Destinations

Things To Do In Lima

The best attractions and things to do in Lima

Although perhaps not quite matching-up to some of Latin America’s most enchanting urban centres, Lima’s sprawling, sea-edged form comprises a patchwork of different architectural eras – from the jerry-built northern suburbs to the colonial gems at its heart and the Pre-Columbian riches filling its museums. It is, then, well worth the effort – especially if you stay focused on the highlights.

The clearest juxtaposition of new and old is offered by the monied district of Miraflores. Here, you can visit the neat adobe walls of Pucllana Temple – a ceremonial centre built in about 500AD. (If you get the adobe bug, head out of town to Pachacamac – a much grander archaeological complex situated 20 miles southeast of the city centre.) If the dust of history is proving too much for you, it’s time to head straight back to the present day with a cleansing stroll along El Malécon – a green lung six miles long atop the cliffs. Need some retail therapy, or Peruvian seafood with a sea view? Head down to Larcomar – a megacomplex built into the cliffside and under the streets and parkland of Miraflores.

If you’d rather browse goods with a considerably longer history, head to the Larco Museum in nearby Pueblo Libre for a three-millennium sweep of the ceramics, textiles and metal artifacts used by many of Peru’s Pre-Columbian civilisations. If you’re overwhelmed by the display of erotic pottery, head for the sanctuary of the excellent café and gardens. 

If, at this point, you find yourself puzzling over the fact that the Inca didn’t have a written language, make a beeline for the Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History, where you can attempt to crack the code of the knotted strings known as ‘Quipu’ (also ‘Khipu’).

Hankering after an intense hit of colonial history?

Organise a tour of Aliaga House, located three blocks southwest of Plaza Mayor and Government House in central Lima. The oldest colonial house in South America, Aliaga dates back to 1535 – when conquistador and founder of Lima Francisco Pizarro gave a plot of land to his ally Jeronimo de Aliaga. Eighteen generations later, the Aliaga family are still in residence – and share the space with a treasure trove of artifacts, including a sword used in the conquest of Peru. Of the other colonial-era buildings in Lima, the Church of San Francisco is another top pick, due in large part to its collection of religious texts and the skeleton-stacked catacombs below.

From the sacred to the profane, Lima’s Magic Water Circuit is a combination of illuminated fountains that somehow manages to produce a far more joyful response than seems possible.

When it comes to beverages, make your first drink of the evening a Pisco Sour – a frothy-topped cocktail consisting of grape brandy mixed with sour citrus juice. First created in Lima in the early years of the 20th century, this cocktail is perhaps best enjoyed amidst the suitably historic surroundings of Bar Queirolo or the Gran Hotel Bolivar.

To follow up Peru’s national drink with some national cuisine, look out for ceviche – a deliciously tangy combination of fish cured in lime juice and topped with chili and, sometimes, onion and herbs as well. Chicken, lamb and beef all feature in other popular Peruvian dishes, but perhaps causa – a solid-looking cake of chicken or tuna, avocado and Andean potato – deserves runner-up honours in the ‘what to eat’ stakes. Lima’s restaurant scene is a vibrant one, further infused by the recent rise of indigenous food. Seek out La Mar in Miraflores for ceviche and Chala in the bohemian district of Barranco for an enticing range of food in an attractive setting.

For an example of a tailor-made itinerary taking in the highlights of Lima, please visit our 'Best of Peru' itinerary.

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