10 Essential Things to Do in Lima, Peru

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Lima is a sprawling metropolis, one of the largest cities in South America home to over 8 million people. At first glance, the capital of Peru is just that, a sprawl, a dense urban jungle that seems impenetrable to visitors making their first trip here.

But look beyond this outward facade of city life, give Lima a chance, and you will soon find that this is a city of hidden secrets that only slowly reveals itself to travelers.

Lima is the cultural center and heart of Peru. It’s a place of history and cuisine, of late-night drinks and daytime escapades through streets that are hundreds of years old.

Lima is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in South America, a city founded by the famous Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, a city that can proudly say that it is the site of the oldest University in the Americas and a city that will constantly surprise and enthrall you.

There are cathedrals, museums, and pre-Spanish ruins to discover in Lima, and amongst all the history and colonial trappings, there is the modern-day Peruvian lifestyle of excellent food and colorful evenings to explore.

To help you to plan your trip to Peru’s capital, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Lima.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Peru (Travel Guide)

10 Best Things to do in Lima, Peru

Lima is one of South America’s last undiscovered cities. It has yet to really see mass tourism, and most travelers will simply pass through the city on their way to the more famous sights of Machu Picchu or Cusco.

Hang around, and Lima will slowly but surely entice you in further, with its historic streets and delicious cuisine. Here are our favorite things to do in Lima, Peru.

horse carriage in Plaza Mayor - Things to do in Lima

1. Take a Stroll Around Plaza Mayor

Any trip to Lima should begin at the city’s large, open and historic main square, the Plaza Mayor. This is where Francisco Pizarro founded the city, which would then go on to become the capital of much of Spanish South America, and then Peru.

The square dates back to 1535 when the foundation stones were first laid, and since then it’s been a constant fixture, through wars and earthquakes that have otherwise destroyed much of the city at points in its history.

The square itself is a wonderful, lively place, and it’s surrounded by some of the city’s major attractions and important institutions, including the Government Palace and the Cathedral.

Our top recommended tours of Plaza Mayor:

Palacio de Gobierno in Lima, Peru

2. Visit the Palacio de Gobierno

One of the most historic buildings in the Plaza Mayor is the Palacio de Gobierno. This is the Government Palace that was built by Pizarro when he began ruling Peru and the surrounding regions in the name of the Spanish Crown.

It still stands today, although it has gone through many different renovations. It’s a grand look at the history of the nation.

Catedral de Lima Peru

3. See the Catedral de Lima

The magnificent Lima Cathedral also stands in the Plaza Mayor and dates back to 1535 when its construction first began, alongside the rest of the historic center.

The cathedral is the last resting place of Pizarro, the man who played such an important role in the history of Peru.

Our top recommended tours of Catedral de Lima:

Museum of the Nation in Lima

4. Go to the Museo de la Nación

Lima’s Museum of the Nation is one of the best places in the city to visit to learn more about Peruvian history and culture.

The museum has many local exhibits, dating back to pre-Spanish times, showcasing Inca society as well as the later colonial days.

Artifacts at the Museo Larco in Lima

5. See Artifacts at the Museo Larco

Museo Larco is another excellent museum to visit in Lima. This is a privately owned museum, and some say it is much better curated and looked after than the public museum.

The museum itself was constructed over a 7th-century Mesoamerican pyramid, and the exhibits primarily showcase a vast collection of pre-Spanish artifacts and historical items from around the country.

It’s a fantastic place to learn more about the culture and history of the people that were here before the Spanish, but that is largely unknown elsewhere in the world.

Our top recommended tours of Museo Larco:

Ruins of Huaca Pucllana in Lima

6. Visit the Ruins of Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana is an archaeological site found in central Lima. It’s a stunning look at ancient American civilization, as this huge pyramid was constructed and used hundreds of years ago, between AD 200 and AD 700, long before the Incas and long before the Spanish made their claim on the land here.

Our top recommended tours of Huaca Pucllana:

Streets near the Casa di Aliaga in Lima

7. Casa di Aliaga

Lima’s streets hide an incredible depth of history amongst the ramshackle colonial buildings. One of the most impressive colonial constructions to see is the Casa di Aliaga.

This is a Spanish mansion that dates back to the foundation of the city in 1535, and it’s a beautiful place to see. The house can be toured and there is a great collection of exhibits dating back to the first days of the city.

Miraflores district at night

8. Wander the Miraflores District

Miraflores is the most famous district in Lima. It’s the main hub for tourists, where visitors will spend their time in the city, and it’s an upbeat, upscale place full of lively bars, restaurants, and clubs.

This is the modern heart of Lima and of Peru, with modern shopping centers and wide, green parks to explore. Miraflores is the main area where tourists will find themselves staying too, as the area is known for its multitude of hotels, including many of the popular international chains as well as more boutique places too.

Our top recommended tours of Miraflores District:

Ceviche in Lima

9. Eat Ceviche

Lima is becoming well known in culinary circles for its beautifully crafted and wonderfully tasting local cuisines. There are plenty of restaurants in the city, but wherever you go, ensure that you take time to try the popular local favorite, Ceviche.

This is a delicious dish of raw fish prepared with lemon, lime, and salad. It’s fresh, healthy and tasty, and anywhere you go in the city, you will find it on sale.

Our top recommended food tours:

Pisco sour being poured in Lima

10. Drink a Pisco Sour

Once you’ve sampled Ceviche, Peru’s national dish, you may be interested in trying out the country’s most popular drink too.

Pisco Sour is the local, alcoholic cocktail of choice, and it’s created using the local spirit Pisco and mixing it with sour lemon or lime. You can find a Pisco Sour in almost any bar, restaurant or club in Lima.

Our top recommended tours for sampling Pisco Sour:

Lima, Peru Travel Tips

Aerial view of Miraflores - Things to do in Lima

Where is Lima, Peru?

Lima is Peru’s capital and largest city, and it’s found overlooking the lush climes of the Pacific Ocean on the central, west coast of the country.

To one side is the great ocean, and to the other, large desert plains that eventually rise to the Andean Mountains. It’s a dramatic location and one that won’t be lost on you as you arrive in the city.

Don’t forget your Peru (National Geographic Adventure Map)

Miraflores coastline in Lima

How to Travel to Lima

Lima is the capital of Peru and as such, the city has great travel connections internationally and particularly in the Americas.

Most travelers will find themselves flying into Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport which has regular flight schedules to not only the surrounding countries but also to major US cities and transport hubs, making access from even further afield easy via one-stop connections.

There are even a few irregular direct flights to London and Amsterdam

On arrival at the airport, there are plenty of taxis waiting to whisk you off into the city itself. It’s advisable to book the taxis inside the airport terminal itself, rather than heading out onto the streets, purely for safety reasons.

Budget-minded travelers can opt for the fast and efficient Airport Express bus which heads directly to the popular Miraflores district where many visitors will find themselves based.

Lima has excellent domestic connections too, with regular flights to other major cities, as well as regular long-distance buses from the two main city bus terminals.

Book your Lima Airport Arrival Transfer today and arrive worry-free. 

Pacific coastline in Lima

The Best Time to Visit Lima

Peru is located south of the equator in a tropical region and experiences distinct wet and dry seasons. However, due to the location of Lima, surrounded by mountains, on a desert plain, it will not feel like a tropical climate.

Instead, Lima experiences one of the driest climates in the world. The rain that does fall, generally falls in summer, between December to March, however, this is also the sunniest time of year to visit the city and the best time to enjoy the outdoor life and to walk the streets.

The rest of the year, the weather can turn cold, especially in the evenings, but in reality, it’s perfectly possible to visit Lima any time of the year.

Police truck in Lima

Is Lima Safe to Visit?

Certain areas of Lima’s sprawling city-scape are considered unsafe, even by locals, so it’s wise to stick to areas of good reputation that are known to be safe for tourists.

The areas which are best to stay near are San Isidro and Miraflores, and this is where you will find the majority of the city’s attractions and restaurants anyway.

Other areas can be problematic and you may be the victim of opportunistic crimes or even accidentally become involved in gang violence.

We use Allianz travel insurance and have since our first trip to Mexico in 2003. They’ve been there for us on our adventures – and many friends and readers – multiple times over! If you want to book with Allianz Travel Insurance, simply use this link to get their travel insurance!

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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