Lima City Guide
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is located mid-way down on the desert coastline of the country. This city is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers and is bordered by the foothills of the Andes Mountains on one side and a desert coast that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on the other. It was once the most prosperous and important city in Spanish America. Such was the prominence of Lima that it used to be known as the ‘City of Kings’. Today however Lima has lost some of that splendor as it is a crowded and polluted, though animated and bustling city- home to more than 8 million people.
This Peruvian capital is often used by tourists as a gateway to Peru’s world famous site of the Inca era, Machu Picchu. Many visitors however do pause to include a short vacation in Lima in order to take in its fascinating old world colonial sites like grand old mansions, plazas and museums as they revel in its captivating dining and nightlife scenes.
Where to stay in Lima
Lima Centro, which is the historic heart of the city, used to be its pride and glory but this city center of Lima has suffered greatly due to various natural disasters and years of neglect. As a result, it is not coveted as an accommodation option any more. Most of the accommodation options located in Lima Centro include discount hotels and budget accommodations (hostales), which are geared towards backpackers and budget tourists on a vacation to Lima.
San Isidro Hotels
The neighborhood of San Isidro is one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods in Lima. It is located at a distance of 3-5 miles away from the Pacific coast. Most of the city’s top luxury hotels are located in San Isidro along with several offices and shopping malls. The area consequently is an immensely popular accommodation option in Lima.
Like San Isidro, Miraflores is yet another coveted neighborhood in Lima, popular with visiting tourists. Miraflores offers a wide variety of hotels that cater to all budgets and the neighborhood also hosts numerous bars, restaurants and shopping outlets.
Barranco is a former seaside village located on the outskirts of Lima renowned for its vibrant nightlife scene. The district of Barranco is especially popular with young and trendy tourists for it hosts some of Lima’s best bars, restaurants and live-music venues along with hip, boutique hotels.
Places to see in Lima
Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin
The Plaza Mayor and the Plaza San Martin squares constitute the heart of Lima city. Plaza Mayor, which is also known as Plaza de Armas, displays its colonial heritage by way of a 17th century bronze fountain and ancient street lamps. Plaza de Armas used to be the central marketplace of Lima during colonial times and it was here that many gory bullfights were held during the years of the Spanish rule. This pedestrianised square is littered with many prominent buildings like the baroque Spanish Cathedral and the Government Palace, which features the changing of the guard ceremony. This ceremony takes place daily at 12.45pm on weekdays and should be witnessed on any vacation in Lima. Other prominent buildings located here include the Town Hall and the Archbishop’s palace.
The Plaza San Martin is yet another busy spot in the city center which is adorned with fountains and hosts street vendors and buskers along with regular street protests and rallies.
Museo de la Nación (National Museum)
The Museo de la Nación is the largest and most important museum in Peru that offers a valuable insight into the ancient history of Peru. The museum offers numerous archeological displays, which help to illustrate the rich, cultural heritage of Peru.
Museo de Oro del Peru (Gold Museum)
This heavily guarded museum offers displays of treasures that dates back to the days of the Inca Empire. The museum’s permanent collection features massive amounts of gold jewelry and ceremonial objects like the famed golden Tumi, which is today used as a symbol of Peru. Also located within the museum are other Inca exhibits like masks, clothing, textiles, tapestries, wooden staffs, antique weapons and more. Lima’s Museo de Oro is a definite must-do on any visit to Lima.
Museo Rafael Larco Herrera
This museum is housed in an 18th century colonial structure and offers one of the largest and most impressive ceramic collections in the world. The collection features 55,000 clay pots dates back to the era of the Moche Dynasty, a people who lived along the northern coast of Peru between 200 and 700 AD. These ceramic vessels offer much information about the Moche way of life including their agrarian culture, religion, dance and music, transport modes and more.
Church of San Francisco
The Church of San Francisco is an impressive colonial church in Lima. This church sports twin towers and has a stone façade. It is one of the few buildings to have withstood the devastation of the earthquake of 1746. The interior of the church is very striking for it is adorned with arches and columns, which are decorated with stunning Mosaic tile work. The church also has a library that dates back to the 17th century and offers artworks by masters like Ruebens, Van Dyck and others. It is believed that its underground catacombs contain the remains of nearly 70,000 people.
The Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology
This museum is located on Plaza Bolivar and is one of the most interesting museums in South America. It offers exhibits of ceramics, metalwork, stone sculptures, jewelry and textiles that illustrate Peru’s rich cultural heritage from prehistoric times to the colonial and republican periods.
The Museum of Inquisition
This museum is housed in a magnificent mansion and is located near the House of Congress. It functioned as the tribunal for the Spanish Inquisition. The mansion dates back to the 16th century and is believed to have belonged to the founders of Lima. However the catacombs of the mansion reveal its gruesome history for during the Spanish Inquisition era (15th to the 19th centuries) numerous so-called heretics were tortured and killed in the prison cells that were located here.
Best time to visit Lima
Lima is situated in the tropics and thus experiences a mild year round climate. As Lima is located in the southern hemisphere, it experiences it summer months during the months of December to April. Summers in Lima are generally warm, humid and sunny with temperatures that generally oscillate between lows of 64 °F (18 °C) to 72 °F (22 °C), and highs of 75 °F (24 °C) to 84 °F (29 °C).
Winter temperatures in Lima typically range from lows of 54 °F (12 °C) and highs to 66 °F (19 °C). However the weather in Lima is often disrupted by currents like the cold offshore Humboldt Current which lowers temperatures during the summer months.
Getting around in Lima
Lima is accessed via its Jorge Chavez International Airport, which is located 10 miles (16km) to the north west of the city. This airport welcomes a host of international and domestic air carriers and is the main gateway to Lima and the rest of Peru. Lima’s airport is connected to the city center by way of buses, taxis and shuttle bus services.
Fare Buzz in fact regularly announces tempting flight deals to Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport and if you have always wanted to make a trip to Machu Picchu, you would do well as to avail of these cheap air flights for your journey. Moreover if you connect with Fare Buzz on Facebook or Twitter you are guaranteed to receive advance information about cheap air tickets to Lima along with information about various other flight and hotel deals.
Lima is served by a public transport system that is made up of buses and taxis. Taxis are unregulated in Lima so it is advisable to settle on a fare with the driver before embarking on your journey. Most visitors to Lima use taxis to get around as driving in the city is quite challenging for local drivers are often reckless and aggressive while the roads of the Peruvian capital are often in poor shape.
Where to shop in Lima
Lima offers an abundance of shopping facilities guaranteed to meet all tastes and preferences. Fancy boutiques, department stores, malls, street markets all feature on the city’s vibrant shopping scene.
However, most visitors to Lima seem to want to shop for authentic Peruvian souvenirs and the best sites for souvenir shopping in Lima, are the many small stores that make up its bustling artisan markets located at areas like Miraflores, San Miguel and along Av.La Marina. At these stores, you can stock up on typical Peruvian souvenirs like beautiful silver jewelry, silverware, alpaca sweaters, souvenir t-shirts, pottery, artworks and wood carvings sourced from all over Peru.
Aside from its artisan markets, Lima also offers additional shopping options at its various department stores and malls. Lima’s western style department stores are owned by three main corporations, namely Oeschle, Ripley and Saga Falabella. These department stores offer a wide variety of products including apparel, footwear, household goods, fragrances and beauty, appliances and more. Modern malls made an appearance on Lima’s retail scene in the late nineties and today the city’s malls like Jockey Plaza, Larcomar, Lima Plaza Sur, Plaza Norte, Real Plaza, Primavera and Molina Plaza offer much scope for shopping, dining and entertainment.
Malls and department stores in Lima typically stay open for business from 11am until 10pm, Monday through Saturday. Payment is accepted in Peruvian soles, dollars and by Visa and Master Card credit cards though foreigners are advised to carry their passports as a form of identification.
Where to eat in Lima
Lima is home to a rich mix of cultures and culinary interests and the city offers a vibrant dining scene littered with many great restaurants. Well-regarded and recommended restaurants in Lima, which offer samplings of well-known Peruvian delights like Ceviche (cured fish), Lomo Saltado (strips of beef sautéed with chilies, tomatoes and onions) and Pisco Sours,include hotspots like Malabar, La Mar, Astrid Y Gaston, Fiesta, Rafael and Chez Wong.
Nightlife in Lima
The Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods of Lima are known as ‘party central’ areas of the city. Located here are numerous bars, pubs, cocktail lounges and dance clubs that tend to stay open for business until the early hours of the morning especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Favored nightlife haunts in Lima, include buzzing nightspots like Aura, Gottica, Dolce Vita, Help Retro Bar, Dubal, La Noche, Nebula, Tequila Rock, Downtown Vale Todo (all thumping dance clubs) and bars like Huaringas, Etnias Bar Cultural and El Dragon de Barranco.