So you’ve arrived in Peru’s sprawling capital city. But now you find yourself at a loss as to where to start. Fear not! Here’s our guide to some of the city’s best sights and places to eat. It’s your one-stop guide on how to plan a day in Lima.
In the morning
The affluent area of Miraflores is the perfect place to base yourself while staying in Lima. It offers excellent dining options and good nightlife. Plus it’s close to the seafront for those spending longer in the city and looking to try Peru’s surf.
Begin your day at Cafe Haiti, a popular meeting place in the heart of Miraflores. Open from 8am each day, you can enjoy breakfast here on the outside terrace while people-watching to your heart’s content.
Once done, pop across to the pleasant Parque Kennedy opposite. This is where the city’s lonely felines congregate looking for some human affection. Or perhaps it’s the other way round.
From here it’s an easy 20 minute walk to the ancient pre-Colombian temple complex of Huaca Pucllana. Surrounded by the suburban landscape of Miraflores, the large adobe mound dates back to 400 AD. It displays a distinctive structure designed to protect the buildings from earthquakes.
The temple here was dedicated to the female gods of the sea and the moon. Amazingly, the six hectares you see excavated today are only a small portion of the site. It’s estimated that 18-20 hectares are buried beneath tower blocks and houses. The entrance fee is 12 soles and English-speaking tours depart from the entrance regularly. This is included in the cost and a good way of getting to grips with the site’s history.
The intrepid amongst you can walk the short distance to Arequipa Avienda, one of the city’s main transport arteries, where you can catch a bus (302) or colectivo to Lima Centro. It’s a mini urban adventure that costs only 1.20 soles. The journey takes around 40 minutes and you’ll experience Peru’s chaotic driving firsthand! Alternatively, flag down a taxi and save yourself a bit of time.
No doubt you’ve worked up a bit of an appetite by now so once you’ve arrived in Lima’s historical centre, meander to the atmospheric Antigua Taberna Queirolo. This popular restaurant was established in 1920 and has long attracted the city’s bohemian residents with its old world decor of saloon-style doors, stone-tiled floors, black and white framed photographs and wooden furniture.
The food is simple but satisfying with hearty portions and a good choice of classic Peruvian dishes. From lomo saltado (marinated beef cooked with tomatoes, peppers and onions, served with chips and rice) to rocoto rellano, the local version of stuffed peppers. You can also sample your first Pisco sour of the day, the country’s national drink. It combines a brandy-like alcohol base with lime juice, bitters and egg white.
In the afternoon
With your belly full you can now continue to Plaza Mayor at the heart of Lima Centro. Here you’ll find the city’s most attractive architecture from the grand Palacio de Gobierno to the imposing Catedral, which houses a collection of 17th and 18th century paintings alongside sculptures, jewellery and religious robes in the Museum of Religious Art and Treasures.
Spend a few hours walking around Lima Centro and save time for the 17th century Iglesia San Francisco. This attractive Baroque-style church has an underground crypt that contains the bones of an estimated 25,000 people buried here. Femurs and skulls are arranged in eye-pleasing, albeit rather ghoulish, designs while the extensive network of tunnels lead to the nearby palace and government buildings.
Other highlights of the church include the pretty 16th century Sevilian tiles decorating the courtyard corridors and the Peruvian interpretation of ‘The Last Supper’ with guinea pigs served at the table.
In the evening
Satisfied you’ve seen the best of Lima Centro, hop in a taxi and head to the trendy suburb of Barranco. Head straight for the Mirador Catalina Recavarren where you can enjoy views out across the ocean in time for sunset. You can then wander around Barranco at leisure, admiring the colourful art-deco houses and the beautiful Iglesia Ermita.
Slowly drift towards the bustling La Canta Rana, which serves delicious and authentic cerviche, one of Peru’s most famous dishes comprised of raw fish cured with citrus juice and served with onion and spices. And now the evening is your oyster – check out Barranco’s lively bars and discos or traditional peñas for a taste of Andean folk music before hailing a cab back to your hotel.