Lima, Peru is a city rich in culture new and old, where classic architecture stands amongst gleaming modernity and the country’s oldest traditions carry on in the lives of modern Peruvians. Perched atop the cliffs on the Pacific coast, the streets are bustling with activity, the plates are full of fresh seafood, and the sounds of salsa drift through the air at night. The gateway to a country full of popular destinations, make sure to allow a couple of days in Lima to get the full Peruvian experience. From art to museums to dining and entertainment, here are the top 10 things to in Lima, to make sure you get a glimpse of everything it has to offer!
Museo Larco houses the largest collection or pre-Incan and pre-Colombian artifacts in the world, and is the most popular and respected attraction in the city. Spending an hour or two (or three or four…) inside this beautiful building poring over its expansive collection is a great way to get an insight into Peru’s early history. Take a tour for even more information, and set off to your next destination with a wealth of background knowledge to give your trip more context.
Perhaps Lima’s most iconic attraction, the gorgeous San Francisco church, and convent can be seen on the front of most postcards leaving the city. Built in the 16th century, the San Francisco church and convent is one of the most historical buildings in Lima, known for its architectural style, huge collection of religious art, creepy catacombs and present-day role in the community (if you can, come for a mass and catch the organ and choir in action!). Tours here will take you through the beautiful courtyard and gardens of the convent, multiple rooms with well-preserved art and décor, into the picturesque library, down through the chilling catacombs, and up to the choir’s balcony. The San Francisco church and convent is a must-see in downtown Lima.
Right in the middle of the modern Miraflores district is one of the oldest sets of ruins in the world and one of the absolute best things to see in Lima: Huaca Pucllana. Walk through this incredibly preserved pre-Incan city and learn about the lives of its inhabitants. Inside you’ll also find one of the best restaurants in all of Lima, set right among the ancient structures.
Named the World’s Best Culinary Destination for four consecutive years, Lima has more than its share of culinary treats for visitors. Dine on classic dishes such as ceviche, causa and lomo saltado, available anywhere from carts on the street to several of the world’s best restaurants (three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants can be found here!).
Trying Peruvian food is to fall in love with Peruvian food, which is often followed by the realization that you’ll never find dishes that good once you leave the country. So why not learn to make it yourself? Lima offers incredible cooking classes for those wanting to take the flavors of Peru home, and it’s a great way to learn more about the role of food in Peruvian culture. Many include trips to local markets to shop for ingredients, another quintessential Peruvian experience. For a limited time only, you can take cooking classes with one of Peru’s most famous chefs, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino while aboard the Aqua Nera cruise.
Lima’s rolling cliffs are one of the most beautiful sights in the city, and the boardwalk along the top is a favorite place to take a relaxing walk through the city. The malecon (boardwalk) stretches from Miraflores to Barranco, and a walk along it will offer you views of the lighthouse, the beach below, fine dining and shopping at the Cliffside Larcomar center, and even the chance to soar above the city by paragliding!
Lima’s artsy district, Barranco is always the favorite neighborhood to wander for both tourists and locals alike. Quaint streets are lined with colorful little homes, and cobblestoned plazas are encircled by the trendiest bars and restaurants in the city. You’ll find a warm but laidback vibe on the art-filled streets of Barranco, one that will likely bring you back day after day. Visit the Mario Testino house here to view the famous Peruvian photographer’s work, or shop your way through the many boutiques and specialty shops. For more information about Barranco, view 10 Best Things to Do in Barranco.
Parque de las Aguas may literally be called “The Water Park”, but it’s nothing like the water parks you’ve heard of. This green space sits in the middle of downtown Lima, home to an incredible set of fountains and light installations that come to life once the sun sets. Rivaling shows you’d see at Disneyland, this sprawling park is a beautiful sight for adults and children alike and always a favorite thing for visitors to see in Lima. You’ll completely forget you’re in the middle of a big city once you delve into Parque de las Aguas!
Of course, no trip to Lima would be complete without a little salsa music! The city is full of great live music venues, with everything from small lounges and restaurants to glitzy nightclubs offering different types of music every night of the week. Come to listen to Peru’s favorite sounds and work up the courage to get out onto the dance floor yourself! For those who prefer just to take it all in, you can count on some talented locals to put on a show. You’ll find plenty of spots hosting live bands right in the main districts of the city.
For those looking for adventure within the city, you’ll definitely find it here in Lima. Paraglide over the city and beach from the cliffs of Miraflores, or go surfing or paddle boarding at one of the popular beaches (lessons are offered, too!). Rent bicycles and cruise along the beautiful coast, or take a day trip outside the city center to one of the many trails in the highlands of Lima. Maybe even take a salsa lesson so you can dance through your trip! Whatever gets your heart pumping, you’ll find it here in Lima.
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