Lima, Peru is a vibrant, social, colourful and relaxed city, boasting beaches, hip suburbs and some intriguing history. Generally forgotten as the launching point for explorations of Machu Picchu and the Amazon Jungle, you can’t miss this multi-faceted city. The Peruvian capital contains some of the humblest and most generous people, unique and daring food, and views of the ocean that are unparalleled in most South America capitals. If you can ignore the horrendous traffic and some sketchy areas of the city, you’ll love this Lima City Guide.
History & Geography
Lima is the capital city of the South American country of Peru. Peru is internationally renowned for being the host of the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, and the jumping off point for many tours into the Amazon Jungle. Peru is located in the northwestern side of the continent, and Lima sits on the water at the most western point. The city was colonized in the 1500s by the Spanish, before fighting for its independence in the 1800s. Lima has always been the epicentre of trade, commerce, culture and traditions in Peru.
What To See and Do
Miraflores is a hip and modern suburb in the west of Lima. Located on prime beach-front property, the region is stuffed full with restaurants, cafes and has a pumping nightlife with multiple bars. The area is generally filled with young couples and wealthy retirees, and is a tourist hub of activity. The clifftop section of this suburb is beautiful, with manicured gardens that look out over the ocean. You can walk along the top of the cliff, past the luxurious apartments buildings, sophisticated stores and tennis courts. This leafy suburb is very popular with tourists for a reason, it’s beautiful and relaxing.
This funky beach-side suburb has it all. A plethora of restaurants and cafes, craft beer breweries, art galleries, old cinemas and a location that’s hard to beat. Wander around the main square, where you’ll find artisan vendors selling homemade crafts, food trucks, and Peruvians selling balloons. All of this activity has the backdrop of some photogenic crumbling Spanish colonial buildings. After you’ve eaten, drank and spent your tourist dollars on handmade crafts, why not head down to the beach. From the main square, you’ll follow a long, paved pathway (past Starbucks, we’re sorry to report) down to the water. Along the pathway, you’ll find people selling jewellery, food and a range of Peruvian souvenirs. The pathway descends quite steeply down the hill, and you’ll finally catch a glimpse of the shimmering ocean. Grab an ice cream, sit by the water and watch the brave surfers and families down at the beach.
Larco Museum, Lima
The Larco Museum in Pueblo Libre is a privately owned, fascinating collection, and a must-see before your Machu Picchu exploration. The museum contains a massive range of artefacts, as well as a descriptive and vivid Incan history. It provides great insight into the Incan culture, why they built the iconic Machu Picchu and their rule. The Incans were highly effective, creating many forms of irrigation and structural buildings, even in their short 100-year rule. The museum features a myriad of gold and silver artefacts from the Incan era. Browse the halls of the museum before exploring the souvenir shops and eating in the fine dining restaurant. One interesting aspect is the erotic history section, dedicated to erotic Incan statues that celebrate conception, birth and fertility. Try to keep a straight face – we dare you!
The western side of the city is perched precariously on the top of cliffs, that loom over the Pacific Ocean. That means that any trip to the beach is going to be a mission. The best places to get to the beach are Barranco and Miraflores. The beaches there have parking, and are accessible by foot. You can sit on the water’s edge and watch the surfers, or brave the temperatures and dip into the water yourself. The black sand under your feet and the high city cliffs looming behind you will create a unique beach experience, so bring your camera.
Plaza De Armes (Plaza Mayor)
Every capital city in South America seems to have a ‘Plaza De Armes’, however they all seem to be unique and different. This one is no exception. The Plaza has a fountain in the middle that was constructed in 1578, and is surrounded by palm trees and stunning Spanish colonial buildings. It is known as the historic centre of Lima, and the birthplace of the city. In 1821 Jose de San Martin proclaimed the independence of Peru and paraded the new flag around the Plaza. Ever since, the plaza has been highly regarded as the centre of town, and where many protests and marches take place. The Plaza is lined on one side by the Cathedral of Lima, constructed in 1622. Hundreds of years later, the Plaza as we know it today was completed, with the construction of the Archbishop’s Palace of Lima in 1922. Take a stroll around the plaza at night, when it hums with people. Families gather with their children, old men play chess, tourists snap away at the buildings and young couples meet. It truly is Lima’s epicentre.
Peruvian Food to Sample
This dish is simply meat that is served on a skewer. However, the most popular choice is beef heart. Don’t be concerned about what it actually is, because it tastes delicious and exactly like every other cut of beef. You can grab these delicious treats from street vendors and most restaurants. Walk around the streets of Lima, and you’ll feel right at home.
These are incredible. Sweet Potato doughnuts, that are deep friend and covered in a maple syrup like covering. Melt in your mouth goodness. These can be found at most street food vendors, as they are extremely popular with the locals, and we can see why. Grab some Picarones, and sit in the plaza to enhance your eating experience.
This is a Peruvian Tripe dish. Beef tripe is stewed with vegetables and potatoes. It doesn’t sounds appealing, but trust us, try it and you’ll love it. The dish is traditionally served with spices, and stir fried. Be brave and go for it!
This is a very popular dish in Lima, and in Peru. A raw fish dish, served in different styled sauces, Ceviche is served at many restaurants and many are even dedicated to the dish. You have to try it at least once during your stay in Lima.
It tastes like Lamb! Seriously! There is NOTHING more Peruvian than Alpaca meat. Locals serve the meat with almost anything, but its popular with a sweet milky sauce. You’ll also find it in a lot of pastas.
Are you game? Peruvians absolutely LOVE this delicacy. Served in stews, roasted whole or in small pieces, this dish is not for the faint hearted. The dish itself is quite expensive, is regarded as a delicacy, and is served with anything. Restaurants will often bring out the Guinea Pig once cooked as a whole, so that you can view it, then take it away to cut it up (so that it no longer looks like a cute furry rodent – thank goodness!)
Lima is a very popular destination, as the gateway to tours to Machu Picchu and the Amazon Jungle, and you can generally get daily flights to Lima. You will join the rest of the trekkers, pilgrims, wildlife seekers and tourists in this incredible city. You may find yourself getting carried away by the enthusiasm that the locals show towards their city, they really are very proud of how far this metropolis has come.
We hope you have enjoyed this city guide, giving you everything you need to know about this incredible city. Give yourself enough time to enjoy the food, people and culture that makes this city so unique and diverse. So grabs some friends, get your passport out, and give this city the exploration it deserves!