While it was once considered just a gateway to the rest of Peru, particularly for the immensely popular site of Machu Picchu, more and more people have discovered that the capital city of Lima has plenty to satisfy even the most experienced travelers. With its architecture harking back to a colonial past, museums detailing the fascinating history and culture of the city, to the wide stretches of coastline, Lima has plenty to keep you occupied. Because it is a large city, it can be difficult knowing where to start. Here’s a day-by-day guide on what to see and do while you’re in Lima.
How to get there
Most likely, you will probably fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM). You can also arrive in Lima through the use of the many bus services that populate South America, but if you are flying this will be where you land.
You can take a taxi for an affordable rideshare to your hotel or hostel from the airport. At most, it should cost you around $10 USD and take around 30 minutes without traffic (though make sure to leave for the airport early just in case you do hit it!).
When to go
Lima is pretty nice all year round, though you will want to go during Peru’s summer season (December to March) for the best beach weather. The rest of the time can be a bit rainy, but temperatures should never reach less than 40 degrees fahrenheit. You should know most of the other major cities in Peru are not nearly so cool during this time since they are not on the coastline.
How to get around
Lima’s bus system can be confusing, and the metro line is limited. The best way to get around this large city is to take rideshares or walk. Uber is readily available and extremely cheap. This is why having a SIM card is worth the investment when heading to Peru.
Where to stay
Jr. Rufino Torrico #850
+51 1 424 6108
Located not far from Plaza San Martin, this basic but clean and friendly hotel often has rooms available for an extremely low price. While 20 minutes from the Miraflores area, it’s a reasonably-priced alternative for those looking for a quieter experience in the city. It also has a 24-hour reception desk and lounge.
Av. Abancay 554
+51 1 6231020
This quirky spot has number of reasons to choose it—though price definitely helps. It’s very clean and right near the historic center with an easy walk to the nearby markets. You’ll find some lush greenery in the garden and a number of different room options that can work for whatever kind of trip you have chosen. The staff is as friendly as the hotel is colorful, but it can get a little noisy at night since it is in the center of town.
Jr. Puno #196
+51 1 428 6334
This 3-star hotel has several suites worth checking out (and the price is more like a 2-star hotel). It’s also located right near the action so you can easily walk to the main Plaza Mayor. You’ll find plenty of restaurants nearby and stores for shopping if you feel like grabbing some gifts for friends and family.
You can find more options of where to stay in Lima here.
Day 1–Lima City Tour and Barranco
To get acquainted with the city, you should take a free walking tour on your first morning. Did we mention it’s free? A typical tour will take you around the historic old town and the gorgeous examples of colonial architecture there, such as the San Francisco Church, the Palace of the President, the Peruvian Literature House, and the main square of Lima, Plaza de Armas. On some tours, you may even get the chance to explore the interiors of the buildings, such as the Santo Domingo Church. There are a number of companies who offer free walking tours, usually lasting around two and a half to three hours. If you’re not a big walker, you can opt to take a hop-on bus tour instead.
Any Lima itinerary should include visits to its vibrant neighborhoods and a good place to start is Barranco. Known for being the bohemian quarter of the city, one of the top reasons travelers head here is the wonderful street art. There are also plenty of art galleries to check out. Popular ones include the Contemporary Art Museum and the Museo Pedro de Osma.
As well as art, Barranco is a great spot to enjoy some of Lima’s most famous architecture. The Bridge of Sighs is a favorite among artists, writers, and lovers–especially when lit up at night. It is said that if you hold hands with your lover and cross the bridge holding your breath, your wish will come true. (Mine still hasn’t.) A visit to the main square of the district should also be on your Lima itinerary. It’s worth visiting the cathedral, fountains, statues, and colonial buildings. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a live music or theater performance here.
If you’ve had enough of sightseeing for one day, you can always go shopping in Barranco. The neighborhood is well-known for having the coolest stores in the entire city. There are also lots of hip cafés, restaurants, and bars to relax in at the end of your first day.
Day 2–Miraflores and Museo Larco
One of the most popular districts in the city, a day in Miraflores should be included on every Lima itinerary. Located approximately six miles from the centre of the city, Miraflores is a suburban district offering visitors delicious cuisine and fabulous shopping.
There’s so much to do in Miraflores that it can be difficult to know where to begin. A good place to start is the Melacon, the district’s boardwalk. It stretches along the coast for six miles. While the sea views are magnificent enough, you’ll also come across a number of sculptures and Gaudi-inspired mosaic stonework. There’s even a park which has miniature replications of the famous Nazca Lines.
In the afternoon, head over to Parque Kennedy, a popular meeting spot for locals. Named after the US President JFK and featuring a bust of him, this place really comes alive in the afternoon. If you happen to be visiting during the weekend, you may even spot locals dancing together. If not, you’ll still most probably catch some of the many street performers who perform regularly here.
In the evening, take an Uber or taxi over to the Museo Larco. As the museum is open until 10 pm, evening is the perfect time to go as you’ll miss the crowds. The Museo Larco is the premier attraction of pre-Colombian art in the country and is particularly famous for its collection of erotic pottery. It definitely offers a unique insight into the sexuality of the ancient Peruvians!
Day 3–Water sports, Huanca Pullana, shopping in Larcomar
A visit to Lima isn’t just about museums and architecture. You should definitely make some time to enjoy the beaches and participate in some water sports if you have the time. Heading back to Miraflores, you’ll want to visit the main city beach in order to catch the action. This spot is perfect for surfing, even if you’re a complete beginner. If you need a lesson, there are lots of surf schools here that are very affordable. If you don’t feel like jumping on a board, you can still enjoy the beaches and sea by sunbathing and swimming.
Another activity which you should consider doing while in Miraflores is paragliding. The cliffs and the weather conditions here make it an ideal place for killer winds and it’s common to see people gliding over the neighborhood.
The only remaining pre-Inca ruins left in Miraflores, Huaca Pucllana adobe and clay pyramid was once an important ceremonial and administrative centre of the Lima Culture. It was a society known for its mastery of irrigation and dates back to around 500 AD. When the Lima culture was overtaken by the Wari culture around 700 AD, Huaca Pucllana became a significant burial site for the society’s nobles. The first intact tomb containing the remains of two adults and a sacrificed child was discovered within the pyramid in 2008. As well as the immense ruins, there is a museum which displays artifacts found at the site such as ceramics, tools, and textiles. A restaurant is located nearby which has great views over the pyramid and serves excellent Peruvian dishes.
To end your Lima itinerary, you should head to Larcomar, an impressive multi-story shopping mall with a mix of international stores and small boutiques. Located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, there are also plenty of entertainment and dining options here. If you prefer to do your shopping at more traditional places and for more unique items, there are a number of artisan markets dotted around Miraflores where you can pick up authentic handicrafts and art.
Lima really is a delightful city and definitely worthy of a few days’ stay. By following this three-day Lima itinerary, you’ll get to see the best of what Peru’s capital has to offer.
Learn more about the best things to see in Lima here!