Lima tastefully encapsulates the beauty of Peruvian culture — quite literally, in fact, as it’s referred to as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas. From its Andean influence and colonial architecture, to its rolling rivers and warm, Pacific climate, Lima effortlessly offers an enriching experience.

The capital city’s bustle is full of charm, its urban facades are colorful and inviting, and it’s home to the Rimac District — a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. When planning a trip to Peru, Lima serves as the perfect landing pad, allowing you to immerse yourself in your new surroundings as you embark on your Peruvian adventure.

BASICS

  • Nickname: The City of Kings
  • Incorporated: January 18th, 1535
  • Independence: July 28, 1821
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Population: 9.75 million
  • Architecture Style: Colonial
  • Climate: Mild desert

HISTORY

Lima, like many cities in South America, is situated in a coastal region that was thriving long before European contact. This is illustrated through nearby archaeological sites like Pachacamac (part of the Inca Empire) and the high volume of pre-Columbian artwork, which can be seen in seen in various museums across the city.

Photo by Mili Gonzáles

But Spanish colonization undeniably left its mark on Lima. Today, the city is flooded with architecture from the colonial period, which began in the 16th century when Francisco Pizarro arrived and conquered the city. The Spanish controlled Lima for nearly 300 years before, the city signed its Declaration of Independence in 1821. Lima followed the war by becoming capital of Peru, and welcomed many newcomers to the city. This spike in population forced the city to expand in infrastructure, creating new opportunities for employment and education.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

Surrounded by jungles and deserts, Lima is surprisingly refreshing and cool due to breezes brought in by the Pacific Ocean. With temperatures rarely dropping below 57 °F (14 °C), the city can be enjoyed no matter the time of year, though it still has a wet and foggy winter between May and October. The other half of the year is routinely doused in sunshine, unsurprisingly making it the busiest times for visitors!

Photo by Sofía Alva

When deciding where to stay, you’ll find that Lima boasts countless options. The city is split into 43 districts, and there are a few you’ll definitely want to consider. The downtown area is an option, but it will undoubtedly be the busiest. Miraflores is an upscale area and might be pricey, but it is known for its quality hotels and hostels. There is also Barranco — an area filled with artists and entertainment options — which is a huge draw for travelers and won’t break your budget. These two areas are also bustling with nightlife!

Lastly, Lima boasts a world class airport in the form of Jorge Chávez International Airport, which should help ease any uncertainties when planning your arrival in the capital. Located just six miles (10 kilometers) from downtown, the best way to get to and from the airport is by taxi.

GETTING AROUND

Navigating the streets of Lima may seem chaotic to some, as the city often grows congested and is intertwined with unmarked one-way roads. The creation of the Lima Metro system has helped decipher the confusion, however, especially for visiting travelers. As the city continues to work out the railway’s kinks and add more routes, taxis are another cheap and handy option for moving between destinations, particularly when hopping around the city center.

For those looking for ultimate freedom (or just an easy escape to the coast), Lima has no shortage of car rental companies, from right in the airport to the city center itself.

WHAT TO DO

Photo by João Fiuza

Try ceviche

With such a celebrated food culture, you can’t visit Lima without trying ceviche — a traditional dish that is a flavorful combination of local seafood, fresh herbs, and vegetables served with homemade tortillas. Ceviche can be found all over the city, but we recommend trying to grab a table at El Muelle in Barranco or Sonia’s in Chorrilos.

Photo by @comida_mia

Hang out in Plaza Mayor

Often referred to as “the birthplace of Lima,” the Plaza Mayor is situated in the city’s historic center and is surrounded by many of its most noteworthy buildings. In the plaza you’ll find a majestic fountain, manicured gardens, and colorful facades that take you back in time to the colonial period, and is an ideal place to sit back and enjoy the pace of Peruvian life!

Photo by Javier Bravo

Visit the Museo de la Nación

Photo by @ceguucue

Also home to the Ministry of Culture, the Museo de la Nación (National Museum) is one of Lima’s biggest attractions — and rightfully so. Here you’ll find artifacts ranging from Peru’s ancient era to its colonial and republican periods. In all, 15,500 pieces decorate the five-story building in southeastern Lima. Visiting hours are between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, and, maybe best of all — it’s free!

Ogle the Church of Santo Domingo

This vibrant 16th century church has played a pivotal role throughout Lima’s history. Today, it acts as a burial ground for former saints and a home to historic relics like the skulls of San Martín and Santa Rosa. On top of being a history lesson, the church’s meticulous architecture and stunning courtyard will give you something to marvel at as well! When it comes to fees, entrance to the church won’t cost a thing, and it’s is open for two blocks each day (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.), between Monday and Saturday.

Spend a Day at the Beach

With 1,400 miles of sandy coastlines, you’ll have your pick of beaches when visiting Peru. If you happen to find some extra time on your hands in the nation’s capital, chances are you’ll want to head to the coast at least once. Whether you like to surf or simply relax with a good book, be sure to put Paracas and Cerro Azul high on your list. Because these beaches can be a little ways outside the city, the best way to reach them is via car, so drive safe!

Header image by Marina Estacio.

SHARE
Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.