Your first time in the city can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure where to go. This was certainly the case with us after making our way to Lima from Guayaquil, Ecuador. The city itself is quite large, and there are most definitely a few parts of town you’ll want to avoid for safety’s sake. Most first-timers take the whirlwind tour before heading up to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, it sadly leaves most tourists unaware of attractions like Pachacamac, the Monastery of San Francisco and the various Lima museums. In fact, Centro de Lima, otherwise referred to as the Colonial Zone hosts a number of historical sites and buildings that are often completely overlooked by tourists. Here are Trek Hound’s top tips for those who are wondering what to do in Lima, Peru.
MAKE MIRAFLORES YOUR HOME BASE
Miraflores is a pleasant, higher-end area from which to experience a variety of attractions throughout Lima. While many people wishing to stretch their vacation dollars head towards the backpacker ghettos, the truth is, there are a number of affordable boutique establishments for those wishing to rest their heads in the more secure area of Miraflores. One such establishment is Inkawasi, which offers affordable private rooms as well as dorm beds, all with a number of pleasant common areas .
ALLOW FOR SHOPPING AND CINEMA TIME AT LARCOMAR
This luxury shopping area is set into the side of a cliff in Miraflores, offering movies, dining and shopping venues. While obviously designed for the traveler with discriminating tastes, it’s possible for the mid-range adventure crowd to enjoy Larcomar as well. We found it to be a great place to spend the afternoon before our flight back to the States. With several hours to kill between checking out of our room and checking in at the Lima airport, we really weren’t up for searching out unfamiliar tourist attractions and adding to our frustration level. We’d had a blast in Peru, but were in fact exhausted after schlepping through the Sacred Valley and making a whirlwind pass through the area of Lake Titicaca. Larcomar was just what the doctor ordered for our last afternoon in Lima. English language cinema, seaside seafood and a pleasant outdoor strolling area with benches and an ocean breeze.
IF YOU’VE COME FOR THE FOOD, THE RESTAURANTS IN LIMA, PERU WON’T DISAPPOINT
The food scene in Lima is definitely a superior experience. With local fare and every sort of international cuisine you could hope to try, there’s no reason why every dinner hour in Lima shouldn’t be absolutely divine. One fun place that David and I tried out was Si Senor Restaurant in Miraflores. It was within walking distance of Inkawasi, and had some unusual menu items to go along with the traditional offerings you’d expect from a Mexican dining establishment. Of course, there are a number of markets as well, if whipping up something simple back at the hotel is what you prefer.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF LIMA MUSEUMS YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS
In a capital city as old as Lima, Peru, you’ll certainly find no shortage of museums. If you have a week or two to spend in the city, then by all means cross as many of them off your list as you can. If you’re on the three day plan however, you’ll need to narrow things down a bit.
The Larco Museum wins the prize for the most unique pottery collection.
If erotic art is something you’re interested in, and you’ve always been passionate about pottery, then Lima’s Larco Museum is a must-see attraction. Located in a pleasant, historical building not far from the Museo de la Nacion, this erotic pottery collection boasts several hundred thousand pieces of ceramic art celebrating the sensual elements of the human experience. Warning: If you’re touring this museum with children, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’ve had “the talk” before you arrive. That being said, it’s unbelievably diverse and an interesting way to spend an afternoon.
The Lima Museum, otherwise referred to as the Museo de la Nacion, should not be left off your tourist itinerary.
Pairing stark, cavernous concrete spaces with ancient Incan artwork and pottery, makes the Lima Museum one of our world favorites. Their use of space to showcase such their giant pottery pieces, Incan mummies, golden artefacts and the incredible Idol of Pachacamac is, in our opinion, inspired. While many museums are overfilled with items and can overwhelm visitors, Lima’s Museo de la Nacion strikes a restful balance that allows tourists to fully appreciate the items on display.
The Lima Gold Museum is certainly well stocked, and of interest to jewelry enthusiasts and metal artists.
With an extensive collection based around this one type of artifact only, the Lima Gold Museum, is worth a look if you have a bit of extra time on your hands. The venue also has an extensive collection of antique weapons, which is usually a hit with military history buffs.
PLAZA MAYOR IN CENTRO DE LIMA BOASTS THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL OF LIMA AND THE PALACIO DE GOBIERNO
Formerly referred to as the Plaza de Armas de Lima, the Plaza Mayor in Centro de Lima is classic vintage Lima. One of the main attractions in Plaza Mayor is the National Cathedral of Lima. While many consider it a bit stark, the architecture is interesting. It’s also the resting place of Francisco Pizarro, whose sarcophagus is worth a look-see as long as you’re going to be in the neighborhoods. Families traveling with children may want to include this stop if their children have been studying Incan history.
The other imposing structure along Plaza Mayor is the Palacio de Gobierno, or presidential palace. Originally built as the home of Francisco Pizarro himself, the building now serves as home to the Peruvian president and the country’s executive branch of government. It’s an impressive structure with a number of beautiful rooms worth seeing, not the least of which is the Golden Hall, which was modeled after the Versailles Hall of Mirrors.
Centro de Lima is home to numerous other attractions that are within easy walking distance of Plaza Mayor. One of these attractions is the church and monastery of San Francisco. The building’s exterior architecture is quite detailed if somewhat worn (at the time of our visit), with a picturesque interior housing a number of impressive art works and decorative elements.
THE PACHACAMAC RUINS ARE MASSIVE, AND A MUST-SEE ATTRACTION WHEN VISITING LIMA
While most tourists head immediately to the mountains to experience the archaeological sites of the Inca, Pachacamac offers an impressive day excursion much closer to town. We did it on foot and got there by public microbus, but it was definitely hot and a minivan between some of the more distant parts of the Pachacamac ruins would have been helpful. That being said, I had a massive case of the flu at the time, so perhaps touring the site while healthy and during cooler weather would have left me with a differing opinion. That being said, the ruins at Pachacamac are definitely worth the day trip and best experienced with a knowledgeable guide before heading to the Museo de la Nacion to see the miraculously-saved Idol of Pachacamac itself.
Hopefully, at this point in the article, wondering what to do in Lima, Peru is no longer a concern. While there are many other attractions to enjoy in the city, as well as a thriving nightlife scene, these travel tips should have you feeling prepared for a proper launch into your tour of Peru.
Photo Credits: These pictures of Lima, Peru were photographed by the Trek Hound team. If you are interested in using them on your own site, they are available through a creative commons agreement through Pictures of Travel Places, one of our sister web sites.