A Local’s Guide to the Best of Lima

With world-class cuisine, thriving nightlife, and a rich cultural heritage on offer – not to mention great surfing – travelers to Peru’s capital are spoiled for choice. Our insider Marisa shows you how to make the most of a 48-hour visit.

Lima is a vibrant, diverse city where many of the most interesting and well-traveled locals congregate. Add to that an internationally renowned foodie culture, historical landmarks and genuinely great waves, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot than Lima to get local.

Lima’s Historic Center

Originally built to be Spain’s colonial capital in South America, Lima boasts some impressive architecture.

At the UNESCO Heritage site Plaza San Martin, you’ll find the luxurious El Gran Hotel Bolivar, visited by the likes of Hemingway and Walt Disney. Officially a national monument, El Bolivar also serves the largest Pisco Sour in the city.

Walk down Jirón de la Uníon, a historical meeting point for intellectuals, until you hit the Plaza de Armas, the old town’s main square. During the Fiestas Patrias on July 28th (Independence day) it’s full of dancing, parades, and fireworks.

Independence Day festivities in the Plaza de Armas. Photo credit: iStock/figcaption>

Miraflores

Hop on one of the city’s modern buses to Lima’s most fashionable neighborhood, packed with famous restaurants, outdoor offerings, and a thriving nightlife.

Bike along the Malécon for unrivaled ocean views, then head down to the beach for a surf at Punta Roquitas.

Next, check out Huaca Pucllana, an ancient seven-platformed pyramid in the middle of Miraflores, Then, hit the Mercado Indio for alpaca goods or Agua y Tierra for souvenirs from the Amazon.

Huaca Pucllana. Photo credit: iStock

Barranco

This is Lima's bohemian neighborhood. Begin with a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, followed by a stroll along the seafront.

Enjoy the colorful buildings and street art while you munch on picarones – Peru’s famous, donut-like street food – before heading to the Bajada de Baños for sunset.

When your stomach grumbles, make a beeline for La Picanteria in Surquillo, a hideaway with some of the city’s best seafood. Or try Insolina for comida criollo, an eclectic fusion of cuisines that’s Peruvian food like grandma used to make.

Lima's bohemian Barranco neighborhood. Photo credit: Ellen Hall

Lima’s Best Nightlife

After dinner, party-goers descend on Plaza Kennedy in Miraflores, where you’ll find the city’s hippest bars. La Emolientería is one of the most popular local haunts, or for a unique experience try a peña – they’re late night cabarets hosting traditional music, dance and comedy. De Rompe y Raja is quite authentic.

End your night at Ayahuasca, a three-story colonial mansion-turned-bar that’s a traveler favorite.

Shopping in Lima

The next morning, perk up with a cup of emoliente, a traditional elixir of quinoa, aloe, pollen and local herbs sold at street carts. After breakfast at the hip El Pan de la Chola, it’s time to shop.

Start in San Isidro, an upscale area neighborhood full of boutiques to pursue. Bibliophiles will swoon to El Virrey’s vintage book room stocked with rare editions. Then head to Dédalo, a colonial Casona filled with unique contemporary crafts and a back-patio bar, or try the funky art gallery & boutique Vernácula in Barranco.

Classics of Peruvian Food

National Ceviche Day is June 28th, but any day is perfect to enjoy this tangy, citrus-cooked seafood. Wait in line for Ceviche de Mero at La Paisana (open only for lunch), or make the trek out to Chez Wong’s, a tiny eatery that might be the best cevicheria in Lima. Peruvian dignitaries and celebrities regularly stop at Chez Wong’s to enjoy the iconic dish from its working-class roots.

Wash down lunch with another Peruvian classic – the Pisco Sour. The Antigua Taberna Queirolo (aka El Queirolo) is a well-loved watering hole in Pueblo Libre that’s been serving Piscos since the 1880’s. You’ll be nearby the Gran Mercado Artesanal if you’re still souvenir hunting.

The residential Pueblo Libre neighborhood. Photo credit: iStock

Catacombs and Chinatown

Walk off your Piscos underground on a tour of the Catacombs of San Francisco de Lima Basilica. Then take a stroll through Barrio Chino, Lima’s Chinatown, for Chinese architecture and a host of incredible Chifa restaurants (that’s Chinese-Peruvian cuisine).

San Francisco de Lima Basilica. Photo credit: iStock

Museo Larco

No trip is complete without a stop at the Larco Museum. This private collection of pre-Columbian art is also home to the world's largest collection of erotic ceramics – a unique way to end your stay in Lima.

Where to Stay

Barranco

Second Home, a five-room Casona with a swimming pool and ocean views.

Casa Nuestra, a colorful hotel-esque homestay with roof terrace and breakfast.

Miraflores

Residencial Miraflores, an eight-suite B&B with high ceilings and family-style breakfast.

Want to know more about Peru? Check out our podcast. We chat about alternative treks to Machu Picchu, how Peru is the original home of surfing, and look at what vaccinations do you need when traveling to South America.

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