The days when Lima was considered a stopover for travellers on the way to Machu Picchu are long gone. Lima is a vibrant megalopolis sprawling from the Pacific Ocean to the Peruvian plains. With 5th-century pyramids, handsome Spanish colonial UNESCO heritage-listed centre, lovely parks and beaches, there are plenty of things to do in Lima.
In recent times, Peru’s capital has emerged as a vibrant destination and culinary hot spot with a pick of excellent restaurants. That’s why one of the iconic things to do in Peru is to go on a culinary adventure in Lima.
Lima’s restaurant scene consists of a blend of Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Indigenous cultures. Fortunately for Lima’s chefs, raw materials are abundant from the ocean, jungle and mountains.
Peru is also one of the countries to visit in South America if you’re keen on an Amazon cruise. An itinerary combing the city attractions of Lima with natural experiences along the Amazon River is a great way to enjoy Peru.
- 15 Things To Do In Lima
- 1- Visit the Larco Herrera Museum
- 2- Wander Around Plaza Mayor
- 3- See Pizarro’s Tomb in the Cathedral of Lima
- 4- Admire Architecture At Basilica of San Francisco
- 5- Drink Pisco Sour
- 6- Eat Peruvian Cuisine
- 7- Explore the Pachacamac ruins
- 8- Discover the Delights of Barranco
- 9- Visit Museo Pedro de Osma
- 10- Discover Modern Art
- 11- Walk Around Love Park
- 12- Shop in Larcomar
- 13- Visit Huaca Pucllana
- 14- See the Magic Water Circuit
- 15- Shop at the Indian Markets
- Restaurants in Lima
- Where To Stay In Lima
15 Things To Do In Lima
1- Visit the Larco Herrera Museum
Even if you’re not a fan of visiting museums, a visit to Larco Herrera Museum will help you unravel mysteries of Peru’s ancient civilisations.
5,000 years of archaeological wonders are housed in a private mansion built on the site of a pre-Columbian temple.
On display are ceramics, textiles, precious metal artefacts and mummies.
The museum is home to Peru’s most significant private pottery collection with thousands of pots in the shapes of animals, plants and people.
Don’t miss the basement room of erotic archaeological treasures as the collection of ceramic pots is a unique Karma Sutra in clay, portraying a variety of sexual positions.
Brunch at the museum’s café serves up lovely garden views from a shady verandah and delicious pan Peruvian menu.
Larco Museum is at Av. Simón Bolivar 1515, Pueblo Libre, Lima.
2- Wander Around Plaza Mayor
Hail a taxi and head to Lima’s historic centre, which is the former capital of the conquistadors and a World Heritage site.
The bad news is Lima’s traffic is chaotic and getting around requires patience, but the good news is taxi fares are inexpensive.
Plaza de Mayor is surrounded by yellow Spanish colonial buildings with Moorish-style verandahs.
Explore the streets around the plaza for an eye-popping show of colonial churches, monasteries and historic pastel-coloured buildings with wrought ironwork.
Highlights include the Cathedral of Lima, Basilica of San Francisco and the convent of Santa Domingo, its cloister adorned with colourful 1606 tiles from Seville.
San Marco University is the oldest in the Americas, was founded here in 1551 and its library is still intact.
Another way to see the sights is to book a half-day city tour of Lima.
3- See Pizarro’s Tomb in the Cathedral of Lima
Pop into the Cathedral of Lima, which was built between 1535 and 1649, and is where Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro is buried.
Pizarro’s expeditions were responsible for the demise of the Inca empire and allowed Spain to conquer Peru.
The Renaissance Baroque cathedral houses magnificent Cuzco paintings, which are a unique fusion of Catholic religious icons and Indian traditions.
The Basilica Cathedral of Lima is at Jirón Carabaya, Cercado de Lima.
The Cathedral is one of the sights you’ll see on this Lima city tour.
4- Admire Architecture At Basilica of San Francisco
Take a tour of the 17th-century Basilica of San Francisco, which is a block away from Plaza Mayor.
The canary yellow Baroque basilica has gilded alter and an impressive lattice dome.
The adjoining monastery has a collection of ancient religious texts brought over by Spanish priests after the conquest of the Incas.
The catacombs under the church were part of Lima’s original cemeteries and remains of 70,000 plus bodies buried here are stacked in the circular stone pits.
Basilica de San Francisco is at Jirón Lampa, Cercado de Lima.
5- Drink Pisco Sour
Order a pisco sour in one of the many bars and historic hotels in Peru.
Peru’s famous pisco sour is a frothy concoction of grape brandy, syrup, lime juice, egg white and bitters.
Across the road from the Presidential Palace, there’s an old-style corner bar called Bar Cordano (Jr. Áncash 202, Lima), where many Peruvian presidents drank pisco sour.
A grander place to drink pisco sour is at the historic 1920s Grand Hotel Bolivar (Jiron De La Union 958, Lima).
6- Eat Peruvian Cuisine
There are many ways of preparing ceviche, which is a classic Inca seafood dish served with a spicy citrus sauce.
The Peruvian fusion version combining Asian and Peruvian flavours has become all the rage.
A newer twist is the fusion of Peruvian and Mediterranean flavours, which are on the menu at La Locanda.
Avenue La Mar in Miraflores hosts a string of cevicherias that dish up a mind-boggling array of variations on Peru’s famous raw fish dish cured with chillies, onions and lime juice.
Peru’s most famous chef Gaston Arcurio has several Tanta restaurants, where you can fill up on a tasty chicharron sanguche, or Peruvian sandwich with pork belly, salsa criolla (onions and tomatoes) and fried sweet potato.
Another great way to get a taste of Peruvian cuisine is to go on a culinary tour of Lima.
7- Explore the Pachacamac ruins
30km south of Lima, the Pachacamac ruins are a collection of crumbling pyramids, temples and plazas.
Built by the Incas, Pachacamac was once the most significant religious centre on the Peruvian coast.
The Pachacamac Museum, which is located at the entrance of the ruins, has displays of ceramics, textiles and carvings excavated from the site.
From the top of the ruins, there are lovely views of the Pacific Ocean.
8- Discover the Delights of Barranco
Wander around the bohemian neighbourhood of Barranco and soak up the 19th-century atmosphere.
Once a popular summer beach destination during the 19th century, the city has grown so much that Barranco is now a suburb.
The precinct is a treasure trove of colonial buildings, hip bars and restaurants dotted around the ravine and cliffs.
It’s also where Peru’s leading artists, writers and musicians live.
The Bridge of Sighs, or Puente de Los Suspiros, is a wooden structure that crosses the Bajada de Banos, a stone walkway through Lima’s bohemian district, Barranco.
A table at Chala (Bajada de Baños 343, Barranco) has the best views of the bridge and the ocean behind it.
Located in a restored manor, with a verandah shaded by massive fig trees, Chala is a culinary hotspot with chic interiors and a coastal fusion menu that blends Asian, Mediterranean and Peruvian cuisine.
Dedalo (Jirón Sáenz Peña 295, Barranco) is a Peruvian art and design store housed within a charming Art Deco building that showcases folk art and quirky contemporary designs.
Ayahuasca Bar (Ave San Martin 130, Barranco) is an atmospheric art-filled Barranco bar named for the medicinal hallucinogenic tea prepared from a jungle vine.
9- Visit Museo Pedro de Osma
Museo Pedro de Osma has exhibitions of Peruvian art from the fifth to the 18th centuries.
Peru’s Tiahuanaco and Inca cultures are well represented, with precious paintings, furniture and sculptures.
The museum’s restoration workshop provides services to conserve artworks for private collectors and institutions.
Museo Pedro de Osma is open Tuesday to Sunday (10 am to 6 pm).
10- Discover Modern Art
Lima’s contemporary art museum, the MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo) has displays of modern South American art.
The collection belongs to the Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC)
Established Peruvian artists, along with emerging artists, exhibit their works here, and the museum also runs workshops.
Museum of Contemporary Art of Lima (MAC Lima), Av. Grau 1511, Barranco, is open from Tuesday to Sunday (10 am to 6 pm) and Friday (10 am to 8 pm).
11- Walk Around Love Park
Ask the taxi driver to drop you off at Miraflores, a few kilometres away.
If you dare, a glide off the dramatic cliffs on a 15-minute tandem paragliding flight offers bird’s-eye view of the coastline.
Then walk along the clifftop through the “Love Park”, which is home to a sculpture called The Kiss.
A cycling tour of Miraflores is another way to enjoy this outdoorsy city.
12- Shop in Larcomar
Larcomar is a multilevel entertainment complex built into the side of the cliff and tucked beneath the Malecon’s parkland.
It has a choice of restaurants and cafes, where you can sip coffee and enjoy the view after browsing upmarket jewellery stores and boutiques selling fashionable Peruvian designs.
Many cafes have fabulous ocean views.
Take home a quality souvenir, an alpaca jacket or contemporary Peruvian fashion.
13- Visit Huaca Pucllana
You don’t have to travel out of the city to see Peru’s ancient civilisations as Lima has several historic ruins, known as huacas, right in town.
Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores was built around 500 AD and had a 23m pyramid used by Wari priests to worship the gods.
The ruins are illuminated at night, and a table at Restaurant Huaca Pucllana offers a meal with a view.
14- See the Magic Water Circuit
The Magic Water Circuit is a fairyland at night and choreography of water and lasers synchronised with music is delightful to watch.
The dazzling choreography of 13 fountains that shoot water into the air in sync with music and lights is open from Wednesday to Sunday between 4 pm and 10 pm.
If you’re worried about wandering around on your own after dark, this night tour of Lima could be a safer way to get around.
15- Shop at the Indian Markets
The Indian Market is a warren of shops and stalls selling jewellery, crafts and clothing from across Peru.
Other things to buy here are traditional textiles, alpaca scarves, colourful traditional shawls, hats and homewares.
It’s the place to go for a local souvenir, and it’s the place to hone your haggling skills.
The Indian Markets is at Avenida Petit Thouars, Miraflores, Lima.
Restaurants in Lima
La Casa de la Gastromia Peruana
Discover Peru’s diverse food culture at La Casa de la Gastromia Peruana, located in the former post office.
Astrid y Gaston
Astrid y Gaston is the flagship restaurant of Gaston Arcurio and one of San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants in the world.
The famous chef also has other restaurants including La Mar Cevicheria (Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores) and Madam Tusan (Santa Cruz 858, Miraflores).
Malabar (Calle Camino Real 101, San Isidro) s the signature restaurant of Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and one of San Pellegrino’s top 100 restaurants in the world.
Restaurante Central (Calle Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores) is a hip spot run by Virgilis Martinez, a protégé of Gaston Arcurio. It has a rooftop garden and a chocolate cellar.
El Mercado (Calle Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores) is a cevicheria that’s drawing a crowd and one of Rafael Osterling’s restaurants.
La Gloria (Calle Atahualpa 201, Miraflores) has a buzzy atmosphere and a menu of delicious Peruvian and Mediterranean dishes.
Huaca Pucllana (General Borgono cdra. 8, Miraflores) is beside a 5th-century adobe pyramid and a menu of classic Peruvian specialities.
Nanka (Jr. Bambúes 198, La Molina) has kitchen gardens, biodynamic foods and artisanal products.
Where To Stay In Lima
As Peruvians usually dine after 9 pm, late afternoon is a good time for a siesta, a swim or a soothing spa.
Keep this in mind when deciding where to stay in Lima as a conveniently located hotel can make a huge difference to your stay.
Swissotel Lima is located in the upmarket San Isidro area and has a gym, tennis court, outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and spa.
Orient Express Miraflores Park Hotel
The Orient Express Miraflores Park Hotel is beside the Malecon Park overlooking Lima’s spectacular Costa Verde coastline.
The rooms are supremely comfortable, the rooftop pool is perfect on a hot day and Mesa 18’s Japanese fusion restaurant is terrific.
Orient Express is at Ave Malecon De La Reserva 1035, Miraflores.
The Westin Lima is in Lima’s business district and is the tallest building in Peru.
Rooms are sleek and modern.
The spa is the largest in the country and Maras restaurant is Lima’s molecular gastronomy leader.
Westin Lima is at Calle Las Begonias 450, San Isidro.
For more things to do in South America see:
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Brazil
- 20 Incredible Things To Do In Argentina
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Buenos Aires
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Ushuaia
- 15 Things To Do In Quito
- 15 Things To Do in Patagonia
- 15 Things To Do In Santiago