Peru’s capital city is big and bold, and scratch beneath the surface and you’ll soon uncover a whole host of cultural sights from superb museums, pre-Columbian temples and colonial-era buildings. Experience nearly 500 years of heritage as we explore the cultural sights in Lima:
Gawp at the finery within the Museo Larco
The Larco Museum wows before you even set foot inside – after all it’s housed within an opulent 18th century mansion which used to belong to a viceroy. Over 50,000 ceramic pots are on display in what is considered the best museum of its kind in South America. Originally founded in 1926 by Rafael Larco Hoyle, the pre-Columbian collections are incredible, especially considering that there are thousands more examples in storage, awaiting display.
Hang out in Miraflores
The upscale barrio, aka neighbourhood of Miraflores is aimed at tourists with a great selection of restaurants, nightclubs, bars and hotels. Also dubbed Ciudad Heroica, aka the ‘Heroic City’ this is a great base for families and couples alike, thanks to the vast lush parks such as the Parque John. F. Kennedy which features an artisan market and the walkway of Calle de los pizzas which is lined with boutiques and cafes. There is also the rather romantically names Parque del Amor which is modelled on Barcelona's Parque Güell.
Soak up the cultural sights within Central Lima
The cultural heart of Lima is centered around this district which includes Centro Historico, Barrio Chino Barrio Altos and Santa Beatriz. The area is brimming with colonial architecture, theatres, churches, convents, palaces, museums, art galleries and parks. The Centro Historico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its abundance of historical gems;
- Spend some time in the very pretty Parque de la Reserva in Santa Beatriz which features 13 different fountains, including one that until a few years ago was considered the highest public fountain in the world, coming in at 80 meters tall. Watch the sun set over the park and watch the laser light show at the fountain Fuente de la Fantasia.
- The pretty Parque Juana Larco De Dammert is surrounded by cultural gems including the University of Garcilaso de la Vega and the bustling avenue of Paseo de la República.
- Walk the Walls of Lima which protected the city from pirate attacks in days gone by. The walls were built in 1684 although sadly only a few sections remain.
- Head over to the incredibly quaint Casa Aliaga which was gifted to Jerónimo de Aliaga who was a follower of Lima’s founder Francisco Pizarro. Inside the rooms are decorated in decadent period style.
- Admire the colonial art within the Museo Pedro de Osma including silverware, paintings, furniture and sculptures.
- Discover the Museo Amano which contains the privately collected artefacts of Mr Yoshitaro Amano. Admire the textiles and ceramics which tell the story of the weaving industry in pre-Columbian Peru.
- Browse the Andean artefacts on display at the Museo de Arte y Tradiciones Populares which contains various traditional masks and costumes that feature in local festivals. The actual colonial townhouse it’s housed in is pretty special too.
- Don’t miss the sublime Palacio de Gobierno, aka Government Palace, aka the House of Pizarro. It was built in 1535, the same year as Pizarro landed in Lima in Baroque Revival architecture. Don’t miss the traditional changing of the guard ceremony each day at 11:45am which visitors can watch from the Plaza Mayor.
- Stop by the Santo Domingo Church and monastery which dates back to 1549. It’s most notable as the final resting place of the Peruvian saints: Santa Rosa de Lima and Santa Martin de Porres.
- Explore the Franciscan Monastery of San Francisco, which is eye catching in itself in bright yellow. However it’s the rather eerie catacombs that are the main draw, home to more than 50,000 human skeletons dating as far back as the 16th century. And it’s said that the catacombs link the Monastery of San Francisco and Cathedral of Lima. There is also a stunning library, home to oversized tomes and a magical spiral staircase.
- Admire the Jesuit church of Iglesia de San Pedro which was built in 1638. Highly ornate, the main attractions of this church are the exquisite baroque altars which are decorated in gold leaf.
- Explore the magnificent Congreso de la Republica, aka the National Congress of Peru which was formed after the independence of Peru in 1821.
- The Spanish Baroque Torre Tagle Palace is well worth a look – established in 1715, it’s notable for its baroque stone doorway and protruding balconies in dark wood.
- Stop by the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas church, one of the key cultural sights of Lima, which is famed for its connections with the Lord of Miracles.
- Grab a coffee and settle in for a spot of people watching in the central Plaza de Armas, aka Plaza Mayor, which is the very beating heart of Lima. It’s steeped in Spanish tradition and bordered on all four sides by official buildings including the Palacio de Gobierno (see above), the Basilica Cathedral of Lima, City Hall and the Archbishop's Palace.
- The gorgeous Plaza San Martin is dominated by the towering monument José de San Martín who freed Peru.
Learn to Surf in Lima
There are some superb surfing spots along the coast around Lima; the fierce swells from the Pacific Ocean provide the perfect surf spot for all levels. With over 250 km of surf around and south of Lima, the best swells can be found between May and August. Check out Barranquito in the city which is great for all abilities, Punta Hermosa is perfect for diehard surfers and beginners should check out Redondo Beach in Lima itself
Go beach-side in Barranco
For a change of pace, hang out in the colourfully bohemian barrio of Barranco (pictured above) which lies alongside the Pacific Ocean. The neighbourhood is well known for its gorgeous beaches and abundance of nightlife. As you’d expect there are also a handful of cultural sights including the handsome Iglesia San Francisco de Asis, a great collection of art galleries including the Galeria de Arte Amelia Pinzas and the superb Asociación Mario Testino Museum which is dedicated to the world famous photographer, Mario Testino who was born in Lima.