Lima, the sprawling capital of Peru, is a coastal city that seamlessly merges history, gastronomy, and modernity. For those pondering things to do in Lima, visiting the historic center with its grand colonial architecture and UNESCO-listed sites like the Cathedral of Lima and the Monastery of San Francisco, and exploring the bohemian district of Barranco with its art galleries, vibrant murals, and cliffside views of the Pacific, are top activities.
The city’s Larco Museum offers a comprehensive look into Peru’s pre-Columbian history, showcasing a vast collection of artifacts, including a renowned gallery of ancient erotic ceramics. Nearby, the Magic Water Circuit, a park with illuminated fountains, provides a mesmerizing evening experience, especially during its light and music shows.
Beyond its cultural and historical landmarks, Lima is celebrated as South America’s gastronomic capital, boasting many world-class restaurants and local eateries serving everything from ceviche to pisco sours. Lima’s blend of culinary delights, colonial charm, and coastal beauty makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking the best places to visit in Peru.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Lima, Peru
1. Miraflores District
Miraflores is Lima’s modern and upscale district, located by the coast. It offers a blend of green parks, ocean views, shopping areas, and vibrant nightlife. The Malecón, a long stretch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is perfect for walks, jogs, or simply soaking in the views.
Travel Tip: Safety is generally good in Miraflores, but as with any touristy area, watch your belongings and avoid deserted areas at night.
2. Larco Museum
Situated in the Pueblo Libre District, the Larco Museum boasts one of the world’s most impressive collections of pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th-century viceroyalty mansion, and its exhibitions showcase the richness of Peru’s ancient civilizations.
Travel Tip: Allocate at least two to three hours to explore this museum thoroughly. The café in its beautiful garden setting is worth a visit too.
3. The Historic Centre of Lima
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Historic Centre of Lima showcases colonial architecture, grand plazas, and historic churches. Key landmarks include the Lima Cathedral, the Government Palace, and the San Francisco Monastery.
Travel Tip: Consider joining a guided walking tour to understand each site’s historical significance better.
4. Magic Water Circuit
Located in the Parque de la Reserva, the Magic Water Circuit is a collection of fountains illuminated at night, some of which are interactive. Music and light shows make it a delightful experience for families and couples alike.
Travel Tip: The park is most magical when the fountains are illuminated in the evening. Remember to bring a light jacket as the weather can cool down.
5. Barranco District
Adjacent to Miraflores, Barranco exudes a bohemian charm. This neighborhood is known for its vibrant arts scene, colonial architecture, and the famous Bridge of Sighs. It’s also a great place to sample some of Lima’s burgeoning culinary scene.
Travel Tip: While daytime offers a relaxed vibe, evenings are lively with music and events. Check local listings for any ongoing art shows or music events.
6. Huaca Pucllana
Huaca Pucllana, a clay pyramid built by the Lima culture around 500 AD, is in the heart of the modern Miraflores district. This pre-Incan ruin serves as a testament to the area’s deep history, long before the Spanish arrival.
Travel Tip: Visit in the late afternoon to avoid the midday sun. A restaurant on-site offers views of the ruins, making it a perfect spot for dinner with a historical backdrop.
7. Parque Kennedy
Named after President John F. Kennedy, Parque Kennedy is a bustling urban park in the heart of Miraflores. It’s often teeming with artists, musicians, and street vendors, making it a lively spot for locals and tourists alike.
Travel Tip: This is a great place for souvenir shopping. Remember to bargain, and keep an eye out for the many friendly cats that call the park home.
8. Mario Testino’s MATE Museum
Dedicated to the work of renowned Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino, this museum is a modern art haven in Barranco. It features exhibitions of Testino’s most iconic works alongside rotating exhibits from other contemporary artists.
Travel Tip: After visiting the museum, stroll around Barranco to find various murals and art pieces that color the district’s streets.
9. El Malecón
Stretching several miles along Lima’s coast, El Malecón offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, particularly during sunset. It’s interspersed with parks, statues, and recreational areas and is popular among joggers, cyclists, and families.
Travel Tip: Bring a picnic and enjoy the green spaces. If you’re a fan of paragliding, this is also the place to take off for an aerial view of Lima.
10. Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú
Located in the Pueblo Libre district, this is Peru’s oldest state museum. It provides an exhaustive overview of Peru’s history, from its ancient civilizations to its colonial past.
Travel Tip: Start your tour of Lima’s museums here, as it provides a chronological understanding of Peru’s diverse history. The museum’s garden is also a peaceful spot for relaxation.
11. San Isidro’s El Olivar Park
This peaceful park, once an olive grove, is a designated national monument. San Isidro’s El Olivar is a serene oasis amidst Lima’s urban sprawl, with ponds, pathways, and hundreds of old olive trees.
Travel Tip: It’s a perfect quiet morning or afternoon spot. The park also occasionally hosts cultural events and fairs, so check the local calendar.
FAQ About Things to Do in Lima, Peru
What are the top attractions to visit in Lima?
Some of the top attractions in Lima include the Larco Museum, Miraflores Boardwalk, Plaza de Armas, and the San Francisco Monastery.
Is it worth visiting the historic center of Lima?
Absolutely! The historic center of Lima is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a glimpse into the city’s colonial past with its beautiful architecture, churches, and palaces.
Can I surf in Lima?
Yes, Lima has several beaches that are popular among surfers. The Miraflores district, particularly, has beaches like Waikiki and Makaha, which are great for surfing.
Are there any local markets I should visit in Lima?
Definitely! The Mercado Central and Mercado de Surquillo are bustling local markets where fresh produce, local delicacies, and unique souvenirs are found.
What local dishes should I try while in Lima?
Lima is known for its culinary delights. Don’t miss out on trying ceviche, lomo saltado, causa limeña, and anticuchos.
Is Lima safe for tourists?
Like any major city, it’s essential to take standard precautions. Stick to well-traveled areas, especially at night, and be aware of your surroundings. Lima is relatively safe for tourists, but it’s always good to be cautious.
Are there any nearby day trips I can take from Lima?
Yes, the nearby Pachacamac ruins, the beach town of Paracas, and the Ballestas Islands are popular day trip destinations from Lima.
Can I experience traditional Peruvian music and dance in Lima?
Absolutely! There are several peñas (traditional music venues) in Lima where you can enjoy live performances of traditional Peruvian music and dance, including the famous Marinera dance.