Ever since the 15th century, Peru’s capital city Lima has been an important South American hub. Today, travellers routing themselves to the more exotic locales of Peru through here typically envisage the city as a modern day megalopolis, sprawled over multitudes of districts and suburbs, that house extremes from shantytowns to ultramodern affluent neighborhoods and high rise buildings. While that rings true, look deeper yet, to uncover an ancient city boasting a rich Incan and Spanish colonial history, and home to unique historic, cultural attractions in addition to its modern day draws. Here are a few pointers for travellers that make a strong case to spend a few days in Lima.
Cercado de Lima
Most of Lima’s stunning architecture and colonial roots are found in its historic center. Locally known as “Lima Centro” or “Cercado de Lima”, this part of the city still plays a major role in the everyday lives of locals. Decorated with Spanish colonial buildings, beautiful squares (Plaza San Martín and Plaza Mayor), narrow busy streets, parks and galleries, Lima’s historic center has an extremely traditional and authentic feel.
Most tours through Lima spend much of their time in this historic, central region of the city. From the baroque-style Church of San Francisco and opulent colonial houses to the grand basilicas, churches, monasteries and government palace, visitors will not find it difficult to spot the regal roots in this “City of the Kings.” As you wander through Lima Centro’s vibrant squares and balcony-lined streets, keep your eyes open for the 16th century Aliaga House, Lima Cathedral and the Torre Tagle Palace - a few of the city’s most recognizable icons. For a more modern (and recently added) visit in the downtown area, Lima has just completed the “Magic Water Circuit”- an entertaining light, music and water fountain show that is held four nights a week in the Parque de la Reserva!
Visitors Beware: Being the epicenter of Lima’s tourism, the historical center is also know for its scam artists and phony tour operators; avoid any uncomfortable situations by booking your Lima tour guide before you visit!
South of the Center: Miraflores
Just south of Lima’s historic center is the Miraflores district, one of Lima’s more upscale (and safer) districts lined with parks, beaches, gardens and looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Also Lima’s modern city center, this touristic region is where all the best accommodation options, shops, restaurants and nightlife can be found. Top cultural attractions within Miraflores include the pre-Incan ruins of Huaca Pucllana, Church of la Virgen Milagrosa, Kennedy & Central Park, Avenue of the Pizzas (popular among Lima’s youth) and its many art galleries. Given a generous smattering of excellent restaurants, this central tourist district is the best place to get acquainted with traditional Peruvian cuisine and the Pisco Sour, a must for anyone visiting the country!
Outlying Suburbs and Districts of Lima
While Miraflores and Lima Centro are the main tourist hubs of the Garden city, take a detour to the Larco Museum, a powerhouse of Lima’s extensive history showcasing a varied collection right from ceramics and mummies, to erotic pottery.
Barranco is known to be Lima’s more “bohemian” district, home to many of the city’s prominent artists, musicians and designers. Its beautiful cliff-side location, excellent surfing, colonial houses and contemporary art museums make this quarter another top visit in the city.
San Isidro is Lima’s main financial district, with an extremely wide range of attractions. From pre-Incan ruins and international embassies to Peruvian hero monuments, religious structures, upscale hotels and an iconic skyline, Lima’s Central Business District gives visitors a glimpse of what modern-day Lima really looks like.
When to Visit Lima
Lima’s climate is famous for its stark contrasts: Summer is clear, warm and sunny, and winter is, well, none of the above. While winter is not very cold in Lima, it does bring a thick blanket of mist that hovers ominously over the valley leaving the city shrouded in gray. Do plan your trips to Lima around December to March when the weather is at its best.