Once known as the ‘City of Kings,’ Lima’s historic center was founded by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Up until the mid-18th century, the Old Town was an important political, economic and cultural hub for the Spanish colonizers of South America. Their influence still touches the Old Town today. With its stunning buildings and UNESCO World Heritage sites, there’s no better place to discover Lima’s colonial history. Begin your walking tour of Lima’s Old Town at Plaza Bolivar, which was once the city’s main bullfighting ring. Check out the House of Congress and the Square’s famous wooden balconies. Next, walk to nearby Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace. With so many beautiful buildings and historic spots, Lima’s Old Town is a feast for the eyes.
Explore historic site of Huaca Pucllana
In the middle of Miraflores, an upscale district of Lima, you’ll discover a huge, ancient pyramid dating back to about 500 AD. This archaeological site is Huaca Pucllana, which was built by the pre-Incan indigenous people of Lima. Visit this massive archaeological complex to discover what life in Lima was like in ancient times. As the city is completely surrounded by desert, the indigenous people of Lima became masters of irrigation. At the site’s archaeological museum, learn about how they created sprawling networks to carry much-needed water from springs and rivers to the towns. It is also believed that Huaca Pucllana served as administrative site for the surrounding irrigation zone, as well as a religious site, public meeting place and storage. Spend some time reading up on the rituals and meetings that once occurred on these stone steps.
Eat gourmet giant Amazonian river snail
When it comes to fine dining, Lima’s restaurants are some of the best in South America. While you’re in town, treat yourself to some of the best culinary offerings of Lima. Our pick for a must-try dish? Giant Amazonian river snails. Much like their smaller French counterparts, these molluscs are generally drowned in butter, which gives the dish its mouth-watering flavor. Amaz Restaurant is famous for serving up these salty beauties. With a texture similar to that of squid, these snails are cooked in a rich, buttery chorizo sauce dotted with tapioca. While you might be used to getting a whole plate of snails in France, one giant Amazonian snail is enough of an appetizer to satisfy two people.
Climb the hill of Cerro San Cristobal
For those looking to keep active during their holiday, climb up the hill of Cerro San Cristobal. This 409-metre-high hill is located in the northeast part of the city center and is a great way to explore a different side of Lima. Cerro San Cristobal has a huge cross at its peak, which is illuminated every night. This is the site of many Catholic pilgrimages, the most important of which happens during Semana Santa; the Holy Week leading up to Easter. Do as the locals do and trek up this mini-mountain and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best vistas in Lima, which shows how the sprawling city stretches out towards the Pacific Ocean. Word of warning: you probably won’t want to do this hike in the cooler months, as the only view you’ll get is of the thick winter fog.
Explore the Monastery of San Francisco
The bright yellow Basilica of San Francisco is one of the icons of Lima. This 17th century baroque-style building is beautiful inside and out. With its several gilded side altars and an impressive lattice dome, architecture fans will geek out at its incredible design. Despite its beauty, the real highlight of this monastery is its catacombs. Go beneath the church to explore this underground cemetery. Part of Lima's original cemeteries, it’s said that at least 25,000 bodies are buried under San Francisco. Hold your breath when you notice the exposed bodily remains, which are stacked in strange patterns in circular stone pits. This tour is definitely one for the thrill seekers, but probably not for the faint-hearted or the claustrophobic.
Things to do in Lima
National Pisco Sour Day (Dia Nacional del Pisco Sour)
Culture & Drinks
We can get around any Pisco-related activity, but this national celebration really goes above and beyond. On the first Saturday of each February, join in on the festivities as Lima celebrates its national drink, the Pisco Sour. Enjoy free dance performances, musical concerts, Peruvian food, and of course, Pisco Sour tastings in central Lima.
Much like its Latin American neighbors, Carnival is one of the main events on the Peruvian calendar. Marking the lead up to the Catholic season of Lent, Carnival is a chance for Peruvians to have one last party before a season of abstinence and prayer. This festival is celebrated with street parties, parades and general merriment all around the country – but the main festivities happen in Lima.
Fiesta de la Vendimia
Celebrating another year of the grape harvest, the Fiesta de la Vendimia is a festival that honors wine producers and the wine industry. Celebrated with wine tastings, street parties and winery tours, you can catch this annual celebration every March in Surco, Lima’s wine district.
Peruvian Caballo de Paso
Sports, horse riding
Occurring every April at the archaeological excavation site of Pachacámac in Mamacona, the Caballo de Paso is the biggest event for Peruvian horse breeders. This annual horse show is celebrated with horse riding competitions and showcases, as well as folkloric dances and musical performances. It’s also a great chance to try traditional Peruvian food.
Fiestas de Patrias
Dedicated to Jose de San Martin, who liberated Peru from the Spanish, Fiestas de Patrias is weekend-long celebration of Peru’s independence. Occurring around Liberation Day, the 28th of July 1821, this festival sees Peruvian towns and cities erupt in celebration. Catch military parades and street fairs in downtown Lima during this Independence Day Festival.
Top 5 Festivals in Lima
As the capital of Peru, Lima’s calendar is jam-packed with festivals and celebrations that bring this historic city to life. From the massive Carnival celebrations to honouring the Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, here are five amazing festivals that you’ll want to catch in Lima.
Housed in an 18th century vice-royal building, Museo Larco is an archaeology museum that focuses on the the pre-Columbian history of Peru. With traditional art and artefacts that date back thousands of years, this museum is famous for its collection of jewelry and erotic pottery.
Museo del Congresso y la Inquisición
One of the more infamous and interesting of Lima’s museums, the Museum of Congress and the Inquisition takes a look at Spanish methods of colonizing the indigenous population of Peru. This dark and fascinating museum takes you on a tour of the basement of the House of Congress, where indigenous people were once tortured and burnt at the stake for rejecting Christianity.
Museo de la Nación
Discover prehistoric and ancient Peru at Lima’s National Museum. Featuring life-sized models of Peru’s most famous temples, ruins and archaeological sites, history buffs will geek out at this incredible museum. Uncover what life was like for the Huari, Chimu, Paracas and the Incan peoples of ancient Peru.
Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología, e Historia del Perú
The National Museum of the Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru is the largest and oldest museum in Peru. Located on Plaza Bolivar, the museum houses more than 100,000 artefacts spanning the country’s entire history. Some of the highlights of the collection include the Tello Obelisk from the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site, as well as a huge model of Machu Picchu.
Built on this site in 1766, Plaza de Acho was once Lima’s bullring. Some of the world’s most famous toreadors passed through here, including the renowned Manolete from Spain. Today, the plaza houses the Museo Taurino; Lima’s bullfighting museum. Check out its collection of the weapons and gilded outfits of some of Peru’s best bullfighters – many of which are covered in blood stains.
Top 5 Museums in Lima
With an extensive history dating back tens of thousands of years, there’s so much to learn about Peruvian culture in Lima. One of the best ways to soak up all that knowledge is by visiting some of the city’s incredible museums. Here are our picks for our favorite Lima museums.
While most people eat their porridge, Peruvians drink it. Quinoa porridge is considered the best way to start the day in Peru. This Peruvian grain is cooked down into a thin porridge and served in a mug. Drank at home or on the go, you’ll find dozens of street vendors selling this breakfast, which they often serve with seasonal fruits.
Best eaten at Quinoa, Dean Valdivia 137, Lima, Peru
With its mix of flavors and textures, ceviche has become a global phenomenon in recent years. The freshness of raw fish, lime juice, fresh herbs and chili are contrasted with carby sweet potato and corn to create this delicious dish. You can find some of the best ceviche in the city at Cala, a glass-walled restaurant overlooking the beach in the Barranco district.
Best eaten at Cala, Circuito de Playas, Barranco 15063
Coca Leaf Sour
A Peruvian twist on a Pisco Sour, try yours with a few added coca leaves. Don’t worry, there’s nothing naughty about it – coca leaves are a staple in Peruvian cuisine. With twice the calcium of milk and lots of magnesium, this leaf has lots of health benefits. And it’ll give your drink a bit of a kick.
Best eaten at Huaringas Bar, Bolognesi 460, Miraflores 15074
While it might seem like a weird tourist trap, eating guinea pig is not just for show here. Peruvians have been eating guinea pig – or cuy, in Spanish – for centuries. And it’s pretty delicious, too. Its tender, dark meat could pass for chicken or rabbit. Try some cuy at Astrid y Gaston, where they prepare and serve it like Peking Duck. Fancy.
Best eaten at Astrid y Gastón, Av. Paz Soldan 290, San Isidro 15073
Simple and delicious, anticuchos are Peru’s answer to shish kebabs. This pre-Columbian dish originated in the Andes and was traditionally made using cow’s hearts. While you’ll find a lot of street vendors selling the beef version for tourists, dare to try the real deal at La Tia Tomasa Restaurant.
Best eaten at La Tia Tomasa, Av. Nicolas de Pierola 103 Barranco Av. Grau 1002
Food in Lima
Fresh, flavorsome and fun – Lima food never disappoints. One of the best cities to savor Peruvian food, eating in Lima is like going on a culinary adventure. From meaty anticuchos to Coca Leaf Sours, here are five foods you should try in Lima.