We love exploring a mix of smaller towns and big cities on our trips, so we had been looking forward to visiting Lima during our two-week trip through Peru. We had planned several things to do in Lima, including a great walking tour and an historic drive around the city.
Unfortunately, our plans were derailed a bit when I developed food poisoning in Puno after our visit to Lake Titicaca. With the help of my lovely wife and our Kuoda guide, I was able to get some electrolytes, antibiotics and other wonder drugs, but we had to postpone our flight to the capital city.
We changed our itinerary and ended up with one (almost) full day in the city before our late evening flight, so we tried to make the most of our time. Here are some of the great things we found to do on a quick trip to Lima.
People Watch at the Plaza Mayor (Main Square)
The Plaza Mayor, or Plaza de Armas, is the historic main square in Lima. It was at this site that Francisco Pizarro founded the city in 1535. It’s a great place for taking photos and exploring more about the history of the city. Several notable buildings surround this UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the Cathedral of Lima, its adjoining Archbishop’s Palace, the Government Palace, and City Hall. The buildings have been constructed and re-constructed over the last 500 years and are now predominately done in the Spanish Colonial or Neo-Colonial style. They feature intricately-carved wooden balconies that stand out from the other buildings nearby.
The Cathedral houses a museum with an extensive collection of religious art. Access to the Government Palace requires arranging a special tour in advance. But if you haven’t had the chance to plan ahead, you can still watch the changing of the palace guards for free every day at noon.
Visit the Underground World at the Monastery of San Francisco
Near the Plaza Mayor in Lima’s historic center stands the Monastery of San Francisco. The monastery is a great example of 17th century Baroque architecture, featuring gilded altars, an ornately-carved choir, and a beautiful library.
But it’s the catacombs beneath the monastery that truly make it worth visiting. Like the crypts in Paris, the catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco are filled with the dead of Lima, and the bones have been arranged into beautiful designs. According to the monastery’s official website, more than 25,000 people were buried within the catacombs, although some estimates quote as many as 75,000. Definitely one of the creepiest things to do in Lima.
Stroll the Malecon
Miraflores is Lima’s most picturesque neighborhood. Filled with green space, cafes, and tourists and locals alike enjoying outdoor activities, Miraflores is the perfect place to spend a sunny day. A key feature of this lovely area is the six-mile-long walkway and bike path, the Malecon. Winding its way down the coast above the Pacific Ocean, the Malecon is often occupied by joggers, bicyclists, and people just enjoying the view.
Along the path, visitors will find scattered works of art from local Peruvian artists. The Malecon ends at Parque de Amor (Love Park). The park is lined with mosaic benches featuring statements of love. At its center is the impossible-to-miss sculpture El Beso (The Kiss) by world renowned Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin.
Try the Ceviche
You can’t leave Lima without trying ceviche. The combination of raw fish or shellfish, hot chili peppers, and onions marinated in citrus juice is mouthwatering – bonus if it includes some delicious Peruvian corn. The marinating process “cooks” the fish, so it’s not raw like sashimi. You can find ceviche throughout Lima, but for the best bet, check out a specialty cevicheria (or cebicheria). Ceviche is a popular lunch dish in Peru. A good South American travel tip is to eat your bigger meal for lunch out because it is more economical.
Where to Stay
For most travelers, the Miraflores neighborhood is the optimal neighborhood. It has lots of restaurants and is safer than other parts of Lima. Check current hotel prices in Lima’s Miraflores neighborhood here.
Have you visited Lima? What was your favorite thing there?