While a lot of travellers pass through Lima, most are usually on their way to Cusco and Machu Picchu or on their way back. Lima may get a day or two at a glance on most Peru itineraries, but it’s not a city many linger in. However, after having spent close to a month hanging out here, I’m of the opinion that Lima is a destination in its own right…especially if you like to eat! This little guide is going to highlight a few spots worth checking out in the city, places to eat, and neighbourhoods to stay in. Let’s get started!
1. Hire a bike at MiraBici. MiraBici offers bike rentals as well as guided tours that take you through various districts including Miraflores, San Isidro, Barranco and Chorrillos. Their stand is conveniently located by Larcomar.
2. Go to El Circuito Mágico del Agua. The Magic Water Circuit is a water and light show that takes place at night in Parque de la Reserva. This park boasts 13 water fountains that come to life with lasers, coloured lights, and music. P.S. You’ll want to visit once it’s dark out!
3. Eat ceviche. It has to be done in Lima! This popular seafood dish is made with raw fish that’s cured in lemon or lime. The fish is then served with white corn, sweet potato, and red onions, typically for lunch. Some popular cevicherias in Lima include: La Mar, Punta Sal, Pescados Capitales and El Punto Azul. More suggestions here.
4. Tour the city with Mirabus. Mirabus runs various tours within Lima as well as a few day trips outside of the city. If you want to get an overview of Miraflores and Lima’s historic centre, then their tour Lima by Day is a good option. Just keep in mind that this is not a hop-on-hop-off tour and you won’t be able to linger at attractions along the way. The tour last 3.5 hours and it is 70 soles for adults.
5. Shop and gaze out at sea from Larcomar. Larcomar is a really cool shopping centre located in Miraflores. What makes it so unique is that it has been built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and as such it has some great lookout points. People come here to shop at the boutiques, eat dinner, or enjoy a cup of frozen yoghurt with a view. If you come on a clear day, you’ll even be able to watch the paragliders flying above your head.
6. Pick up Peruvian alfajores at La Casa del Alfajor. Alfajores vary in style, size and ingredients throughout Latin America, yet they are all vying to be the best. The traditional Peruvian recipe consists of two crumbly cornstarch cookies, glued by manjar blanco (creamy caramel) in the middle, and a light dusting of powdered sugar on top. La Casa del Alfajor (The House of the Alfajor) has many locations throughout the city, but I would recommend visiting the one in San Isidro on Avenida Conquistadores, because it just so happens to be located by a very old olive grove – a pretty cool place if you ask me!
7. Go paragliding in Miraflores. This one is for the daredevils and thrill-seekers! Perufly is located in Parque del Amor (Love Park) in Miraflores, and they fly daily from 11 am to 6 pm weather permitting. (Mornings in Miraflores are usually foggy, but this tends to clear up by mid-morning.) Tandem paragliding costs 240 soles.
8. Enjoy a night out in Barranco. Barranco has a bit of an artsy/bohemian vibe and it’s where people like to go out at night. Here you’ll find a mixture of art galleries, cafes, bars, restaurants, and lots of street art.
9. Tour Plaza de Armas. Also known as Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Armas is one of the most historic plazas in the city. The square is flanked by the Government Palace, Lima Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of the Union. The plaza also has an intricate water fountain that dates all the way back to the 1600s – the history is palpable!
10. Pick up souvenirs at the Mercado Indio. If your trip is drawing to an end and you want to pick up some souvenirs to take back home with you, then visit El Mercado Indio on Petit Thouars. This is where you can find warm alpaca sweaters, brightly coloured touques, chess sets of Spaniards versus Incas, paintings done in the Cuzqueña style, t-shirts with the Nazca lines, coca candies, leg warmers, and just about anything else you can think of.
11. Go inside the catacombs at Basilica y Convento de San Francisco. This basilica and convent is located in Lima’s historic centre and it truly is a step back in time. I went with a guide who led us through the cloisters, into a library that held documents and manuscripts from the start of the colony, and down into the catacombs. The only downside is that photography and video are not allowed.
12. Stare at all that glitters inside the Gold Museum. This is one place where almost all that glitters is gold. Lima’s Gold Museum started out as a private collection but today it holds over 7000 pieces of jewellery, sculptures, amulets and weapons.
13. Catch some waves in the Pacific Ocean. The waters of the Pacific may be chilly, but that doesn’t keep the surfers away. Pukana Surf and Team Surf Peru are two of the best-known surf schools in Lima and they offer surf lessons as well as surfboard rentals. If surfing’s not for you, there is the option of trying SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding).
14. Walk across the Bridge of Sighs. It may not seem like much, but this wooden bridge known as El Puente de los Suspiros has inspired many musicians and artists over the years, including the famed Peruvian songstress Chabuca Granda who wrote an entire song about the bridge.
15. Walk the Love Park with your special someone. Miraflores has a park dedicated to that special feeling that gives your stomach butterflies and makes you weak in the knees, yes, love. The park’s focal point is the statue known as El Beso (The Kiss), which depicts a couple kissing amorously. It comes as no surprise then that young couples come here on their dates to stroll along the oceanfront, watch the sunset, and enjoy each other’s company.
16. Visit Museo Larco. This privately owned museum focuses on pre-Columbian art and covers over 4000 years of history. The collection houses crowns, earrings and vases decorated with semi-precious stones, but what seems to draw people over is the gallery of Pre-Columbian Erotic Pottery…and yes, you must be at least 18 to enter.
17. Step back in time at Huaca Pucllana. Huaca Pucllana is an archaeological site located in Miraflores. Its name can be translated from Quechua to mean “place of the ritual games” and it was an important ceremonial centre where human sacrifices took place. The pyramid is built in staggered platforms and research has shown that it was able to withstand earthquakes.
18. Catch a flick at CinePlanet. If you experience a rainy day (very rare!) or just want a chilled out afternoon, you can head over to CinePlanet for a movie. Most North American movies play in English with Spanish subtitles.
19. Go play with cats at Parque Kennedy. I thought Istanbul was for cat lovers, but apparently Limeños have a thing for felines too. The story goes that a long time ago priests from the local church were faced with a bit of rat infestation, so they decided to release a few cats to help curb the problem. The thing is, no one stopped to consider that these cats might reproduce… Add to that a few abandoned cats who were dropped off at the park to make some new friends, and you’ve got yourself a huge cat colony! Thankfully, locals do look after these cats, and the Kennedy Park Kittens non-profit organization also ensures they are fed, dewormed, and vaccinated; they have even set up an adoption program so that the cats can find new homes.
20. Sample Peru’s varied cuisine. Peru’s cuisine has evolved, blended, and been adapted by the various cultures found within the country. Some prime examples of this include chifa (Peruvian-Chinese fusion) and nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese fusion). You’ll also find that dishes vary by geographical region, resulting in coastal, Andean, and jungle food. Since Lima is considered the gastronomic capital of Latin America, this is the best place to dabble in these cuisines.
21. Go inside El Panteón de los Próceres. The Heroes’ Pantheon is a crypt located inside the old church of the Royal College of San Carlos. It pays homage to the leaders of Peru‘s independence, and it’s a must visit for all the history buffs out there. I would’ve never found this place on my own, but my dad happened to be visiting while I was there and this attraction was at the very top of his list! We even found the name of a few Argentinean heroes in there. Admission is only 1 sol.
22. Pick up some tejas and chocotejas at Sra. Buendia. This little shop specializes in traditional Peruvian confectionary. A teja is a white sugary shell that has been stuffed with manjar blanco and all manner of dried fruits and nuts. A chocoteja is much the same, except it is coated with chocolate instead of sugar. This shop also specializes in stuffed figs, lemons, and oranges, which are a lot tastier than they sound!
23. Drop by Manolo for some churros. Dulce de leche? Chocolate? Vanilla? Take your pick!
24. Take a Peruvian cooking class. Peruvian food is delicious and if you enjoy dishes like ají de gallina, lomo saltado, carapulcra, causa, cau cau and ceviche, then it may be worth taking a Peruvian cooking class so that you can take some of the culinary secrets home with you.
25. Eat at one of Gastón Acurio’s many restaurants. Gastón Acurio is a Peruvian chef whose culinary creations have earned him celebrity status. He may have studied law, but his passion lay in the kitchen; today he owns 44 restaurants across 13 countries and he has helped put Peruvian cuisine on the map. Some of his restaurants in Lima include: La Mar, which focuses on ceviche and seafood; Madam Tusan, which is all about Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine; and Astrid & Gastón for traditional Peruvian dishes.
And if you really feel like you have seen it all in Lima, here are a few easy weekend trips you can take from the city. My personal favourite was sandboarding in Huacachina!
Where to stay in Lima
Miraflores – This is the most popular district for travellers to stay in. Miraflores is fairly upscale and therefore safer than other areas. It’s also located right by the water, so you can enjoy some really scenic walks along the parks that line the cliffs. You’ll find everything from backpacker hostels to five-star hotels in this district so it works for all budgets. This would be my personal pick.
Barranco – This is a very artsy district and it’s also very lively at night. If you want to be close to all the action (restaurants, bars, clubs) then it’s a good place to be based. There’s also a lot of charm to Barranco with its huge mansions that date back to the colonial period.
San Isidro – This is an upscale neighbourhood so if you’re looking for high-end hotels or boutique hotels, it’s a good place to look. The district is known for its golf course, country clubs, and centuries-old olive groves.
Historic Centre – Staying in Central Lima puts you close to the main square and all the churches and government buildings, however, some areas are still a little rough around the edges and safety can be a concern at night. I also find this district lacks the life you find in places like Barranco and Miraflores, which is why I’m putting it at the bottom of the list.
Have you been to Lima?
What were some of your favourite spots in the city?
I would also add that the Museo Larco’s restaurant is one of the best places to eat in the city!! I worked in this museum as a guide 2 years ago and having lunch there was my favorite moment of the day. I recommend their desserts too, especially strawberries in wine, they are to die for! Saludos
Thanks for the recommendation! I’m always on the lookout for good desserts. 🙂
Machu Picchu is my overall reason for why I want to go to Peru, but I definitely want to spend a fair amount of time in Lima as well, so this guide is perfect!
I hope it comes in handy! There’s quite a bit to see in Lima if a you have a few days to spare.
Great list! I’m planning a trip to Peru late 2015 so this list comes in handy. I am setting aside a few days in Lima exclusively to eat!
Yes!!! Eating is THE thing to do in this city. I’m working on another post where I plan to compile my favourite restaurants around the city. 😉
So many great tips in this post! Lima is sounding all the more alluring to me, especially since it’s considered the gastronomic capital of Latin America.
It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re planning a trip to Peru!
I would love to spend a good amount of time in Lima! I shall keep this article for when I eventually get over there. So much on the list, so little time!
Thanks Rebecca. I hope it comes handy. 🙂
Loved your article. I’ve been living in Lima for almost a year now (on and off), and I love the city. There are a lot of things to do (aaand to eat!). Best thing is few tourists are aware of its potential. I didn’t like the Mirabus tours though (I did 3 of them). There are Free Walking Tours, it may be a better option ^^
Totally agree with you for Barranco, las chocotejas, Huaca Pucllana and Larco Museum 🙂 🙂
Thanks for the recommendation for the free walking tours. I didn’t know about those when I visited. I’ve done the MiraBus tours twice, and I get what you’re saying. I think they’re good for getting an overview of the city, but I do wish they had the hop-on-hop-off system so that people can get off and explore some of the sights in depth as opposed to just passing through. That would make their tours so much better!
I’ve been watching all your videos, and it looks like you guys had a blast!
Thanks Colleen! It’s been fun getting back into the groove of things, not just with travel, but also with filming. I’ve really missed it over the past year!
Oh my, those churros look to die for!
I wish I could teleport myself there right now
They were pretty good. I may have gone back a few times… 🙂
Lima looks really cool! There’s definitely so much to see and do, and eat good food, too! The sunset shot is so magical…
Yeah, the nice thing about being on the Pacific Ocean is that you get some spectacular sunsets happening. I really enjoyed those too. 🙂
Lima is fantastic, one of my favourite cities in South America!
My favourite food in Lima was sandwiches from La Lucha. Seriously, I’m not sure what made them so special, but they were the best sandwich of my life. And the fries were amazing. Sitting in Parque Kennedy with my amazing sandwich and a kitty on my lap seriously made me consider moving to Lima.
I didn’t get to eat at La Lucha, but I walked past one afternoon and their food really did look amazing. Those pulled pork baguette sandwiches had me drooling. If only I hadn’t been so full from the previous meal I would have tried them!!!
Great list of things to do in Lima – definitely bookmarking for when I visit 😀 Thanks!
Thanks Chanel! I hope you get to visit soon. 🙂
LIMA spoiled me with all the good food it has to offer at a relative price. The light show is a must one of my highlights.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the food down there!
Ah, I came so close to visiting Peru and Lima last year but my trip was cut short. I was actually planning on staying in Lima for a month, alas…This guide makes me want to go there so badly. It sounds like an amazing city!
Ahhh, next time! I hope you get to return to South America at some point. 🙂
I must say, I really enjoy reading your bog. I may not be able to travel abroad yet; but, someday.
Thank you, Smritilekha! Glad to hear you enjoy it. 🙂
I love this guide!
I haven’t been to Lima or that part of the Americas yet but when I do, Peru, Costa Rica, & Mexico will be top of my list!
Thanks Victoria! I hope you get to explore Latin America soon. I always enjoy going down there – it’s such a different vibe from life in North America.
Loved all the cats in Parque Kennedy! I brought a few cans of cat food, I was surrounded by cats within seconds.
Same! We ended up buying some cat food to go feed them. You can tell that they are well looked after them when some of them aren’t even interested in the food.
Ceviche yes please!!!
The ceviche was amazing! I can’t believe I hadn’t tried it during my previous visits.
This was a fun trip down memory lane for me! Zab and I spent 5 weeks in Lima two years ago, and we definitely agree that there is a lot more to the city than people often think at first. The mistake we made, however, was visiting during Peruvian winter, so it was grey, cold and humid all the time. I think I could count on one hand the times we saw blue sky! In summer it must be a wonderful place, and I would definitely give it another chance then.
I was there for late summer/early autumn, so the weather was pretty nice. We were starting to get a cooler breeze blowing through, but the days were still nice and warm. The thing I like about Lima is that the fog does tend to clear up by midmorning. When you wake up sometimes you think it’s going to be really overcast and foggy, but a few hours later it’s clear again! Unless it’s the middle of winter….haha.
I loved Lima. We’d heard similar ‘meh’ opinions of it, but to us it was a fantastic place to visit with lots of great food and neat sights to see!
Glad to hear you also enjoyed it, Emily! The city grows on me the more I visit.
I absolutely agree that Lima is a destination of its own. I especially loved Barranco and Miraflores, there’s such a great vibe in those areas and lots to do. I would love to explore the local cuisine more – next time!
I only spent a little bit of time in Barranco but I loved what I saw. So colourful, so lively, and so much street art!
Nice article…If you coming back to Lima let me know I help you with free stay at my hostel CasaWayra.com in Miraflores. http://www.facebook.com/casawayra
Thank you for the offer, Kike. I will keep that in mind for future visits. 🙂
What an awesome list! After reading this Lima has skyrocketed to the top part of my travel wish list! Mostly due to the churros! Thanks Audrey!
Haha, glad to hear so Jenn! The food options in Lima are fantastic.
Audrey Im from Lima, Perú and I must say that what you have written about my country warms me with proudness. Everyhting you have written is so accuratte and thank you so much for the kind words and beautiful descriptions! I love your blog and I am suscribed to your youtube account. Best wishes for you and samuel!
I would definitely recommend a night out in Barranco-charming art/bohemian district. One great club-El Dragon,cool vibe, live music-the best parties are in Wednesdays. Try as much food as you can-Peruvian cuisine is to die for. I love Lima and Peru- amazing country, great people. Definitely recommend!