo, La Casa de La Emancipación, and the National University of Trujillo’s old campus.

The city’s past comes alive as you visit Palacio Iturregui, Iglesia de la Merced, and Iglesia y Monasterio El Carmen, each holding captivating stories from different periods. Don’t miss the peaceful oasis of Plazuela El Recreo and the enchanting Toy Museum (Museo del Juguete), the first of its kind in Latin America.

Trujillo offers an unforgettable journey through time, blending history, architecture, and cultural marvels, creating an experience that will leave you inspired and enriched.

A brief history of Trujillo

Trujillo, Peru, has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. The region at the mouth of the Moche River served as a center for successive pre-European cultures along the northern coast of Peru. Archaeological evidence indicates that as early as 4700 BC, the area was occupied, with significant cultures like Cupisnique, Moche, and Chimu emerging.

The Cupisnique culture left its mark at sites like Caballo Muerto and Huaca Prieta. The Moche civilization, from AD 100 to 800, was particularly notable, with the Temples of the Sun and Moon, Huaca del Dragón, and Huaca Esmeralda as its key sites. Their society was agriculture-based, and their artifacts showcased scenes of hunting, fishing, fighting, elaborate ceremonies, and more.

The Chimu culture established its capital at Chan Chan, a few kilometers west of present day Trujillo, the largest pre-Columbian adobe city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an estimated population of 100,000 at its peak, Chan Chan served as the primary settlement for the Chimu people.

In 1534, Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area and founded Trujillo, initially named Trujillo of New Castile after the home city of Francisco Pizarro. It was built near four Chimu settlements: Huanchaco, Huamán, Moche, and Mampuesto. The city quickly thrived, with an economy driven by the cultivation of sugar cane, wheat, and other crops, as well as livestock farming.

During the colonial era, Trujillo experienced significant growth and became an essential city in Northern Peru. It welcomed various religious orders, leading to the construction of numerous churches during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Trujillo played a significant role in Peru’s early republic, declaring its independence from Spain in 1820. For a brief period, it became the first capital city of the Republic of Peru and twice served as the seat of government.

Over time, Trujillo faced challenges such as earthquakes and flooding, but it managed to regain prominence due to economic growth and the emergence of new economic enclaves like the Moche and Chicama valleys.

In the 20th century, Trujillo’s metropolitan area expanded through rural-to-urban migration and the consolidation of surrounding districts. The city evolved into a dynamic metropolis, attracting a considerable population and becoming an essential center in Peru.

Trujillo’s history is a tapestry of ancient civilizations, Spanish colonization, revolutionary movements, and urban expansion, making it a vibrant and historically significant city in Peru.

Chimu culture ruins around Trujillo

The city of Trujillo, Peru, is rich in cultural heritage, particularly with the presence of ancient Chimu culture sites in and around the area. The Chimu civilization flourished in the region from approximately 900 AD to 1470 AD before being conquered by the Inca Empire.

Among the most significant Chimu sites is the Chan Chan archaeological complex, located just a few kilometers west from Trujillo. Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimu Empire and is the largest adobe city in the world, consisting of intricately designed palaces, plazas, and temples.

Another remarkable site is Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, imposing pyramid temples situated near the city. Huaca Esmeralda displays marine life and ceremonial cups. Huaca del Dragón (Huaca Arcoíris) features embossed figures, including the enigmatic rainbow symbol, revealing Chimu rituals. Pampa la Cruz is a mass burial site with over 200 child victims, offering insight into Chimu child sacrifices.

These Chimu culture sites provide valuable insights into the art, architecture, and daily life of this ancient civilization, captivating both historians and tourists who visit Trujillo to marvel at the enduring wonders of the Chimu legacy.

Plaza de Armas of Trujillo

Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas, the main square where the Spanish foundation of the city took place in northern Peru, holds significant historical importance in the republic era. It is situated in the central zone of the Historic Centre of Trujillo and is surrounded by prominent buildings such as the Municipality Palace and the Cathedral.

The square, formed by the Pizarro, Independencia, Orbegoso, and Almagro streets, was witness to the proclamation of Trujillo’s independence on December 29, 1820, by the Marquis of Torre Tagle.

Notable landmarks in the square include a white stone fountain donated in 1841 and the Freedom Monument unveiled in the middle of the square on July 4, 1929. Other important attractions here are the Municipality Palace, the House of Regional Identity, the Cathedral Museum, and the Libertador Hotel.

Important celebrations and ceremonies, like Corpus Christi in June and the Festival de la Marinera in January, take place at the Plaza de Armas, making it a symbol of Trujillo’s cultural heritage.

The Freedom Monument

The Monument to Liberty is a public sculpture designed by Edmund Möller between 1921 and 1929, located in the center of Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas.

The city of Trujillo achieved independence on December 29, 1820, when Marqués de Torre Tagle proclaimed independence for the Intendancy of Trujillo, which belonged to the Viceroyalty of Peru at the time.

This event inspired the authorities to honor their ancestors in marble. The idea, already embraced by the elite, was supported by regional deputy Enrique Marquina, who obtained a special law during the Congress of the North in 1899.

A commission was formed, including the prefect, the rector of the National University of Trujillo, the President of the Superior Court of Justice of La Libertad, the Mayor of the province of Trujillo, and other authorities, to oversee the construction of the Monument to Liberty at the center of Plaza de Armas.

In 1921, the guidelines for the monument’s construction contest were established, inviting both national and foreign artists to participate. Out of 104 submitted models, the chosen one was by German artist Edmund Möeller as it best symbolized the historical significance of the libertarian movement, the first one to emerge in Peru.

The sculptor was awarded a prize of 1000 pounds, and arrangements were made for Möeller to come to Peru and create the monument. His work was considered daring in its conception. Möeller described the model after laying the cornerstone on May 10, 1925.

The agreement with Möeller to cover the construction cost was 250,000 Soles de Oro, and the monument was built in Germany. After four years, one month, and 25 days, the monument was inaugurated on July 4, 1929, with Augusto B. Leguía, the President of the Republic, and his daughter Carmen Rosa Leguía Swayne serving as godparents.

The monument consists of three parts. The first is on a circular platform with pedestals, supported by a granite base, featuring sculptures representing art, science, commerce, and health.

The second part has three robust statues: one of a crouching man symbolizing oppression or slavery, another with arms back representing the emancipatory struggle, and a third with raised arms and clenched fists symbolizing liberation.

The third part features plaques commemorating the proclamation of Trujillo’s independence by José Bernardo de Torre Tagle on December 29, 1820; the Battle of Junín, and the Battle of Ayacucho.

Cathedral of Trujillo

The Trujillo Cathedral, also called the Cathedral Basilica of Santa María, is the main church in Trujillo, Peru, with construction spanning 1647 to 1666. Despite facing destruction by earthquakes, it was eventually designated as a “Minor Basilica” in 1967.

Originally a modest mother church established during Trujillo’s foundation in the 16th century, it went through reconstruction efforts led by Bartolomé de las Cuevas and Francisco de Soto Ríos, completed by Francisco Balboa in 1666.

Inside, the cathedral boasts an understated yet elegant interior, featuring Rococo and Baroque altarpieces adorned in white and gold, and preserving canvases from the Cusco school of painting.

Notably, the “exempt” main altarpiece is freestanding, showcasing the lavish Churrigueresque baroque style lavished in gold leaf. Only two such altarpieces exist in Peru, one residing in the Trujillo Cathedral and the other in the Cusco Cathedral.

The cathedral’s interior is adorned with stunning paintings on its vault and dome, earning it the moniker “Sistine Chapel” or “Vatican of the Coast,” akin to the Church of San Pedro de Andahuaylillas in Cusco known as the “Sistine Chapel” or “Vatican of the Andes.”

Additionally, the Cathedral Museum houses a collection of religious works from the colonial era, showcasing the region’s artistry in gold and silver. This architectural masterpiece stands as a symbol of historical and artistic significance in Trujillo’s rich heritage.

The Cathedral Museum

The museum located near the Trujillo Cathedral exhibits religious artworks, paintings, and religious vestments dating back to the colonial period in Peru. Founded on December 29, 1987, the Cathedral Museum houses a collection of religious artifacts made of gold and silver from the viceregal era.

Within the museum, you can find a diverse array of objects linked to liturgy, religious carvings, and paintings from the colonial period. Notable among the exhibits are two canvases: “The Denial of Saint Peter” and a portrait of “Saint John the Baptist.”

The architectural features of the building include a decorated ceiling with polychrome beams, and the crypt is adorned with mural paintings depicting the apostles.

The museum is divided into six sections, each offering unique insights into the religious and artistic history of the region. In the first section, visitors can view the reliquary where Pope John Paul II held a mass during his visit to Trujillo in 1985.

The second section showcases custodias (religious containers) honoring the patron saint, San Valentín. The third section displays the places where Catholic religious figures were buried.

Moving on, the fourth section features 13 canvases by anonymous painters from the 17th and 18th centuries. The fifth section presents decorative murals surrounding the crypt, featuring funerary themes. Finally, the sixth section houses ancient canvases depicting themes related to Christian martyrs and decapitations during the Roman era.

The collection of religious artifacts and artwork provides a unique glimpse into the spiritual and cultural practices that have shaped the history of the region. With its rich collection and historical context, the museum stands as a testament to the city’s profound religious heritage and artistic legacy.

The Trujillo Town Hall

The Trujillo Town Hall building, is an elegant and historically significant structure that reflects the city’s rich heritage. Constructed in the 19th century, the building boasts a striking neoclassical architectural style, adding to its allure and charm.

As a municipal administrative center, the Trujillo Town Hall played a pivotal role in governing the city and the surrounding region. Throughout its history, the building has witnessed important political events and has been a hub of activity for local governance.

However, like many historical buildings in the region, the Trujillo Town Hall faced its fair share of challenges. In 1970, the city was struck by a devastating earthquake that caused considerable damage to the building, leading to the loss of its third floor. Despite this setback, the resilient spirit of Trujillo persevered, and the town hall was partially restored, preserving its neoclassical façade.

Today, the Trujillo Town Hall still stands as an architectural gem and a symbol of the city’s history.  The interior of the building houses administrative offices and spaces where public services are provided, offering a glimpse into the city’s current governance.

Casa Urquiaga

Casa Urquiaga, also known as Casa Calonge, is a neoclassical-style house located in central Trujillo. Situated on Jr. Francisco Pizarro, along the southeastern flank of Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor), it is easily accessible by taxis and public buses.

Originally constructed in the 16th century and later rebuilt in the 19th century, Casa Urquiaga’s façade stands out with its neoclassical-style wooden doorway, Doric columns, and wrought-iron windows. The interior boasts three courtyards adorned with stately columns.

Today, Casa Urquiaga serves as the headquarters of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru and also houses a museum. The museum showcases a remarkable collection of pre-Inca, colonial, and republican artifacts. Among the collection are Chimú adornments, mahogany furniture, and ceramic pieces donated by Simón Bolívar.

Notable highlights within the house include magnificent French porcelain, exquisite chandeliers, and antique mirrors in the dining room, creating an atmosphere of grandeur and elegance. The museum’s antiquities collection is particularly impressive, featuring gold Chavín necklaces and ornamental pieces from the Chimú civilization, crafted in gold.

Casa Urquiaga, with its rich historical heritage and cultural significance, offers visitors a glimpse into the past, displaying a diverse array of artifacts that reflect Peru’s diverse and ancient civilizations. Its neoclassical architecture and well-preserved interiors make it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking to explore Trujillo’s fascinating past.

Teatro Municipal de Trujillo

The Teatro Municipal de Trujillo is a historical theater situated in the heart of Trujillo’s historic center, Peru. Acquired by the municipality on January 10, 1876, the theater has a seating capacity of 408 and has been an integral part of the city’s cultural activities for over 130 years. It has hosted a diverse range of cultural events, featuring performances by both national and international artists.

However, on February 21, 1910, tragedy struck when a massive fire caused by the explosion of a film projection machine reduced the Teatro Municipal de Trujillo to ashes. The devastating incident plunged the entire city, and the nation as a whole, into mourning.

Despite the loss, the municipality quickly constituted a reconstruction committee for the theater, led by various individuals including José María Fernández, Dr. Elías Iturri, Alfonso Carrillo, Dr. Jesús Elías Lizarzaburu, and Ramón Moreno. Notably, Enrique C. Marquina played a pivotal role in securing funds for the reconstruction through legislation.

The reconstruction process, which spanned 13 years, was spearheaded by architect Daniel Guerra. Finally, in 1923, as part of the centennial celebrations of Peru’s independence, the Teatro Municipal de Trujillo reopened its doors. The inaugural function was a grand affair, drawing significant public interest and the attendance of high-profile families.

Over the years, the theater underwent various renovations and changes, adapting to the evolving cultural landscape of Trujillo. It became a symbol of cultural preservation and a hub for artistic expression and appreciation.

La Casa de La Emancipación

La Casa de La Emancipación, holds a significant place in history as the site where Torre Tagle orchestrated the independence of Trujillo on December 29, 1820. It served as the seat of the constitutional congress and the government palace during Riva Agüero’s presidency.

Today, it houses cultural exhibitions and a museum and is located just one block away from the Plaza de Armas, at the intersection of Jirón Gamarra and Jirón Pizarro.

Originally owned by Don Tiburcio Urquiaga, the Casa de La Emancipación’s entrance hall murals date back to the 19th century and were crafted by an Indian artist who assembled engravings from Bishop Martinez Compañon.

It served as the venue for the First Constitutional Congress and was once the residence of the former Peruvian president, José de la Riva-Agüero. The house underwent restoration in 1840, during which it acquired its present neoclassical style. The architectural beauty of the house lies in its symmetrical courtyards and harmoniously arranged rooms, adorned with lattices and marble floors.

Recognizing its historical and architectural importance, the Casa de La Emancipación was declared a historical monument in 1971. Visitors to the house can explore the historical furniture and art exhibitions, which often feature various paintings.

As a traditional cultural center, the Museo Casa de la Emancipación has been established within the premises. The cultural activities hosted here primarily focus on art exhibitions and diverse cultural events that take place in its central courtyard. The Casa de La Emancipación is currently managed by the BBVA Foundation, ensuring its preservation and continued contribution to Trujillo’s rich cultural heritage.

National University of Trujillo old campus

The National University of Trujillo (abbreviated as UNT or UNITRU) is a public Peruvian university located in the city of Trujillo. The old campus, with its rich history dating back to the first half of the 19th century, serves as a captivating tourist attraction.

The campus is situated at Av. Juan Pablo II, covering a vast area partly donated by the philanthropist Vicente Gonzales from the San Andrés estate. All courses are offered here across the 13 faculties and 45 professional schools.

The university was founded during the republican era by General Simón Bolívar, who issued the founding decree on May 10, 1824, in Huamachuco with José Faustino Sánchez Carrión as secretary. The first rector was Carlos Pedemonte y Talavera, whose term began on October 22, 1831.

The university initially offered theological, legal, medical, philosophical, and mathematical courses. It awarded the degrees of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor in Law and Sacred Canons. The university adopted the Faculty system in 1861.

The university faced closure for 18 years in 1876 but was reopened on April 29, 1894, under the leadership of Pedro Martínez de Pinillos. Over the years, notable figures like César Vallejo, Antenor Orrego, Ciro Alegría, Luis Banchero Rossi, and Walter Alva graduated from the university.

The university expanded in the 20th century with the creation of the Faculty of Industrial Arts, which later became the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry. The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1956, and other faculties like Engineering and Industrial Engineering were introduced in subsequent years.

In recent times, the university has undergone intensive remodeling in several faculties, including the construction of new pavilions and renovation of laboratories. It has also received awards for research and academic excellence.

As of 2015, the National University of Trujillo holds the 13th position in the Peruvian University Ranking by Webometrics and the 7th position by SUNEDU, making it the top university in the northern region of the country. The university currently has approximately 15,000 students.

Palacio Iturregui

El Palacio Iturregui is an elegant house located in Trujillo, built in 1842 in the neoclassical style. Currently serving as the headquarters of Club Central de Trujillo, this historical mansion is a glimpse into the world of Trujillo’s upper class during the 19th century.

Its bright yellow façade, adorned with elaborate window gratings, majestic columns, gold ceiling moldings, and marble statues, exudes a sense of grandeur and opulence.

The two-story Palacio Iturregui boasts an impressive exterior, featuring large windows with wrought-iron crowns shaped like hair combs and decorative attached columns. The flooring comprises Spanish slabs and Italian marble, adding to its lavishness and sophistication.

Originally, the house belonged to Juan Manuel Iturregui Aguilarte, a notable figure in Peru’s independence movement, and later, it was owned by his son, Juan Manuel Iturregui González. Within its walls, the mansion houses valuable 19th-century furnishings and décor, providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of the period.

Visitors can explore this neoclassical beauty, as the Club Central welcomes guests to tour the property. The central courtyard is freely accessible, allowing visitors to admire its architectural splendor.

However, access to the sumptuously adorned rooms may be limited to specific hours. Inside, guests can marvel at the beautiful window gratings, 36 slender interior columns, and intricate gold moldings adorning the ceilings.

Iglesia de la Merced

The Church of La Merced in Trujillo, Peru, was built in the 16th century and reconstructed in 1634 following an earthquake’s destruction in 1619. The church showcases a neoclassical architectural style. Unlike similar monuments in Trujillo, it occupies the central part of a city block rather than a corner, setting it apart with its unique layout.

The church’s splendor is unparalleled, as it breaks away from the medieval constraints and embraces a more dynamic and ornamental style, characterized by the Baroque movement.

The front façade, which incorporates diverse architectural styles, boasts baroque elements and two graceful belfries in place of traditional bell towers. Inside, the church’s beauty extends to the vividly carved reliefs around the dome, featuring a series of small angels and cherubs, approximately 100 in total, supporting the upper section. The interior is adorned with white stone arches and a stunning rococo organ.

The church’s perfect rectangular layout is topped with vaulted ceilings and separated into three distinct planes by the triumphal arch. It contains remarkable works of art, including the main altarpiece that once belonged to the church of La Compañía, featuring a painting of Saint Ignatius of Loyola dressed in the Mercedarian habit.

The altars on the sides house 17th-century paintings depicting scenes from the life of Saint Peter Nolasco. Additionally, the choir loft houses a unique rococo-style organ, the only one of its kind in the city. The Patio of the church, with its quadrangular shape, features a cloister on the lower level and an interior gallery on the upper level.

Iglesia y Monasterio El Carmen

Iglesia y Monasterio El Carmen, located in Trujillo, is renowned for its harmonious neoclassical architecture, dating back to the 18th century.

Founded in 1724, the Carmelite monastery houses a remarkable collection of colonial religious art, making it a key cultural landmark in Trujillo. The church’s gilded central altar is a marvelous sight, and floral murals in soft pastels grace its interior.

The monastery, with its two cloisters, contains a significant portion of the convent’s art collection, although it is not open to visitors.

The main façade boasts a central entrance flanked by two small bell towers and is crowned with the symbol of the Carmelite Order. Inside, the church features a single nave with a barrel vault and lunettes.

The dome displays images of prophets and saints. The main altarpiece, created by the talented Master Fernando Collado de la Cruz, showcases Baroque style in gold leaf. The church also includes four other altars, each with its unique style, such as the Baroque altar of the Virgen del Carmen and the Rococo-style altar of the Niño Jesús de Praga.

The Pinacoteca Carmelita, the Carmelite museum, houses approximately 150 paintings, including works from renowned painters like Otto Van Veen, whose “Last Supper” is a remarkable addition to the collection.

The interior features pieces from the Quito and Cuzco Schools, adorned with golden frames and polychrome figures. Additionally, historical paintings of the Passion of Christ are displayed.

Presently, the Church and Monastery of El Carmen serves as the residence of Carmelite nuns. It holds great importance as a National Monument of Peru, with its splendid Baroque altarpiece considered one of the finest of the 18th century.

The church remains well-preserved and is currently undergoing restoration work by the archdiocese, including exterior and interior painting and the complete renovation of its electrical and lighting systems.

Plazuela El Recreo

The Plazuela El Recreo, located in the heart of Trujillo, is a cherished traditional square that holds significant cultural value. Situated at the 8th block of Pizarro Street in Trujillo’s Historic Center, this square has witnessed numerous cultural shows and events, including the prestigious Trujillo Book Festival in March 2012. Adorned with tall and majestic ficus trees, the square exudes a serene and inviting ambiance.

A noteworthy centerpiece in Plazuela El Recreo is the stunning Italian Baroque-style marble fountain. This exquisite fountain originally graced the Plaza de Armas of Trujillo but was relocated to its current location in the 1930s. Surrounding the fountain, one can find four statues gracefully distributed in each corner, enhancing the square’s beauty and charm.

Adding to its historical significance, the square houses the old water supply box that once served the city’s houses with drinking water. The square’s shady spots, provided by several elderly trees, offer a pleasant retreat for locals and visitors alike.

Throughout the year, Plazuela El Recreo hosts a diverse array of events, including concerts and book festivals, attracting crowds of people who come to revel in the cultural richness of Trujillo. Recognizing its cultural importance, the National Institute of Culture of Peru has designated the square as Monumental Heritage of the Nation, preserving its historical and architectural significance.

Plazuela El Recreo stands as a testament to Trujillo’s vibrant cultural scene, a timeless gathering place where tradition and modernity beautifully coexist.

The Toy Museum (Museo del Juguete)

The Toy Museum, located in Trujillo, is the first toy museum in Latin America, founded by artist Gerardo Chávez in 2001. Situated near Plaza de Armas at Jirón Independencia 705, it exhibits a unique collection of over 4,000 antique toys, both Peruvian and from around the world.

The toys span from pre-Hispanic times to the 1950s, showcasing dolls, whistles, soldiers, trains, tricycles, wooden horses, lead soldiers, fabric, and porcelain dolls, and mid-20th-century dollhouses.

Notably, the collection includes a 2,300-year-old whistle from the Virú culture, highlighting the transformation of cities and diverse customs and sociocultural trends across different centuries and countries.

This charming museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the history and evolution of toys and their cultural significance globally. The exhibits illustrate the craftsmanship and playfulness of generations past, making it an enriching experience for visitors of all ages.

Spread the love

Leave a Comment