As with many capital cities, Lima can be an overwhelming, confusing and intimidating metropolis. As the transport hub of Peru, it is a city that is all but impossible to avoid, and many travelers are confronted with the choice of either skipping Lima’s barely organized chaos and getting out of town as fast as possible, or spend some time trying to penetrate the sprawling capital.
The answer is simple: don’t skip Lima. Peru’s culture, government, history, and legendary gastronomy all come together in the city that lines the bluffs along the Pacific Ocean. You could spend years exploring Lima’s crevices, but here’s how to do it in 48 hours.
If your flight has arrived on Friday night, the long cab right from the airport has probably left you feeling exhausted, but curious. Grab a hotel in Miraflores. There are all different price ranges in the area, but the closer you are to Parque Kennedy, the more lively the local.
Drop your things and hunt down a low-key dinner. Around Calle de las Pizzas on Parque Kennedy does not serve up the greatest dishes, but it is a good place for a quick and easy bite and some fabulous people-watching. Try Peru’s famous pisco sour, a brandy made from grapes. Careful though- it sneaks up on you quickly and just two can leave you wobbling as you stand up. If you’re a party animal, explore the lively (albeit overpriced) bars. If not, you’re not missing much- get some sleep for the next day.
Saturday morning begins early for adventure junkies. The coastline along Lima is renowned for its surf. Head down to the beach for a lesson at around 6 AM – don’t forget to rent a wetsuit! Even if surfing isn’t for you, watching the locals shred the waves before work is a sight in itself. Get back to your hotel for breakfast and a quick shower before the busy day begins.
From your hotel in Miraflores grab a cab to Barranco, and ask to be let out at the Bajada de Baños. Barranco is Lima’s Bohemian arts district and is home to decadent homes that are enough to make anyone want to buy one of those fixer-uppers. The Bajada is a small walkway that leads down to the ocean. With restaurants and homes built into the cut-out cliffs, the architectural beauty of the walk will astound you.
Head all the way down and cross the pedestrian bridge for another glimpse of the beach. If your appetite is up, stop by one of the restaurants for a snack. Otherwise, continue onto the main square in Barranco for a better close-up of the old homes that coat the sidewalks.
After taking in Barranco, take a cab to Museo Larco. The museum is housed in an 18th Century museum and is one of the largest private collections of Peruvian artifacts from a wide span of cultures. However, the museum is perhaps better known for its interesting collection of erotic artifacts- housed in a separate building in case you want to keep your trip family-friendly.
Following Museo Larco, take one more ride over to Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is Lima’s true downtown and home to its government buildings. The detailed architecture is stunning, but the best history lies in the Convento de San Francisco. A still-running monastery, it is also the home to the Catacombs that house 25,000 skeletons dating back over three hundred years. English tours are available and provide ample time to view the neatly piled bones below. Another highlight is Peruvian artist Diego de la Puentes’ take on the Last Supper- complete with cuy (guinea pig) as the central plate.
Head back to Miraflores to change for dinner. Lima’s gastronomy is unparalleled and it is difficult to go wrong. Many Peruvians will point you in the direction of restaurants owned by one of their most famous chefs: Gaston Acurio. Panchita and Astrid y Gaston are two favorites. If you can move after one of his meals, head back to Barranco to check out what is known as Lima’s best of nightlife.
On Sunday morning you might need to take it slow, so walk down to Larcomar to explore the shopping center that seems precariously built into the bluffs. Take a walk down the Malecón, a path leading along the hills above the coast, to the Parque del Amor. See the unique statue, but also to ask about parasailing. Though the trip is short, the expansive view of Lima and the ocean are well worth it. Grab lunch in Larcomar before heading in a taxi to the Museo de la Nación for a comprehensive overview of Peru’s history and culture.
Following the museum, head over to the Circuito Mágico del Agua. This new park opens at dusk and provides a stunning collection of fountains that light up, dance and create a million ways to play. If it is warm, enjoy playing in the water, but cooler nights are just as enthralling. Though you may not want to leave, head back to Parque Kennedy to see if any artisans have set up shop. After a long day, dinner is warranted. Brujas de Cachiche is another favorite, but it is hard to go wrong in Lima. After dinner, get your rest. This was only the 48 hours of your trip.
Lima is not to be missed. Often capital cities hide their beauty, but knowing where to look will provide a stunning overview of Peru for everything it is: culture, art, food, adventure, and wonderful people.
This article was written for Tucan Travel, specialists in adventure group and guided tours of Peru.
September 13th, 2012 at 10:37 am
Great overview, we were just there a few months ago. We didn’t take taxis anywhere, but there are lots of buses that run from Miraflores to the historic center. I’m very disappointed that I didn’t see the Last Supper with Cuy when I was at the Convento de San Francisco! How could I have missed that!?!
September 14th, 2012 at 1:26 pm
Thanks for the feedback! The buses are a great bet if you’re comfortable. The painting was in the “dining room.” Shame your guide didn’t point it out!
December 29th, 2013 at 5:09 am
We really liked Lima during our recent exploration visit. It’s maybe not
worth flying all the way to South America but worth staying for a day or
two. We compiled our options for a perfect day in Lima in our