The Peruvian capital, Lima, is an elegant, modern city of approximately 8 million inhabitants. Despite pollution and poverty on the one hand, and expansion of modern suburbs on the other hand, Lima still maintains much of its colonial past and splendour.
The city of Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 on the banks of the Río Rimac (the Rimac River), on the Peruvian Coast of the Pacific Ocean. The city – that used to be called The City of Kings – holds the seat of the Peruvian government and is the economical and industrial power house of Peru.
Back in time, the charming Lima was considered the most beautiful city of South America by the Spanish conqusitadores in the 16th century. Visitors in Lima can still feel this charm, especially in the colonial city centre, recognized as a world heritage site by the UNESCO.
Travelling within Lima, we recommend visitors to use either taxis or the big grey buses of El Metropolitano. This is the official bus system in Lima, based on the concept of the metro or underground. Buses depart and arrive approximately every 7 or 8 minutes from special platforms and circulate on a special bus lane. For now, the only route leads from the northern part of Lima to the southern districts. More routes are planned for the future.
There are many other buses in Lima as well, but it's quite a complicated "system" and not the best; there are micros and combis and you really need to know Lima quite well to be able to get on and off the bus at the desired destination.
Taxis are a great option, as they are cheap and you will never have to wait long to hail one. Officially all taxis should be registered and have a license, but it is important to know that there are still many unofficial taxis circulating in Lima. In the best case, let your hotel call an official txci for you or use taxi apps like taxibeat or Uber. Especially for late night travels we strongly recommend only the use of registered taxis.
Attractions in Lima
Lima offers some great tourist attractions and fun things to see, including national museums, colonial churches, beautiful plazas and diverse neighbourhoods.
In the city centre of Lima – also called downtown Lima –you certainly don’t want to miss the churches of San Francisco – with the famous catacombs – Santo Domingo and La Merced.
The Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor – the main square of Lima – and the Plaza San Martin are important historical places and well worth a visit. Other important tourist attractions in the city centre of Lima are the Cathedral, the Archbishops’ Palace, the Governmental Palace and the National Palace, among others.
Surrounding the central Plaza de Armas you can find many beautiful wooden balconies in colonial style. Most were built by the Spaniards in the 17th and 18th century. A well-known example is the Palacio Torre-Tagle.
Among the interesting neighbourhoods to visit in Lima are the hip and modern Miraflores and Barranco Districts.
An important and popular tour in Lima is the visit of the pre-Inca site Pachacamac
, an astonishing temple 35 kilometres southeast of Lima next to the Pacific Ocean.
Museums in Lima
The city of Lima hosts a variety of excellent museums. Probably the best-known of them is the Museo de Oro (the Gold Museum). Here you will find a big collection of gold objects from pre-Inca civilizations as well as collections of weapons and textiles.
The Museo de la Nacion (the National Museum) is a great choice if you are interested in different Peruvian civilizations including pre-Inca cultures until Colonial times.
For the art lovers among you, the Museo de Arte de Lima or MALI (Lima Art Museum) is a must-see: it includes 400 years of Peruvian art including some pre-Colombian artefacts.
The Archaeological Museum “Rafael Larco Herrera” displays over 350,000 ceramics covering more than 3,000 years of pre-Colombian art, including the well-known erotic pottery. You can find the Larco Museum in Pueblo Libre in an antique mansion from the 18th century.
The MATE museum of Barranco (Association Mario Testino, founded in 2012), located in a beautifully restored mansion of the 19th century, offers a large photo exhibition of all Testino’s work such as his photos of the British Royal Family and his work with many international famous actors and models. The Peruvian artist Mario Testino is one of the world’s most famed celebrity photographers.
Other interesting museums are the Metropolitan Museum of Lima and the Museum of the “Banco Central de Reserva del Peru’, the Museum Amano, the Museo Taurino (the bullfighting museum of Lima), the Museo de Arte Comtemporáneo de Lima (MAC), Museo de Arte of the university of San Marcos and the Museum Pedro de Osma. Check out the Choco Museum for a nice tour through the chocolate production. This museum has actually two locations in Lima, in Barranco and Miraflores and can also be visited in Cusco.
Shopping in Lima
The shopping opportunities in a city as Lima are endless. Here the traveller can find traditional fruit and veggie markets, modern supermarkets, markets with counterfeit products (such as Polvos Azules), souvenir shops, trendy boutiques and big shopping malls such as Jockey Plaza, Marina Park, Plaza Norte and Larcomar, in Miraflores. In supermarkets, department stores and shopping malls, prices are fixed. However, in souvenir markets you might want to bargain; roughly said you can try to get off between 10 – 30% of the price, depending on the product and the shop.
Although many travellers in Peru buy their souvenirs in Cusco and Puno, Lima offers good souvenir shopping options as well. There is a nice arts and crafts market on the Av. Petit Thouars, a parallel of the Avda Arequipa (block 53) in Miraflores, a few blocks from the Ovalo/ Parque Kennedy. Here you can find some nice alpaca clothes, pottery, jewellery, paintings and much more.
Nightlife in Lima
Besides offering excellent cafes and many beautiful cinemas and smaller cineclubs, Lima features very fancy discotequas as well. Limeños love to go out what makes Lima a great place for a fun and entertaining nightlife, especially in neighbourhoods like Barranco or Miraflores.
Here you will find many exclusive night clubs such as Gothica and Aura. Both play different music including electronic music. Enjoy also the great terrace overlooking the Pacific! During the summer there are also fun options to go out at the Asia Beaches, approx. 100 kilometres from Lima. Please note that most of the classier bars and discotequas will have a dress code, so you should go well dressed to those establishments.
More affordable options are Dolce Vita, Taquile Rock (open 365 days per year) – both located in Miraflores – or El Dragon de Barranco, in Barranco.
Barranco offers a few more bohemian places, such as La Noche, for the more intellectual scene of Lima– again, with a great terrace with views over the Pacific Ocean.
If you are looking for different late night entertainment, we recommend you visit a Peña folklórica. Peñas are (big) cafes with Peruvian live music, singing, dance, food and culture. Most of all traditional music, so this can be traditional Andean music with pan flutes, but also Latin-American songs from the sixties. Obviously, all in Spanish. On the weekend, a reservation is necessary as Peñas are very popular and they attract people of all ages. A couple of recommendations for Peñas to be visited in Lima are: De Rompe y Raja and Del Carajo.
Restaurants in Lima
Lima - the culinary capital of South America – is considered the heart of the New Peruvian cuisine and a real paradise for food lovers. Seafood is one of Peru’s specialties, especially due to its costal location. The variety of ingredients and Peruvian recipes is amazing in Lima. Peruvian cuisine is probably one of the most diversified ones in the world, being a melting pot of influences from Spain, Asia, France, Italy and Africa; a true fusion of ingredients, flavours and traditions. Besides, in Lima also Peru’s very own variety of cultures and geographic zones comes down in the delicious cuisine. Each of Peru’s main regions (coast, Andean highlands, and jungle) is represented by its local cuisine, traditions and ingredients.
The opportunities for foodies in Lima are endless, ranging from really cheap day menus and snacks in local restaurants over affordable Chinese restaurants, pizzerias to high class restaurants awarded with international prices.
The first not-to-be-missed restaurant is “Astrid y Gastón’; a restaurant by the internationally famous Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio. Gastón is popular for its innovative cooking and has marketed Peruvian cuisine in several parts of the world. He also runs the restarant chain “T’anta” in Peru, a less expensive restaurant that offers Peruvian dishes among snacks and sandwiches.
Chez Wong, is supposed to serve the best seafood including ceviche, a famous Peruvian dish of marinated fish in a spicy lemon sauce. According to the ‘legend’, Wong started his restaurant in the garage of his house. La Mar (owned by Acurio) is also specialized in ceviche and seafood.
If you are more into other varieties of Peruvian food, a highly recommended restaurant in Lima is El Rincón Que No Conoces, famous for its Peruvian “criolla” (creole) food, with African and Spanish influences.
Furthermore, La Rosa Nautica serves different types of food and is famous for its beautiful location on the Peruvian beach Costa Verde with a beautiful view of the ocean.
Try the restaurant Malabar for a tasting of true Amazonian cuisine.
Lastly, a great option for a late-night snack – among many others – is La Lucha in Miraflores, with amazing Peruvian sandwiches.
Travel Information for Lima
Almost all international flights to Peru arrive at Lima. As it is located in the centre of the country’s coastline, it’s a perfect departure point for travels to the north, to the south and to Central Peru where travellers head for must-see destinations in Peru such as Nazca, Arequipa, Cusco, Puno, Trujillo, Cajamarca, Huaraz, or to the Peruvian Amazon.
Lima’s international airport Jorge Chavez, located in the suburb El Callao, at approx. 12 kilometres from Lima´s City Centre, has been awarded “Best Airport in Latin America” several times. It is both Lima’s national and international airport. From Lima you can fly directly to 28 international destinations and take domestic flights to the most important destinations in Peru (19 in total) such as Cusco, Arequipa, Juliaca (Puno), Puerto Maldonado, Trujillo, Tumbes or Iquitos.
For those who travel overland, it’s important to know that Lima is connected to all major cities in Peru by long distance buses. There is no central bus station in Lima, most companies have their own arrival and departure hub. Bus trips are quite affordable in Peru. The most recommended long distance bus companies are Ormeno and Cruz del Sur. Just to give you an idea: a bus trip from Lima to Arequipa takes approximately 13 hours.