Best things to do in Lima
Find out more about those top places in Lima
Lima is a city of enthralling contradictions. As the world’s second driest capital after Cairo, Lima is also situated near crumbling cliffs that tumble down towards the Pacific Ocean. The old colonial heart of Peru’s capital is packed with baroque Spanish cathedrals, grand presidential palaces and Conquistador forts that sit side by side with the Huaca Pucllana, one of the best-preserved Incan pyramids. Lima is also a thrillingly vibrant city with the cliff top district of Milaflores buzzing all day round with shoppers, newly arrived city dwellers from the Andes, and clubbers dancing the night away to tropical beats. What is more, beyond the city center the vast pre-Columbian citadel of Pachacamac is one of Peru’s hidden gems and rivals Machu Pichu as the largest preserved Incan settlement.
Located some 30 kilometers south of Lima’s city center on the arid Pacific Coast is Pachacamac, the area’s greatest Inca city. While it may be no Machu Picchu, the ruins, which sit high above the crashing waves of the ocean ensconced in desert sand dunes, are still a remarkable sight. When the Spaniards first arrived the city was one of the most important in the Inca Empire and traces of its former glory can still be seen in the stepped Temple of the Sun and the House of the Chosen Woman.
Housed in the sprawling palace that once belonged to the Spanish viceroy, Lima’s Museo Larco is the city’s show-stopping piece of colonial architecture. Today, it is no longer the site of governance but is instead a dazzling museum that contains upwards of 50 000 artifacts from the pre-Columbian Inca, Nazca and Chancay cultures. To explore this jaw dropping large collection guided tours are recommended.
While not one original building remains (bar a 16th century fountain gilded in plundered Inca gold), the Plaza de Armas is still Lima’s most spectacular public square. Laid out by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, the plaza was once known as the nerve-center of the Spanish Empire. For the best experience, take a guided walking tour of the square to uncover its unrivaled history and take a look around the imposing cathedral.
Lima’s most important religious site and one of Peru’s most historic locations is the city’s Iglesia de Santo Domingo. Well known as the resting place of the country’s most revered saints, the church is also the site where a Dominican friar persuaded Pizarro to execute the captured Inca emperor Atahualpa. Most of what you can see today is from the 17th and 18th centuries and tours are available where expert guides will tell you more above the site’s unique history.
Towering over the heart of Lima is the Huaca Pucllana, the ruins of a pre-Inca pyramid. As a focal point of the Lima Culture, which flourished around the turn of the 1st millennium AD, the pyramid has a storied history and on-site tour guides offer fascinating insights into its mysterious history.
Built to defend Lima against invasion and the threat of pirates, the Real Felipe Fortress is an imposing bastion at the entrance of the city’s harbor. The fortress is currently home to the Peruvian Army Museum but it can also be explored with the help of a tour guide who will reveal its important role in maintaining the independence of Spain’s former Latin American colonies.
Situated right on the Pacific Coast, Lima is one of South America’s food capitals. One of the best experiences the Peruvian capital offers is food tours of the beguiling Barranco district where you can sample anticuchos (cow hearts) and the famous picarones (small doughnuts).