20 best things to do in Lima

Lima is a dynamic coastal city located in front of the Pacific, which offers interesting contrasts: on the one hand, pre-Columbian archeological sites and traditional places, and on the other, chic and hipster addresses in neighborhoods that are being modernized.

What to see and do in Lima? Where to stay?

Visiting Lima means discovering the capital of Peru, during the colonial era, was the most important city in South America and, today is one of the main cities in the region and one of the largest gastronomic destinations in the world.

It is not a very popular city, the victim of a reputation that it has not been able to get rid of, being considered a gray and chaotic city. So you do not miss anything on your visit to Lima.

Read below the 20 Best things to do in Lima :

  1. The Plaza de Armas

The Plaza Mayor, also called Plaza de Armas, in the heart of the city and an important tourist site of free tour Lima.

  • Metropolitan Cathedral of Lima: Erected in 1535 on a place of Inca worship and the palace of Prince Sinchi Puma, it has undergone many transformations over the centuries, so today it shows several styles: Baroque, Gothic, Neoclassical and Romantic. It is a huge structure that contains thirteen chapels and the tomb of Francisco Pizarro.
  • Archbishop’s Palace: Right next to the cathedral, is this neocolonial building with beautiful balconies made of wood, and which is currently the residence of the Archbishop of Lima and the administrative center of the Catholic Church in Peru. For several years, the palace houses a fairly complete religious art museum, which exhibits an art collection dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.
  • Government Palace : it is the seat of the government of Peru and the residence of the president. You can see the changing of the guard’s shift every day at noon.
  • Pisco Museum : it is not exactly a museum, but a bar specialized in pisco. The place is very beautiful, the waiters know their products well, the menu is very wide and there are both traditional cocktails and original creations with local ingredients.
  • Chocomuseum : Once again, it is not really a museum although there is a section that shows the chocolate manufacturing process), it is rather a shop where you can find many chocolate products (bars, cocoa pisco, jams, etc.). It also offers a chocolate workshop with a duration of two hours.
  • Cordano Bar : This restaurant-bar is a true institution in Lima, since since its opening, at the beginning of nineteen hundred, it has seen numerous intellectuals, artists and politicians parade. It is known for its ham sandwiches, and an excellent place to try pisco sour or chilcano, but it is more for its traditional Lima environment that you have to visit.
  1. Aliaga’s house

One block from the square is the oldest colonial residence in Lima (Early 16th century). It was Jeronimo de Aliaga, Francisco Pizarro’s arms partner, who had this house built on land that he donated himself and where he had previously A pre-Hispanic temple.

It is a magnificent mansion with a lot of presence, large stairs, wooden furniture, living room with French style, mirrors, and Louis XVI style furniture, plus a beautiful interior patio. His descendants still live there and the house can be visited with prior reservation.

  1. The balconies of Lima

During the time of the v irreinato of Peru and the time of the Republic, numerous balconies were built that has become a true symbol of the architecture of Lima. There are not many who have survived the passage of time, but some have benefited from a restoration and conservation plan promoted in the late 1990s.

You can see beautiful examples in the Plaza Mayor, but there are just two buildings built during the era of the Viceroyalty that is worth checking out:

Torre Tagle Palace: Two blocks from the Plaza Mayor is located the Marquis Palace of Torre Table, which stands out for its Andalusian Baroque facade and its two magnificent wooden balconies typical of Lima, with Moorish style and made of cedar and mahogany.

Casa de Osambela: It is near the Santo Domingo Convent, there is also the Casa de Oquendo, which was one of the largest of its time. The beautiful light blue mansion belonged to a rich merchant who, from the top floor with a fabulous view of the Pacific Ocean, could observe how his ships approached the port of Callao. I remember going up to the viewpoint some time ago with a guide, but I think that in recent years access has been restricted. 

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  1. Church and Convent of Santo Domingo

Thanks to its pink facade, Santo Domingo does not go unnoticed, which is a true fortune, because it is a place that you must visit in Lima.

Built during the 16th century on land donated by Pizarro to the Dominican friar Vicente de Valverde, it remains one of the most important religious complexes in the capital.

There are the relics of San Martin de Porres and Santa Rosa de Lima, two important local Catholic figures. The building is beautiful, but I fell in love with its Inner Garden. A true oasis of peace!

  1. Basilica and monastery of San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco is another essential visit in Lima and one of the most beautiful historical buildings in the capital.

The church can be visited freely, but I also recommend the visit to the monastery of San Francisco, one of my favourite stops in the historic center.

The guide will take you through the building, still partially occupied by the monks, between paintings of the School of Cusco and the School of Lima, colored tiles, sculptures, cloisters, and other rooms.

  1. San Martin Square

Another important place to visit Lima. It was built in the early twentieth century in honor of Jose de San Martin, one of the greatest figures of the independence of Peru. You will recognize her for her statue of Saint Martin mounted on horseback and the white buildings that surround her.

To get from the Plaza de Armas, you have to take the wide pedestrian street Jiron de la Union. Stop at the Iglesia de la Merced built at the beginning of the 17th century, a beautiful church with Panamanian granite and baroque columns.

In the Plaza San Martin, you can take a tour of the Gran Hotel Bolivar, an imposing building of the twenties, to taste a pisco sour or know the impressive lobby that is guarded by an old  Ford T.

  1. Minerals Museum

If you like somewhat unusual places, the Andres Castillo Minerals Museum is two steps away from the square. It is a beautifully restored mansion, Casa Belen, which houses the largest collection of minerals in all of Peru. Do not miss the collection of phosphorescent minerals in the room specially dedicated to them. A place to visit in Lima that very few people know!

  1. Chinatown

The Chinatown of Lima is located exactly next to the historic center, in the Barrios Altos district. It should be noted that in Peru, and mainly in Lima, it is estimated that there are more than two million inhabitants of Chinese origin, which makes it the seventh-largest Chinese community in the world outside that country!

In spite of everything, the Chinatown is not very large, and it focuses mainly on a single street, Capon Street. In addition to going to their stores and taking a pleasant walk, people go there for the main reason: to eat chia, a fusion of Chinese (mainly Cantonese) and Peruvian cuisine.

  1. Market cent ral

Right next to the Chinatown of Lima is the Central Market , a huge market that occupies a whole block. A real chaos where you can find everything.

In the main building are food: fruits and vegetables, meats of all kinds, fish, seafood, spices, etc. and the kiosks that prepare dishes to consume at the place at a very economical price. Around the building, the streets are occupied by a multitude of places where you can find: clothes, kitchen or car accessories, shoes, laptops, books and school supplies, electronic items, even animals!

There are always many people (so be careful with your belongings), but it is certainly an experience that I recommend living when visiting downtown Lima. It will be difficult to find something more local!

  1. MALI

At the entrance of the historic center is the Lima Art Museum. Located in a beautiful building of the Exhibition Park, it was built for the Lima International Exhibition in 1872.

The museum houses a large collection of Peruvian art that covers 3000 years of history spread across 9 rooms, from pre-Columbian cultures to modern times (ceramics, textiles, furniture, paintings, etc.). You will also find temporary exhibitions of national and international art.

I recommend you take a walk around Cafe MALI, one of the good (and rare) options for a coffee or a snack in the historic center.

  1. Magic Water Circuit

The magic water circuit is complex with thirteen sources that are located in the Parque de la Reserva. As soon as you arrive, you will hear the children scream with joy. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lima for families, but you will also find young people in love, especially at nightfall, when the fountains light up and the atmosphere becomes romantic.

Do not miss the show of the Fountain of Fantasy, game of lasers and images of traditional Peruvian dances, projected in one hundred and twenty meters of water jets, and accompanied by typical music. 

  1. Kennedy Park

Central Park in the heart of the Miraflores neighborhood. Surrounded by shops, cafes and important avenues such as Diagonal, Jose Larco and Jose Pardo, the park itself is not very large, but it has a beautiful church, the Parish of the Miraculous Virgin, and several food stalls: churros, sandwiches, rice pudding, picarones (sweet potato and pumpkin fritters), etc. Personally, I recommend you try the picarones, they are among the best in Lima. But yes, share them because the portion is large. A good plan in Lima!

If you like craft beer, go around Nuevo Mundo, a bar located in front of the park (Calle Manuel Bonilla 103, Miraflores, Lima). This one of the best places to try different products of Peruvian craft breweries.

  1. Malec or n

This walk in front of the Pacific Ocean, between Miraflores and Barranco, is the most pleasant place to walk in Lima, while enjoying the coast, the horizon, and the green spaces. It is an ideal place to enjoy in the afternoon you can enjoy the magnificent sunset. This is Lima’s favourite place to run or cycle, as there is a long bicycle lane.

On the boardwalk there are two nice cafes to take a break: Cafe Buenavista and El Beso Frances, the latter opened by Samantha, a French expatriate resident in Lima. Its selection of sweet and savory crepes (tomato and cheese, simple, but excellent!), its good cappuccino and fresh orange juices, made it one of my favourite places in Lima.

  1. Love Park

This small park on the boardwalk dedicated to love attracts families and lovers. It is easily recognizable by its statue “The Kiss” by the sculptor Víctor Delfín and its multicolored benches in the style of Gaudí decorated with phrases of love.

It is undoubtedly one of the most photographed places in Lima. It is worth mentioning that the park is full of the celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14.

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  1. Larcomar

On the boardwalk, at the junction of Larco Avenue, is Larcomar, one of the great tourist places in Lima.

It is a three-story shopping center built on the cliff facing the Pacific Ocean. In it, there are countless shops, cinema, bookstore and many restaurants with a terrace, in addition to a free art gallery (SAM Modern Art Hall) that always offers interesting exhibitions. 

At the entrance of Larcomar, there is an information kiosk and bicycle rental to take a walk along the Costa Verde.

  1. Huaca Pucllana

The Huaca Pucllana is undoubtedly a place to see in Lima for lovers of archeology and history. This pre-Columbian archaeological site of the 1600s is located in the heart of Miraflores, however, few are the travelers who know it. It is true that one does not expect to find a pyramid in the middle of a residential area, and that is probably why its excavation began only thirty years ago.

It was a great religious and administrative center where four civilizations followed: Yschma, Lima, Wari, and Inca. The guided tour shows the different ceremonial structures and practices (sacrifices and mummies) of each culture.

In the square, there is also an orchard, llamas, and alpacas, as well as a restaurant with a beautiful terrace that offers an impressive view of the pyramid. At night, when it is lit, it is worth taking a look.

  1. Amano Museum

It is a museum in Miraflores (still less known by travelers than Huaca Pucllana) that protects one of the most important collections of pre-Columbian textiles in the world. There are a total of 460 textile pieces from the Chavín, Paracas, Nasca, Mochica, Huari, Sihuas, Lambayeque, Chimu, Chancay, Chuquibamba and Inca cultures.

It is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the history of textile development in Peru, as well as the utensils, the different fibers and the natural products used to dye fabrics.

  1. Musee Larco

The Larco Museum is, by far, my favourite museum, and one of the essential visits to Lima for many reasons. The museum contains an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts (including the largest collection of pre-Columbian erotic art ) initiated by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1923 and spanning around 5000 years of history.

Fun fact: the museum’s reserve is accessible to visitors who can find approximately 30,000 additional archaeological finds. All of the above within a farm of the eighteenth century with a flowery garden, a comfortable restaurant-cafeteria, and a beautiful terrace. The place is perfect for coffee or a drink. At night it becomes a very romantic place thanks to artificial lighting.

  1. National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru

It is the first museum in Peru and during the first 100 years of the Republic, it was the only one in the whole country. Today it has 300,000 pieces that concentrate 12,000 years of history, and correspond to pre-Hispanic, colonial and republican times.

One can discover in it the appearance and evolution of ceramics, textiles and metallurgy, and large religious centers such as Sechin or pilgrimage centers such as Chavín de Huantar.

The museum shows great cultures from various regions of Peru: Paracas, Nasca, Huari, Chancay, Chimu / Lambayeque, Tiwanaku, Chincha, Churajon, Chuquibamba, Chiribaya and Ychsma, and several communities in the Amazon. The exhibition ends with the socio-economic and political changes that occurred during the time of the conquest and the colony, until the Independence and the time of the Republic.

Don’t miss the Tawantinsuyu room (Inca Empire) with models of Machu Picchu, Winay Wayna and Coricancha in Cusco.

  1. Nation Museum

This free museum is one of the largest in Peru and is located in the same building that houses the offices of the Ministry of Culture. There are 12,500 pieces from the pre-Hispanic era (metals, textiles, and ceramics, from the Paracas, Mochica, Wari, Lima cultures), but also 2500 pieces from the colonial and republican times.

The last floor is devoted to the years of political violence (decades of 1980 and 1990) when the Shining Path and the Peruvian State were in conflict.

Hope this information will help you to visit free walking tour lima.