A common conundrum for travellers going to Peru is if they should spend any time in Lima at all. The short answer to that is a resounding, “Yes”!
Although some South American capitals tend not to be very attractive or an interesting stop for travellers, Lima has enough to keep you busy and doesn’t deserve to be missed. As a former Lima resident, I have had the chance to explore the city as a local but also as a traveller, and I must admit that from both points of view the highlights are very much similar!
1 – Set off on the right foot
From a practical point of view, Lima offers the perfect chance to acclimatise to the new time zone, as well as sounds, smells and tastes! The Miraflores district offers the perfect playground for some well-deserved rest, evening strolls, city trotting and my favourite: food tasting.
2 – First things first… Food!
Before even mentioning any of the historical sites and museums, Lima is the gastronomical city which gives plenty for your senses to explore and just keeps on giving. As the food lover that I am, I must admit that Lima outdoes itself with incredible restaurants that vary from high end to more local joints. The Surquillo Market, which is a short walk from the main Miraflores square, offers a chance to discover amazing fruits and vegetables that we simply cannot get our hands on in Europe, much to my disappointment.
3 – Views (and more food..!)
If a sunset stroll is right up your street, then a walk along the Malecon will just hit the spot. You can start from Parque del amor (Love park) and end at the Larcomar. The Larcomar is a large shopping centre complex that hosts many stores, restaurants and a cinema, and as generic or unauthentic as this kind of place may sound, its vantage point overlooking the Pacific Ocean below makes a quick visit worthwhile. Peruvians love a bit of shopping and hanging out around the area, you will also see families that come here for the day as a treat! If you are looking to celebrate a special occasion during your travels, then I suggest a visit to the Rosa Nautica Restaurant. It is at the end of a pier just down from the cliffs of Miraflores, in a lovely intimate setting (you will need to get a taxi there and back as there is nothing else around it). While it is not the cheapest eatery in the city, it is perfect for a sunset dinner, and the combination of the sea views, pisco sours and tasty menu makes for a nice treat.
4 – Latin rhythms
In the evening, there is plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you busy until dawn. Nearby Barranco district is well known for its great nightlife, so here you can party the night away to the sound of some Latin rhythms…and recognisable chart hits too. If you are hoping to tuck in early and the bar/ club scene isn’t for you then the local way to spend the evening is people watching and strolling around the plazas (squares). Parque Kennedy has a little night market and plenty of food carts selling snacks. I wholeheartedly recommend trying the Picarones (fried doughnuts) drizzled with a caramel-like sauce. Not far from the park is ‘El Parque D’onofrio’ ice cream parlour, a local institution filled with my childhood memories. Be sure to sample my favourite flavour – Lucma – and take it to go, or have a seat and attempt to finish one of their larger desserts.
5 – Architecture & history
If history and architecture tick your boxes, then a visit to San Francisco convent is a must with its colonial architecture and its catacombs which it is most known for. You must take a guided tour to visit the Catacombs, where you will be taught all the history behind them. If Lima’s ancient history is of interest, then visit Hauca Pucllana and take an educational guided tour here. The site is conveniently located as well so you don’t have to travel far to find this bit of ancient architecture amongst the modern blocks.
Do not be intimidated by Lima. It is a large city, with so much to offer and that can be easily seen through the eyes of a local. Don’t hesitate to give Lima a chance to wow you, after all this is your gateway to Peru and the first stepping stone towards an incredible adventure.