If you are planning a travel to Peru, you will most likely arrive in the country via Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Many travelers wonder if Lima is worth visiting, how much time they should spend in the city, or if they travel directly to another place and start their tour in Peru. We have written a guide about what to do in Lima to help the travelers make a decision.
Walking around the squares and emblematic buildings of the historic center, stroll through the historical streets to observe its balconies, enjoy peruvian gastronomy in one of the best restaurants in Lima, learn about Peru’s history by visiting a museum or enjoy the nightlife of Lima dancing in a pub.
Many travelers find the city chaotic, do not know what plans to make or which are the main sites they should visit. In order to answer these questions, we talked about the mandatory visits and activities to do in Lima.
Lima is a beautiful blend of modernity and colonial style. The historical center of Lima was founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and was until the middle of the 18th century an important political, economic and cultural center for the Spanish colonization of South America.
The process of Christian evangelization by the Spaniards led different religious orders to settle in the city. From the beginning they wanted to demonstrate their power and influence over the indigenous people, with the construction of imposing churches, monasteries and convents. It is for this reason that in the center of Lima are located many buildings with an administrative, governmental and religious functionality.
The historical centre of Lima is a great example of the architectural style and urban development of a city founded by the Spaniards, which integrated the cultural, technological, architectural and orographic values in perfect harmony, which gave rise to one of the cities with greater political, economic and cultural importance throughout Latin America.
Over the years, it has undergone some urban development modifications, due in part to a series of earthquakes that affected the center of Peru’s capital city. In 1988, it was recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. These are the most important points to visit:
The Plaza Mayor is located in the place where Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima. At the beginning, it was full of small shops and shops, which turned it into a centre of great economic and social activity. Due to its enormous dimensions, the Plaza Mayor had another type of functionalities, sometimes serving as a bullring and place where those condemned by the Spanish Holy Inquisition were executed.
Is one of the most symbolic places in the country, since it was the place where Peru’s Independence Act was proclaimed in 1821. It has some of the city’s most emblematic buildings such as the Archbishop’s Palace (dating from 1924); the Baroque Government Palace, which is the residence of the President of the Republic of Peru; or the Cathedral of Lima.
Around the Plaza Mayor you can find the Archbishop Palace with a remarkable wooden balcony, truly worthy of photos. Despite Lima, and Peru itself, is filled with balconies, this one is by far the prettiest. In this palace you can find the headquarters to the offices of the cardinal of Peru who is Juan Luis Cipriani, who is also the archbishop of the city.
Another place to visit because of its balconies is Casa de Aliaga located in the center of Lima as well, it has been restored and taken care since it was built 500 years ago. You can smell and absorbe history and colonialism in each one of its rooms.
One of the most traditional activities you can do in the center of Lima is watch the changing of the guards around noon (11:45). Just walk to the far end of the Plaza de Armas to find yourself in front of our Presidential Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) and enjoy this moment. You can also visit inside the palace but it will be necessary for you to register with your passport at the public relation office in the building.
The route of the balconies of Lima is one of the favorite activities by tourists, since UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site.
Built between the XVII and XVIII centuries, during the Spanish colonialist era and the Republic of Peru. These icons, so characteristic and representative of the historic center of Lima, have adapted the architectural evolution of the city and have had a lot of influence on some of the most important figures in the country, such as the writer Ricardo Palma.
A district that is worth your time exploring is Miraflores. Known as the most tourists-friendly place in Lima, here you can enjoy the nature in the parks, take a promenade near the ocean and absorb some more culture.
In Miraflores the main park is Kennedy, that happens to host many activities for you to do as well it is surrounded by stores you want to visit. During the weekend in the park you can find a small market, where you can buy handicrafts typical of Peru.
Another must to visit is Huaca Pucllana, which is considered one of the most attractive ruins in the city. It is located nearby the Ovalo Gutierrez and it was supposed to be built around the year 400. Inside you can visit a museum and have lunch in an exclusive museum.
You can visit from Wednesdays to Mondays from 9 to 5pm, entrance is 12 soles for adults and 6 for big groups. If you want to take a night tour, you can go from Wednesdays to Sundays from 9am to 10pm, entrance is 15 soles for adults and 7.50 for big groups.
Peruvian dishes are based in tradition and history and behind every plate there is always something to talk about. From street food to high-end restaurants, is one of the main things you can do in Lima in one day.
Breakfast is the most important meal and you need an energising one to have strengths while exploring the city. You can always have it at your hotel but if you would like to go beyond that here we have some suggestions.
You can order a chicharron sandwich at El Chinito. This sandwich includes pierces of pork that have been slowly cook in its own fat, fried sweet potatoes, fresh onion and specks of rocoto chilli add to this a hot coffee and you are ready to start off your day like a real Peruvian.
If you prefer a place with vegan and vegetarian options we advise you to visit Raw Cafe that has a variety of dishes to start the day in the best mood, our recommendation here is to order a “delicious bowl” that will give you a taste of Peruvian fruits.
Lunch and dinner are also an important moment of day, specially because it will enable you to eat main traditional dishes. Peruvian cuisine goes from raw fish in Ceviche to rolling chicken with Pollo a la Brasa. You are going to need more than one day to try it all.
La Lucha means the fight and you are going to fight yourself trying not to eat everything on their menu, they are known for having the best sandwiches and French fries in the city.
In Larcomar Mall, although it is chain restaurant and can be find pretty much anywhere in Peru, you can visit Pardo’s Chicken a restaurant that will give you the best taste of pollo a la brasa also known as Blackened chicken or Rotisserie chicken and added with French fries and the traditional Peruvian yellow spicy on the side.
You can also visit El Verídico de Fidel and eat our worldly know dish, ceviche. La Mar offers you also different Peruvian seafood dishes such as: chicharrón de pescado, parihuela, etc.
For a mythical dinner we recommend you to visit Brujas de Cachiche that is located in Miraflores and offers you traditional Peruvian food in a witchy environment loaded of ancient Peruvian history.
In Miraflores and Barranco you can find public beaches such as Makaha or Waikiki, they have easy access but tend to be a bit packed. In both beaches you can swim and enjoy the sun, of you are looking to learn how to surf you will find academies nearby.
If you decide to drive or take a bus heading to km 52 of Panamerica Sur highway you can get to Punta Hermosa that is one of the most famous beaches in Lima with lot of spots to choose along the coastline for you to relax in and strong waves in case you feel like surfing.
For advanced surfers we recommend San Bartolo beach that includes Ribera Norte and El Peñascal with big waves and where international competitions have been held. If you prefer to enjoy things in land you can head to Ribera Sur where motocross is available on the hills nearby.
In all of the above mentioned beaches you will find nearby restaurants where trying ceviche and/or seafood is a must. They are also children-friendly if you want to plan a family visit to enjoy the sea and the sun.
The sundown has started and Lima will remain awake. You can take off the night by visiting the Magic Circuit of Water located near by the center of Lima. This is a huge park with tons of water fountains illuminated by a light shows and music. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 3pm until 10pm, entrance is 4 soles for adults, children under 5 and people over 65 pay 50% less.
Barranco, considered a hipster modern district, hosts one of the best disco bars in Lima, El Dragón will keep you awake all night long with its good local music and varied alcohol offer. If you rather dance and drink by the rhythm of the best national and international rock, you need to visit Sargento Pimienta, also located in Barranco.
One of the most recommended places of partying in Lima is Tequila bar, what makes this place special is that it is open 365 days of the year from 6pm until 9am. As the previously mentioned discos this is a popular place for locals and foreigners that are looking for a fun night.
Unique things to do in Lima
Convent of San Francisco
Skulls, femurs and perones make up the tenebrous decoration of the crypts of the Convent of San Francisco, one of the city’s principal religious enclosures. Its crypts served as a cemetery for members of brotherhoods during the fifteenth century.
Since 1989 it has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. And in 1950 they opened their doors to the public to become a strange but interesting tourist destination.
The walk through the wide adobe corridors takes about 30 minutes. Here you can visit the tomb of José Francisco de Guadalupe, famous opera singer and Hollywood star, as well as the remains of Fray Juan Gómez, protagonist of Ricardo Palma’s famous poem,»Alacran de Fray Gómez».
Visiting a submarine
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to visit the interior of a submarine? In Lima you can do it. The Abtao Submarine Museum allows travelers to discover the interior of a real war submersible and how life was hundreds of meters below the surface.
The Abtao submarine was discharged in 1998, after 48 years of service in the Peruvian Navy. It opened as a museum in 2004 and is now one of the most interesting places to visit in the Constitutional Province of Callao. TIMEtable: Tue-Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm. General entrance S/ 12. Children S/ 8