The Insider Guide to Lima

Lima, a heady metropolis on the Pacific Ocean, is often overlooked in favor of other Peruvian attractions, such as Machu Picchu. But amid the cosmopolitan chaos lies a city full of character, from the culinary scene – one of the best in South America – to pre-Columbian pyramids, modern art galleries and colorful bohemian neighborhoods.

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The Main Attractions

Known as the City of Kings to the Spanish conquistadors, these days, Lima is a city of contrasts, where shanty towns rub shoulders with skyscrapers, high-end restaurants vie with street food, ancient temples sit among colonial churches, and bumper-to-bumper traffic leads to sheer cliffs and endless horizons – perfect for watching the sun sink into the ocean while sipping on a pisco sour or two. At first glance, Lima might seem like a jumping-off point to explore the rest of Peru, but this old city still has many treasures, from rich heritage to a tantalizing foodie scene, neon nightlife, fascinating museums and lush parks. While most will choose to stay in Barranco and Miraflores, the Plaza de Armas in Lima Centro is the perfect place to begin your city exploration. This is the heartland of Lima; the Spanish laid the first stone here in 1535 on the site of the future Basilica Cathedral of Lima. Yet even within the city itself, it’s possible to go further back in time. Long before the Spanish arrived, the region was inhabited by the indigenous Lima culture whose legacy is still visible in the architectural landscape. Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca are within the city itself, while Pachacamac and the Norte Chico settlement of Caral, are a little further away. For those who can’t make the journey, the Museo Larco – with an extensive collection of pre-Columbian art dating back more than 5,000 years – is the next best thing. History and culture lovers will find themselves in awe of the impressive museums, galleries and cultural offerings, such as the Museo de Arte de Lima next to the Parque de la Reserva in the 1872 World’s Fair Exhibition Palace and Casa de Aliaga, a 500-year-old colonial mansion that has been in the Aliaga family for 17 generations. You can’t visit Lima without soaking up the food and the nightlife. Whatever you’re after, there are generous food offerings across the city, from fine dining overlooking the surf to ceviche in the Chorrillos district, chifa in the Barrio Chino neighborhood, and street stalls serving Peruvian classics. As darkness sets in, head to a peña for a traditional Peruvian take on a good time, or make your way to the trendy bars around Barranco, Miraflores, Pueblo Libre and Surco. Ready to explore? Keep reading to find out more of Culture Trip’s favorite spots.