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There is no city in South America that I have visited as often as Lima. With good flight connections to Europe and other destinations in South America, it made sense for us to come here multiple times.

But it wasn’t just a destination we visited out of necessity. We enjoyed coming to Lima and discovering everything the capital has to offer. You can explore historic neighbourhoods, discover pre-Inca ruins, admire street art and, of course, try lots of Peruvian dishes. While many tourists will only spend one day in Lima, the city has enough attractions to keep you occupied for three or four days.

Here are twelve highlights of Lima that you should not miss when visiting Peru’s capital:

The best things to do in Lima

#1 Take a walk around Lima’s historic centre

Fountain at Lima Old Town, Peru

While downtown is not a good place to stay (look for a hotel in Miraflores instead), it is fun to visit during the day. Start at the Plaza de Armas. Here, you can find the government palace (if you come at 11:45, you can watch the changing of the guards), the cathedral and many old colonial buildings with beautifully carved balconies. They were painted in yellow to form a contrast to the grey weather that is so typical for Lima.

To learn more about the Plaza de Armas, the surrounding buildings and many other locations in the Old Town, consider joining a free walking tour. We did, and it was lots of fun. The tour itself is free, all you need to pay is a tip to your guide afterwards.

You can enter the first room of the Cathedral for free, so this is a good chance of catching a glimpse of it. If you want to see more, you will have to pay a small entrance fee that allows you to go into a museum.

If you walk half a block from the Plaza de Armas, you will come across the Monumento Taulichusco. This rock is dedicated to Taulichusco, an Inca who lived in this valley with his tribe. Legend says that it refills your energy if you touch it – and you are definitely going to need energy for visiting Lima.

2 – 4h

#2 Visit the catacombs in the Monasterio de San Francisco

If you’re in the city centre, the one sight you should not miss is the catacombs in the Convento San Francisco. Back in the time, they were used as a graveyard, and now the remains of around 70.000 people line the corridors down here.

The convent is also worth visiting for its extensive library filled with ancient books and its Last Supper painting. You can find the same picture in Cusco, and if you take a close look, you’ll spot a guinea pig painted on one of the dinner plates. It is an excellent example of how indigenous people adopted Christianity after the arrival of the Spanish.

To visit the monastery, you must join a guided tour. They leave often – we only had to wait for five minutes – and are available in both English and Spanish.

1h

#3 Take a walk in the Parque del Amor

Parque del Amor in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

One of the best places to go for a walk in Miraflores is the Parque del Amor, the Park of Love. Located just above the cliffs, it is worth visiting both for its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and for its statues. This Malecon stretches for many kilometres along the coast, and you can either explore parts of it on foot or rent a bike to see it in its entire length.

The Parque del Amor is also a fantastic place for people-watching. Take a seat on a shady bench and watch locals who exercise, couples who try to hide in the bushes and dog-sitters going for a walk with half a dozen dogs at once.

During your walk, you might come across the Larcomar shopping centre. While the mall itself is just that, a mall, you can enjoy spectacular views from its location on the cliffs.

30min – 2h

#4 Explore Barranco

Streets of Barranco in Lima, Peru

Barranco is Lima’s artsy and bohemian neighbourhood. Come here for street art, street food, colonial buildings and Lima’s most popular beach.

An excellent place to start is the Parque Municipal. When we came, we were lucky and ran into a street food festival, which allowed us to try various Peruvian dishes. You might also see street artists performing here.

After checking out the Parque Municipal, you should stop by the Bridge of Sighs. The Puente de Los Suspiros, as it’s called in Spanish, was once a popular meeting point of Peruvian poets. Legend says that if you can cross it in less than 30 seconds while holding your breath, you can make a wish, and it’s going to come true.

From the Puente de Los Suspiros, walk down towards the water, following the Bajada de los Baños. Along this path, which fishermen originally used to get to the water, you can discover many bars and restaurants.

1/2d

#5 Learn about pre-Inca times at Huaca Pucllana

Ruins of Huaca Pucllana near Lima

Everyone has heard of the Inca. But most people don’t know that the Inca kingdom wasn’t old when Spanish explorers came and destroyed it. Before the rise of the Inca, many ancient civilisations lived in Peru. After a month of travelling around the country, I can easily name seven of them, and I know that there were many more.

If you want to get an idea of what one of those many cultures was like, visit Huaca Pucllana. Located in Miraflores, this archaeological site was once the cultural and administrative centre of the Lima civilisation. Later, the Wari culture, which came to power a bit more than a thousand years ago, used the temple as a burial site.

You can visit the pyramid of Huaca Pucllana on guided tours. They are available both in Spanish and in English and take around one hour. If you like, there are also evening tours in the darkness, but they won’t take you up to the top of the pyramid.

If you’re interested in pre-Inca times and have an extra day to spare, you should consider visiting Caral, the oldest settlement in the Americas. We have written a guide for you that explains how you can easily explore Caral on a day trip from Lima!
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1h

#6 Sample chocolate in the Choco Museo

Chocolate and brownie at the Choco Museo in Peru

If you like chocolate, then you are in luck. The Choco Museo has a couple of shops/museums/cafes all over the city. You’ll find the main store in the historic centre, but you can also go to their two shops in Miraflores.

The Choco Museo is, as mentioned above, a mixture between a museum, a shop and a cafe. Ask for one of the helpful employees to show you around, and they will explain to you the history of cocoa and its production chain these days. Afterwards, you can sample one of their many chocolate jams (I highly recommend the one with Brazil Nuts) and, of course, buy lots of chocolate.

Inside the shop, you can also find a small cafe. Their brownies are to die for and large enough to be shared between two people. The hot chocolate is also delicious since you will get hot milk and can then add as much liquid chocolate as you like.

Inquire about the chocolate workshops if you want to make chocolate yourself. I joined one of the workshops and loved it, so this is a great activity if you have some extra time.

30min – 2h

#7 Watch the fountain show in the Parque de la Reserva

People bathing in a fountain in Parque de la Reserva, Lima, Peru

The Parque de la Reserva is extremely popular with families with small children. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the perfect evening entertainment for adults as well.

Every evening, the Parque de la Reserva comes to life with a multitude of fountains and LED lights. Some springs will allow you to jump through them, others form a tunnel of water, and some are just made to be admired from afar.

If coming from Miraflores, take a bus on Avenida José Larco that goes south along Avenida Arequipa (ask any bus driver if they go to Parque de la Reserva, and they will be happy to point out the right bus to you). Along the same street, in front of the park, you can also catch buses to go back.

1 – 2h

#8 Admire glittering gold in the Museo del Oro

The Museo del Oro houses a giant collection of pre-Columbian gold. I would have expected most of the artefacts to come from Inca times, but it looks like most pre-Inca civilisations also knew how to work with the precious metal.

After entering, make sure to go straight to the basement. Here, you can look at the fantastic golden metalworks, from necklaces to wall decorations.

When you go up to the first floor, you will see a collection of arms and armour from many different cultures, including a section about Samurai swords. While it seemed very random (and we wouldn’t recommend spending too much time here), the golden artefacts in the basement more than made up for it.

1h

#9 Pet abandoned cats in Parque Kennedy

Cat resting in the grass in Kennedy Park, Lima, Peru

Kennedy Park is also known as the park of the abandoned cats. Nobody I asked could tell me how it started, but cats have been living in this park for many years. A local association feeds these cats every day and even oversees the adoption process in case anyone wants to adopt a stray cat.

If you’re not a cat person, you should still come to Parque Kennedy, especially if you happen to be in Lima on a Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, the park comes alive with street vendors, artists and locals having a good time. Try the churros or the Arroz con Leche or whatever other treats you can find, sit down on a bench and relax while people-watching.

Have you heard of Arroz con Leche before? Check out our guide to Peruvian desserts to get an overview of the treats you can enjoy in Lima!

After visiting Kennedy Park, make sure to stay in the area. You can discover lots of handicraft shops and restaurants around the park, making it a convenient starting point for exploring Miraflores.

30min

#10 Sample Peruvian food

Plate of ceviche

There is no better place to try Peruvian food than Lima. In the capital, you can find everything you would possibly want to eat. Start with ceviche, Peru’s national dish, which consists of marinated raw fish served with corn. Move on to Lomo Saltado, a stir-fry of beef and vegetables, or go to a Chifa restaurant, a Chinese restaurant serving a mixture of Asian and Peruvian food.

When it comes to Peruvian food, we have you covered! Check out our article with the best traditional food you should try on your trip to Peru.

Wash down the food with a local drink. Chicha Morada is my favourite, a lemonade made from purple corn. It’s sweet, sticky and contains spices that make it taste like Christmas! Just be careful when ordering and don’t confuse it with Chicha. Chicha Morada is the lemonade, Chicha is a corn liquor.

When we visited, we were lucky and came across a food festival in Barranco. But even without the festival, it is possible to find street food stalls almost everywhere, allowing you to try lots of different sweet and savoury dishes.

#11 Enjoy the view from Cerro San Cristobal

Cerro San Cristobal, located northeast of the city centre, is the perfect viewpoint to look at the city from above. You can even spot the Pacific Ocean from this 400m-high hill on clear days, but I wouldn’t count on that.

While it is possible to walk to the top of the hill, the easier (and safer) alternatives include taking a taxi from the Plaza de Armas, getting a moto-taxi from the bottom of the hill or going up by bus. The Urbanito bus leaves from the southwest corner of the Plaza de Armas and does one-hour tours to the top.

1h

#12 Go paragliding

Paragliders in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

If you have never been to Lima, you wouldn’t know it is a popular paragliding spot. But the cliffs in Miraflores and Barranco offer excellent conditions for paragliders, and you cannot miss the colourful gliders soaring above your head when walking along Parque del Amor.

Tandem flights last around ten minutes and, in Miraflores, start at Parque Raimondi. Even if you do not want to go into the air yourself, this is a great spot to watch others take off and land.

1h

Practical information

Where to stay in Lima

As we mentioned above, we recommend getting a hotel in Miraflores. While it’s tempting to book accommodation in the historic centre, where you’re closer to many sights and tourist attractions, you will find Miraflores much safer. Plus, you can discover lots of fantastic restaurants in that neighbourhood!

All of our recommendations below are in Miraflores, so you will stay in a safe area.

Budget: I stayed in the 151 Backpacker Hostel many times and would always come back here. The staff is super friendly, and I always loved going here. Unfortunately, this hostel seems to be closed now, which is why we’ve done some research for you.

KACLLA, The Healing Dog Hostel, has a long name and excellent ratings. According to the reviews, this is an ideal place if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere and want to meet other travellers. Plus, you can find this hostel right in between the coast and Kennedy Park, so you’re in a very central location. As an alternative, look into Alpes Lima. This hostel offers affordable rooms with a private bathroom, which will give you a bit more privacy during your stay.

Mid-range: Do you prefer having your kitchen and would rather rent an apartment than a hotel room? Then look into the Atrium Miraflores Hotel. Here, you can rent apartments, but you will also enjoy amenities you usually find in a hotel, like luggage storage and reception staff who is happy to answer all of your questions.

As an alternative, Del Pilar Miraflores Hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms just next to Kennedy Park. Their deals often include breakfast, so you are already covered for your first meal of the day!

A bit more comfort: You can find lots of lovely hotels in Miraflores. One of my favourites is Hotel Antigua Miraflores, where I stayed on my first trip to Peru. The inside is gorgeous, with colonial decorations all over the hotel. If you prefer international hotel chains, then you can also book many of them in Miraflores. The Four Points by Sheraton is in a great location and guarantees that you get an international standard you’re used to.

Best time to visit Lima

Plaza de Armas or Plza Mayor in Lima, Peru

You can visit Lima at any time in the year and have a fantastic stay. Since you find Peru in the Southern hemisphere, January to March are the warmest months. Expect hot weather, but don’t expect too much sunshine. Lima is famous for its haze and fog, so you won’t see blue skies every day.

If you prefer colder weather, August to October are the coldest months. You will need a light jacket for exploring. The months in between, from April to July and November to December, will likely be best for most people.

No matter how warm or cold it is, you will likely experience some fog and a light drizzle. On the other hand, heavy rain showers rarely happen, so you don’t have to worry about them too much.

How to get to Lima

The easiest way to get to Lima is by plane. Lima is one of those airport hubs in South America that you can always find a flight connection to. Just one word of advice: If possible, don’t book with Air France. They have a problem with losing luggage and have no ground staff taking care of delayed luggage in Lima. In fact, they have so few staff that they wanted to declare my luggage “permanently lost” and refund all of my items while it was lying in storage at the airport of Lima. I met a friendly LATAM employee who retrieved it for me.

Make sure to prepare for your flight to Peru! We have a list of long-haul flight essentials that will help you pack your hand luggage, so you’re as comfortable as possible on your trip.

From the airport, you have the choice between taking a bus or a taxi. The cheapest option (that is safe) is the Airport Express Bus. It goes from the airport to Miraflores and back again, and you can book your ticket online.

The next alternative is a taxi. You can easily hunt one down at the airport, so you don’t need to worry about it in advance. If you prefer to have everything arranged before your arrival, you can also book a private airport transfer.

The last option is to take a public bus. We highly recommend not to do this! The neighbourhood around the airport is not safe, especially not if you’re carrying around a large suitcase and don’t know where you’re going. Plus, you’ll have to change buses at least once to get to your destination, and it’s going to take ages.

If you’re not taking a plane to get to Lima, you’re likely arriving by bus. You won’t find one central bus station in Lima, which makes things a bit more complicated. Instead, you’ll have to go to the terminal of the company you’re travelling with. We used Cruz del Sur most of the time, as they offer modern and reliable buses and visit most tourist destinations in Peru.

How to get around Lima

When visiting Lima, you have lots of choices on how to get around. The first one is to walk. This is an option if you’re staying within one neighbourhood, but it won’t take you very far if you want to go from Miraflores to the historic centre, for example.

The fastest option is to take a taxi. You can either hail them from the street or ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you. Make sure to negotiate the price before you get into the car so you don’t get ripped off.

Also, keep your handbag or backpack at your feet. While we never had any safety problems in Lima, one of my co-workers got robbed in a taxi just after her arrival. Someone smashed the window and tried to grab her bag. If the bag isn’t visible, you won’t tempt any casual robbers to take it from you.

Your third option is to take public transport. In a city like Lima, figuring out how to get around by bus can be daunting. The Metropolitano is a line of express buses that can take you from Miraflores to the city centre. They’re fast and easy to figure out, but they can be full of people at rush hour.

You can also take any of the regular buses that drive along the streets of Lima. Ask around if you’re unsure about which one to take, and use common sense. Stick to the main touristic areas, and you won’t run into problems.

Safety in Lima

Is Lima safe?

We honestly think that it is – as long as you use common sense and a bit of caution. As I mentioned above, one of my co-workers got robbed directly after she arrived in the country. But you know what? I’ve been to Lima many times and have never had any problems.

That said, use a few precautions. The best one is to leave as many valuables as possible at home. We understand if you want to take your camera, but don’t carry any expensive jewellery or watches with you.

Anything else that you carry, keep it close to your body and always keep an eye on your belongings. If you take a bus, don’t put your handbag on the seat next to you and forget about it. Even in a restaurant, put your bag in a place where nobody can grab it and run.

If you follow these rules, you should be fine. Use common sense, and if you’re in doubt whether or not a neighbourhood is safe to walk through, take a taxi. As I said, I’ve never had any problems in Lima, and I’ve always enjoyed my time here.


We hope you have found this guide helpful. If you have any other suggestions on what to do, or if there was one activity that you particularly loved or hated, we would love to hear about it.

If you’re travelling to Peru, we have lots of resources that can help you plan your trip. These are the ones you might find the most relevant, but make sure also to check out the rest of them:

Until your next adventure!

Pinterest graphic for Top Things to do in Lima

Author

Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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