As the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas, Cusco lays claim to a few grand titles. Among them, it was once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire which stretched from the Columbian border well into Argentina and Chile. Today it's known as the archeological capital of the Americas; and it is the undisputed tourist mecca of Peru.
When you stay in a Cusco hostel you'll be able to check out the Incan ruins scattered around and outside the city, and you'll have easy access to the Sacred Valley which means that you can wallow in archeological treasures to your heart's delight. Nearby Machu Picchu is the undeniable star attraction, and tops nearly every traveler's list of things to do in Peru; many head straight for Cusco and Machu Picchu upon arriving in the country.
A range of museums, churches and Incan architecture are close to many Cusco hostels and can keep you occupied for days. Cusco's steep hills and stairs, particularly as you head into the San Blas neighborhood north of the Plaza de Armas, will give your legs a workout that will get them ready for the rigors of the Inca Trail. Countless tour operators line the streets around the Plaza and will aggressively solicit your business as you pass by; you'll have no trouble organizing a trip anywhere you want to go. (Do your homework first, though, as not all tour operators are created equal.)
Cusco is certainly touristy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it means the city is well supplied with restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs to keep you entertained every hour of the day and night. Shopping opportunities abound at local markets and at higher end stores oriented to tourists. Shop around carefully as prices are quite variable. You may hear English spoken on the streets almost as frequently as Spanish, but you'll hear Quechua too. Quechua, the language of the Incas, is still spoken by the indigenous inhabitants of Peru, who throng the streets of Cusco in their colourful garb.
Cusco hostels are clustered within a few blocks of the Plaza de Armas, the city's focal point. Some have drivers who will pick you up from the city's long-distance bus station when you arrive but taxis are plentiful and cheap.