Lima, the capital of Peru, is a sprawling metropolis overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Many travellers are put off by what they believe is a concrete jungle with bumper-to-bumper traffic, but the city surprised me with its spectacular natural beauty, fascinating history, and unparalleled drinking and dining experiences.
Lima might seem a bit dodgy when you leave the airport, but Lima is a very likeable city by the Pacific ocean.
Peru’s largest city, Lima, is located in the valleys of the Chillon, Rimac, and Lurin rivers in the central coastal part of the country. With an area of 2,700 square kilometres, the city is home to 10 million inhabitants.
It was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish knight, and became the capital of the Republic of Peru following the Peruvian War of Independence. With a coastline that extends for 80 km, this desert city is blessed with friendly people and great weather (it never really rains in Lima, just drizzles but it´s very often misty).
The city strikes a fine balance between the old and the new. Centuries-old archaeological ruins and colonial architecture coexist with high rises and luxury hotels. Lima has something for everyone, from architecture to adventure, culture to cuisine.
Already when on the Airport Express shuttle bus from the airport to Miraflores the most touristy and most elegant out of all the 11 districts of that makeup Lima.
Did I realise that this is a great city and since I hadn’t done any planning at all, (like always), was it great to see how organised this city is.
There´s enough to do in Lima for more than 48hours to 72hours, and even more, especially with making shorter day trips around the capital. But here´s my top 10things to do during a shorter stay.
Top 11 Things To Do In Lima Peru´s Bustling Capital.
1. TAKE A STROLL THROUGH THE PLAZA MAYOR.
Flanked by some of the most important historic buildings in the city, the Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas) is a snapshot of Lima’s colonial history and architecture.
Home to the City Hall, Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Lima, and Government Palace, this grandiose square was the heart of the old city and is visually striking with green spaces, fountains, and palm trees.
You can easily spend a few hours here admiring the Moorish balconies and baroque-style buildings, browsing in shops, or grabbing a bite to eat in one of the many bars and restaurants. Go at noon to watch the changing of the guard ceremony at the Government Palace.
2. VISIT THE SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY.
Located in a bright yellow baroque building dating back to the 1600s, the San Francisco Monastery is most famous for the city’s largest original burial ground. You can take a guided tour for 10 Peruvian Soles (roughly US$3) and see the spine-chilling but fascinating catacombs where the remains of an estimated 70,000 people are arranged in circular patterns (avoid if you’re claustrophobic or squeamish).
The monastery itself has a remarkable library with 25,000 ancient texts, a refectory with several biblical paintings, and a spectacular geometric cupola over the main staircase.
You are not allowed to take photos of of the catacombs anymore in respect of the dead.
3. GET A GLIMPSE OF ANCIENT PERU AT THE LARCO MUSEUM.
Housed in a stunning 18th-century mansion in the Pueblo Libre District, the Larco Museum is home to a large collection of pre-Columbian art and artefacts. You will be treated to 5,000 years of Peruvian history, including permanent exhibits of gold and silver jewellery, erotic pottery, and indigenous art. A guided 1-hour tour in English and Spanish is available for a more in-depth discovery of ancient Peru.
The museum is open daily and admission is 30 Soles (US$9) for adults. The Larco Museum is about 25 minutes by taxi or 45 minutes by bus IO-89 from Miraflores.
4. ADMIRE THE VIEW FROM EL MALECON
Situated atop towering sea cliffs, the El Malecon boardwalk in the affluent Miraflores district is a scenic walkway with dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city in one of the areas many parks, walking trails, and bike paths. There’s also a choice of eateries and a chance to indulge in some retail therapy at Larcomar, one of Lima’s best shopping centers. It’s a popular place to catch the sunset.
Adrenaline junkies can go paragliding at Parque Raimondi.
5. WATCH THE SHOW AT EL CIRCUITO MAGICO DEL AGUA
Three times every evening (at 7:15, 8:15, and 9:30 p.m.), the 13 illuminated fountains of El Circuito Magico del Agua erupt in a riot of colour and music. Located at the Parque de la Reserva in downtown Lima, this choreographed show involves music, lasers, and a 130-yard fountain. The park also features the Tunel de las Sorpresas (water tunnel) and Laberinto del Ensueno (water maze) where you’ll need perfect timing to avoid getting soaked.
The fountains open from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. Admission is 4 Soles (about US$2).
6. STEP BACK INTO HISTORY AT HUACA PUCLLANA
This clay and adobe pyramid located in the Miraflores district of Lima is an imposing 22-meter pre-Inca structure dating back to 500 A.D. It presents an eye-catching contrast between the city’s ancient past and modern affluence. There is an onsite restaurant that offers front row seats to the archaeological site.
Go at sunset for a breathtaking view of the illuminated ruins. Admission is 12 Soles (less than US$4).
7. MINGLE WITH THE LOCALS AT PARQUE KENNEDY
The unofficial main square of Lima, Parque Kennedy is named after the American President and is a place of convergence for both locals and tourists. Surrounded by cafes and shops, this 240,000 square feet square is home to the Virgen Milagrosa Church that was built in 1939. Locals call this beautifully manicured area the “cat park” because it is home to dozens of friendly felines.
It’s a great place to spend a few hours browsing the stands of local artisans, watching artists and dancers perform at the Chabuca Granda amphitheatre, and tasting Peruvian street foods such as butifarras (turkey and ham sandwich), chicha Morada (flavored corn juice), and picarones (fried Peruvian sweet potato dessert).
8. TRY SOME TRADITIONAL PERUVIAN FOOD
Lima has been called the gastronomical capital of South America and is the perfect place to introduce your taste buds to the big flavours of Peruvian cuisine. The list of must-eat dishes in Lima is topped by ceviche, Peru’s national dish, consisting of fresh raw seafood marinated and cured in lime juice. Here’s an insider tip: Native Peruvians only eat ceviche in the first half of the day when the fish is freshest.
Other popular dishes include cuy (guinea pig), causa (potato casserole), Arroz con pato (rice with duck), and aji de gallina (spicy, creamy chicken).
9. DRINK A PISCO SOUR
This world-famous, deliciously sweet and sour Peruvian cocktail was invented at the Gran Hotel Bolivar located at Plaza San Martin in Lima. For a bit of legend, drink a pisco sour at its place of origin, or head to any of the city’s numerous bars.
Since it is Peru’s national drink, bartenders in Lima have their reputation on the line and spend hours perfecting the pisco sour.
10. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY IN MIRAFLORES OR BARRANCO
Lima is the best place to experience Peruvian nightlife. There clubs and bars all over the city, but the upscale Miraflores area is a great place for a night out, there´s something for everyone here, from cheap backpacker bars to trendy bars and swanky nightclubs. If you are looking for something less expensive and less touristy head to the hipster neighboorhood of Barranco which is more popular with expats and students.
Additional Information about Lima.
A taxi or Uber ride from Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport to Miraflores takes about 30-45 minutes and costs 50-60 Soles. A direct bus service called the Airport Express runs every 30-60 minutes between the airport and Miraflores and costs 33 Soles one-way or 60 Soles return. Tickets are available online, at the airport, and on the bus. Shared shuttle services for airport transfers in Lima typically cost 15 Soles per person.
Safety In Lima:
Crime in Lima is not higher than many of the world’s major cities. Dress casually, avoid flashing expensive items, and be vigilant in tourist hotspots where pickpockets work the crowds.
And there are neighbourhoods around Lima you shouldn’t visit, but by South American standard is Lima a very safe city