About the Author: Tasha Prados served for 27 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rio Grande, Ica, Peru. Perched on the cliffs of Peru’s Pacific coast, Lima is a gigantic metropolis, the third-largest city in the Americas. Lima is an amazing city for history buffs, foodies, shopping aficionados, and nightlife enthusiasts. Even if you’re more of […]
About the Author: Tasha Prados served for 27 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rio Grande, Ica, Peru.
Perched on the cliffs of Peru’s Pacific coast, Lima is a gigantic metropolis, the third-largest city in the Americas. Lima is an amazing city for history buffs, foodies, shopping aficionados, and nightlife enthusiasts. Even if you’re more of an adrenaline junkie or nature lover, Lima can be a great starting point for your Peruvian adventure. Learn all about what to do in Lima Peru in this Lima city guide. Make the most of all this incredible city has to offer and get to know the city like a true Limeño!
From beautiful ocean views to relaxing parks and fascinating historical buildings, there’s so much to experience in Lima. We recommend you spend at least 2-3 days there in order to see the city’s top attractions. Make sure you don’t miss out on our top 6 things to see in Lima:
Walk and/or run along the malecón (sea wall) in the Miraflores district – a free activity in a gorgeous environment. You can also pack a picnic to enjoy in a nearby park such as the Parque del Amor (Park of Love), close to Larcomar Mall. Be sure to also check out the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of the Whispers), a famous bridge where generations of Limeño lovers have supposedly gone to trade whispers. There is even a dessert named after it. You can also take surfing lessons down on the shore, but there is way better surfing elsewhere. Peru has the longest left wave in the world! Paragliding is another beach activity option, but it’s very expensive.
Take a stroll through Kennedy Park for a free and enjoyable time people-watching and stray-cat-watching in the heart of Miraflores. This park is one of the city’s main squares, where you’ll find locals and travelers alike, along with street vendors. There are often cool events there and craft fairs on weekends.
|Parque de las Aguas
This park in downtown Lima – also called Parque de la Reserva – has beautiful fountains which perform an amazing water symphony, complete with lights and music. Be prepared to get wet! The spectacle is best enjoyed after dark. Cheap (only 4 soles to enter) and a must-see.
|Church of San Francisco
Go to this church to appreciate its gorgeous Spanish Baroque-style architecture and learn about its fascinating history. Make sure to also experience its catacombs, which hold up to 25,000 bodies. The church was completed in 1674 and is within Lima’s historic city center, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|Plaza de Armas
Get coffee and causa rellena (mashed potatoes stuffed with chicken salad) next to the presidential palace in Lima’s main square, Plaza de Armas/Plaza Mayor. Generations of Peruvian presidents have enjoyed café con leche at this very spot. You can also admire other important historical buildings which surround the square such as the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union.
For a great primer on Peruvian history, don’t miss the Museo de la Nación. Be prepared for a heavy topic if you go through the exhibit on the years of violence and internal conflict with the guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso/Shining Path. Museo Larco is also interesting, with pre-Columbian artifacts. The Museo de la Gastronomia provides fascinating insight into the origins of Peruvian cuisine in all its varieties, as well as Peruvian agriculture.
Peruvian cuisine is a rising star on the international culinary scene, and with good reason. Gastón Acurio, the chef of the Lima restaurant Astrid & Gaston, is the José Andrés of Peru and an international superstar. Anything he touches turns to gold. Delicious, delicious gold. The experience is expensive, but mind-blowing and should be your #1 priority. You’ll need a reservation. Both Astrid & Gaston and another high-quality restaurant, Central, are among the world’s 50 best restaurants.
It’s important to know that lunch is the biggest and most important meal of the day in Peru. Menu is a typical Peruvian lunch, generally consisting of a soup, salad, or small plate and an entrée. Pro tip: if you want to ask for the menu, the word is carta, not menu. To sample what most Peruvians eat on a daily basis, walk into any hole-in-the-wall restaurant – not somewhere near Parque Kennedy – and order menu. You’ll know it’s not a tourist joint if the menu is under 10 soles.
A delicious place for traditional Peruvian fare is Tres Marias in Surco. We also recommend the burger restaurant Papachos, also a Gastón endeavor. The tasty burgers have a delightful Peruvian twist and there are also amazing cocktails. For affordable sandwiches, head to La Lucha Sangucheria right on Parque Kennedy (there are two). It’s a bit touristy, but delicious, with great milkshakes. Finally, Pan de la Chola is an amazing coffee shop/breakfast/light lunch place with fresh homemade bread, quality coffee, and sandwiches.
Peruvian street food is also delicious, but eat it an your own intestinal risk – unwashed or uncovered street food may contain bacteria you are not used to.
If you’re looking for options other than Peruvian food, there are plenty of choices. For delicious tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, go to The Burrito Bar in Barranco, which also has Sierra Andina, a craft-brewed beer from Huaraz that’s hard to find in Lima. For 50 soles, get all-you-can-eat sushi in Miraflores at Magma. For fabulous Thai food (though a bit out of the way), head to Siam on Avenida Caminos del Inca in Surco.
Visit Ancient Ruins
Lima is home to some of Peru’s oldest archaeological sites, including several pre-Inca ruins. One of the most important pre-Inca religious sites in the area is Pachacamac, which includes temples, pyramids, and other buildings. The site is 25 miles (40 km) outside Lima, but easily reachable on a tour.
Other ruins in Lima include Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca, both of which are located right in the heart of the city, whose worn stone contrasts sharply with the modern buildings.
With such a rich gastronomic culture and so many options to choose from, going on a food tour can lead you right to the best restaurants and street food. We recommend this Miraflores food tour which takes you to a local market and small, family-run restaurants to taste exquisite Peruvian food.
In terms of shopping, Lima has something for everyone. If you’re low on souvenirs, there are plenty of craft markets around Miraflores. Bargain, but expect to pay more than you would buying things outside of Lima. For a taste of the upper-class limeño lifestyle, check out the shops at Larcomar Mall. For a great bargain, go to La Quinta in Miraflores; there you’ll find brand-name US clothing for cheap. Much of it, especially high-quality pima cotton clothing, is made in Peru.
If you want to get off the beaten path and see how Peruvians shop, go to Gamarra – this is a huge market/shopping area, where you can do anything from getting a cheap custom-tailored suit to finding authentic Peruvian costumes from all over Peru for cheap. Be sure to sample some of the delicious street food, including chocolate-covered strawberries. This is NOT a tourist area. Watch your stuff even more closely than elsewhere. The same goes for Polvos Azules – a giant conglomeration of shops where you can get anything from cheap headphones to jeans; this is where Peruvians do their shopping.
Don’t let the mountain of options scare you away; you can go on a half-day shopping tour to visit the best spots and make the most of your time.
In terms of nightlife, you’ve got lots of great options; Peruvians love a good fiesta. In Miraflores, Calle Berlin is lined with fun bars, including an Irish pub with a weekly English-language trivia night. For a relaxing evening, get a fancy cocktail and do some people watching at Café de La Paz, right on Kennedy Park, or at one of the seaside restaurants at the Larcomar Mall where you can enjoy the sunset.
If you’re dying to watch an American sports game and drink ridiculously overpriced beer, head to The Corner Sports Bar and Grill. If you want to get your groove on and do some dancing, head to the Barranco district. Make sure you get to Barranco at some point, it’s Lima’s designated “hippie district.”
The best neighborhood to stay in is Miraflores, an upscale shopping district on the coast, south of the downtown. San Isidro and Barranco are also nice neighborhoods. Walking is perfectly safe, especially in Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco. Lima is also the most running-friendly city in Peru, so take advantage! There are also a few bike rental places.
If you’re looking for a hostel, try:
For other hotels, we recommend:
How to Get to Your Hotel from the Airport
When you arrive at the airport, you will be hounded by drivers. You probably want to head to Miraflores. You’ll pay more if it’s nighttime. Bargain, but expect to pay 30-50 soles.
Pro tip: Taxis have to get a special card to enter the airport. If you want a cheaper ride, just walk outside of the airport to the main road, and catch a taxi or a combi. Make sure you take a designated taxi though. You may want to put your stuff in the trunk on the way from the airport – thieves have been known to break windows, reach in, and grab your bags. Similarly, going to the airport, you can get a cheaper ride if you tell them they don’t have to take you inside the airport. Going to the airport, especially during the day, shoot for 35 soles.
Have a blast! Peru is amazing!