Lima is a vibrant, lively city packed with attractions, history, and culture. Whether you want to learn more about Peru’s history, experience the beauty of its colonial architecture, or explore the solemn majesty of its religious monuments, it’s a city that promises much and delivers even more. With so much to do, see, and experience, drawing up an itinerary can be challenging. To help out, we’ve sifted through the data to come up with the 20 best things to do in Lima, Peru for first-timers. Without further ado, here they are.
20. Wander around El Olivar
El Olivar is one of Lima’s most important treasures. The 57-acre colonial plantation is home to around 1,700 olive trees and a clutch of attractions that highlight the park’s significance in Peruvian history. Some of its key attractions include a fascinating library, an elegant art gallery, and a handful of very impressive 20th-century mansions. Once you’re done admiring the buildings, head for the lagoon of El Olivar. Multiple kiosks are scattered around the grounds for you to buy birdseed to feed the 30 bird species that call the lagoon home. There are also free guided tours of the park offered by the San Isidro municipality: just be aware that tours are by appointment only so be sure to book in advance.
19. Experience the past, present, and future at the Metropolitan Museum of Lima
As Peru’s first entirely virtual museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Lima is an absolute must-visit. Using 2D, 3D, and 4D movies along with projections and holograms, the museum takes visitors through 10,000 years of history, including the pre-Hispanic Era, the Colonial Era, Peru’s Independence, Modern Age, the 20th century, and the 21st century. The future isn’t left out of the picture, either – if you’ve ever wondered what Lima will look like in 2050, this is where you’ll find out.
18. Explore the Parque de las Leyendas
If you’ve got kids, a visit to Parque de las Leyendas is practically obligatory. Featuring a whole host of flora and fauna native to Peru, this traditional zoo is split into three distinct areas intended to represent the three primary climatic regions of the country. In the ‘jungle’ region, you’ll find crocodiles, snakes, toucans, coatis, parrots, jaguars, and monkeys. In the ‘highlands’ regions, you’ll be greeted with pumas, condors, llamas, vicunas, owls, and guanacos. The ‘coast’ is represented with penguins, sea lions, turtles, cormorants, and pelicans. If you (or your kids) like animals, it’s unmissable.
17. Take a tour of the Museum of the Central Reserve Bank
Going by name alone, the Museum of the Central Reserve Bank might not sound like the most interesting of destinations. But don’t panic: despite the name, the museum has absolutely nothing at all to do with banks. If you were expecting nothing more exciting than an exhibit of cash registers, you’ll be happy to know the museum is actually home to a glorious array of folk art exhibits, an art gallery, and the frankly outstanding Hugo Cohen Gold collection. Check out gold, textiles, wooden objects, and pottery from eight ancient civilizations, around 2000 artworks from the Folk art collection of Mrs. Nadia Carnero, and, of course, 500 silver and gold artworks from the world-famous Hugo Cohen collection. It’s intriguing, it’s breathtaking, and it’s without doubt one of the highlights of any visit to Lima.
16. Stroll around the Park of Love
On St. Valentine’s Day in 1993, Parque del Amor, or Park of Love, opened its gates to the public for the first time. Since then, it’s become one of the most popular parks in Lima. With extraordinary vistas of the coast, stunning mosaic benches, and a score of intriguing paintings and sculptures (including the famous sculpture by Victor Delfin of him and his wife kissing), it’s a great place to escape the crowds of the city and enjoy some blissfully relaxed time in nature. If you’ve got someone to share it with, so much the better.
15. Treat yourself to some ceviche
If you wanted, you could spend your entire time in Lima eating McDonald’s and KFC. But where’s the fun in that? Much better to treat your tastebuds to a classic Peruvian delicacy like ceviche. The city is packed with some great cevicherias, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy this sublime dish. Made from a combination of fish, red onions, chili peppers, and sweet potato marinated in lemon, it’s delicate, delicious, and about to become your new favorite food.
14. Admire the sights at Barranco
As one of Lima’s more bohemian districts, Barranco has a lot to recommend it. Safe, walkable, and packed with attractions, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Admire the street art, take in a street performance, enjoy some great food, and visit some historical sights… with so much to see and do, it really is an unmissable destination.
13. Visit the Museo de la Nacion
The Museo de la Nacion ranks as one of the most important museums in Lima. Home to thousands of artifacts, it chronicles the entire length and breadth of Peru’s history. Along with an extraordinary collection of Nazca, Wari, and Moche ceramics, it also boasts some fascinating replicas of ancient Andean artifacts, including the Revolt of the Objects and the Lanzon from Chavin de Huantar.
12. Tour the Museum of Inquisition and Congress
The Museum of Inquisition and Congress is widely considered to be one of the most significant and best museums in Peru. It dates back to the city’s earliest days, at a time when its dungeons were used to torture prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it explores its role in the Inquisition and in the development of the Peruvian Congress via exhibits such as the Hearing Room, Chamber of Secrets, Room of Processes, and Room of the Inquisition. If you like your history to come with a healthy serving of macabre on the side, it’s not to be missed.
11. Enjoy some art at the city’s galleries
Lima is crammed with art museums. If you’re on a tight schedule, you might not have time to pack them all in, but a few highlights not be missed include the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), which showcases over 3,000 years of history (including a stunning collection of religious paintings from the Cusqueña School); the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima (MAC Lima) with its breathtaking collection of modern and contemporary art; and the MATE Museo Mario Testino with its collection of striking photography from acclaimed photographer Mario Testino.
10. Visit Huaca Pucllana
If you want to experience the rich history of Lima, take the advice of Vacation Idea and head for Huaca Pucllana. Located in the oceanfront district of Miraflores, Huaca Pucllana is a former settlement that was built about 500 CE by a Pre-Incan indigenous seaside civilization. Boasting a clay pyramid and an ancient adobe, the sight offers a fascinating insight into Peru’s rich past. Today, the complex features a restaurant, a souvenir shop, a workshop space, and a museum crammed with textiles, ceramics, artifacts, and tools discovered at the site.
9. Indulge in some Pisco Sour
If you hadn’t heard of Pisco Sour before you arrived in Lima, prepare for that to change by the time you leave. The Peruvian beverage is a tempting combination of Pisco (a type of liquor), fresh lemon juice, corn syrup, and egg white, and it’s quite literally everywhere. Whichever restaurant you choose for your evening meal, be prepared to be offered a glass. According to misstourist.com, some of the best places to head to enjoy this classic drink include Bar Inglés at Country Club Lima Hotel, Antigua Taberna Queirolo, Museo del Pisco, and Hotel Maury.
8. Shop till you drop at Miraflores
If your perfect vacation isn’t complete without a spot of retail therapy, don’t miss a visit to Miraflores while you’re in Lima. The district joins onto the cliffs running down to the Pacific Ocean, providing a beautiful backdrop to the scores of shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels lining its streets. Once you’ve had your fill of the district’s urban delights, get back to nature with a stroll through some of the gorgeous parks lining the cliffs.
7. Admire the light show at Parque de la Reserva
As annees-de-pelerinage.com says, if you’re traveling with kids, a visit to the Parque de la Reserva is a no-brainer. A huge park crammed with hundreds of water fountains, it’s a great space to while away a few hours. If you visit at night, you’ll be treated to one of the best light shows you’ll ever see.
6. Explore the San Francisco Catacombs
Walk just two blocks northeast of the Plaza de Armas and you’ll stumble on the Basilica of San Francisco. Although the facade is beautiful enough, the real attraction here is the basement, where over 70,000 people have been buried. Today, you can take a guided tour of the space to see the collection of artfully displayed skulls and bones. In fairness, some people find it slightly creepy and it’s probably not the best place to take young kids. But if you’ve got nerves of steel and the 15 soles you’ll need for the tour, it’s the kind of experience you’re not going to forget in a hurry.
5. Visit the Museo Larco
Trip Advisor ranks the Museo Larco as one of the best attractions in Lima, and for very good reason. Housed in a breathtakingly beautiful 18th-century mansion that’s built over a 7th-century pyramid, the museum is home to an exquisite collection of gold and jewelry treasures from Ancient Peru. Spanning 5000 years of history, the museum is the ideal place to learn more about the culture and history of the country. Once you’ve finished admiring the exhibits, pay a pitstop to the Museo Larco´s Café restaurant – a fine place to savor some local cuisine.
4. Visit the Tower of Santa Domingo Convent
Located just a short walk from the Plaza de Armas is the Tower of Santa Domingo Convent, a breathtaking church that’s well worth a few hours of your time. Although the whole building is a treat for the eyes, the star attractions are the altars dedicated to three of the city’s most important saints, Santa Rosa de Lima, San Martín de Porres, and San Juan Macías. If you have a taste for history (or maybe just the macabre), you’ll find the skulls of Santa Rosa and San Marin in the nave of the church. The coffin of San Juan lies alongside them.
3. Visit Francisco Pizarro’s final resting place
If you want to pay your respects to Lima’s founder, head to the Catedral de Lima, the final resting place of Francisco Pizarro and a breathtaking sight in its own right. While you’re in the area, don’t miss watching the changing of the palace guard at the Palacio de Gobierno, the official home to Peru’s President. The Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace (Lima’s City Hall) with their elaborately ornate wooden balconies are also worth checking out.
2. Join a walking tour of the Centro Historico
According to desktodirtbag.com, one of the best ways to get to grips with the stunning sights and rich history of Lima is to pull on a pair of comfortable shoes and hit the pavement. Obviously, you can go it alone, but if you want to learn more about the attractions you’ll see along the way, it’s worth signing up for a walking tour. The tours are free but be prepared to tip at the end.
1. Visit the historic heart of the city at Plaza de Armas
Trip Savvy has a lot of great recommendations for things to do in Lima. Chief among them is to pay a visit to Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Mayor, as it’s sometimes known), a stunning place that sits right at the heart of Lima’s historic center. If you want to get a sense of the city’s colonial past, you’ll find no better place to do it than here, at the very spot where Francisco Pizarro founded the city in 1535. Thanks to its cultural and historical significance, the square was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1988. Today, a colonial fountain sits at its center, while around it lies some of the most important and architecturally fascinating buildings in the city.