Lima, capital of Peru in South America, is often forgotten or overlooked as most tourists and travellers head to the “must see” destination of Machu Picchu in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Lima deserves a stopover of a day or two (or more!) as it is a big city with a lot to see and do. One of the best features of this metropol is its location on the Pacific coast.
So, what to do or see in Lima then when you only have one day to spend in town? That of course depends where your accommodation is too, but the city is accessible on foot, with local buses and quite inexpensive taxis. Our two choises are the historical center and Miraflores. Step out of these zones and you find yourself in massive local and a shady neighbourhoods.
The city of Lima is home to 8,5 million Peruvians, nearly one third of the whole population. It is the largest city in Peru in Rimac river valley and surrounded by mountains on west side. Rapid growth of trade and the city has led to massive slums just outside of downtown area and unfortunately with many consequences such as poverty and crime. One example: take only official taxis.
Over the river and not too far away to the shadier ares of Lima. Crowded Cerro San Cristobal.
Colonial Centro Historico
Lima was found by a conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, when it became a providence of Spain and an important trade center for the Spanish to trade in South America. Main trade to Spain was silver. Many missionaries travelled to Lima in the 1600’s and built imressive churches, convents, schools and hospitals around the growing city. Lima has suffered from severe earthquakes – due to the location of shouldering Andes.
Dome cathedral and its university opened in 1551 was the first university in South America. Central and main square – nowadays Plaza de Armas is in the middle of the Centro historico – and the heart of the city. Big square is surrounded by beautiful and well-preserved buildings: Palacio Gobierno, the government house in the north, cathedral and Palacio Aczobispal (now a museum) in the east and city hall to the west. Main square was carefully designed to resemble that of Sevilla’s in Spain.
We were spottedby a group of kids and their English teachers on Plaza de Armas – they were on an excursion to practice English and had all kinds of cute questions for us ready. Happy to help!
Behind the government palace is an old library and center of literature center – a building that used to be the central railway station on the Rimac riverfront. By the river you can also find a beautiful park, which unfortunately was closed due to maintenance while we were on our visit on February 2017. Cathedrals, smaller churches and beautiful streets are at all directions from the main square. South of the main square are a few pedestrian streets for walking, window shopping or actual shopping with several shopping possibilities all the way to San Martin square and even Republic square with current central station.
Modern Miraflores – amazing coastline
Some serious shopping can be best done in Larcomar – a major shopping center located on the coast and in the city district of Miraflores. Major world known brands are here, as are several restaurants from finer dining to fast food courts. Larcomar is an excellent place besides shopping and eating out for peoplewatching and admiring the amazing coast from nearly all the restaurants. It is located neatly on the cliff undernieth a park so you can’t see it from the street but it’s there.
Parks such as Parque del Amor for strolling, excersicing and admiring the amazing sunsets are all along the coastline. Down the steep cliff you’ll find beaches for surfing and swimming – don’t expect alabaster-white beaches with palm trees and turquoise water, but do expect packed picnicers on hot & sunny days.
Miraflores is a district where many tourists reside – in posh hotels or modern rental apartments. It’s a 10 km distance from centro historico, but a taxi ride costs only a few euros/USDs. Miraflores offers cozier streets and neighbourhoods as well as international cuisine in its several restaurants – if you haven’t eaten at Larcomar.
Chaotic and noicy
If staying in a hotel downtown, bring your earplugs along. Lima is quite noicy and frankly a bit chaotic. We stayed in a hotel in centro historico with no airconditioning – it was incredibly hot and humid so we had to keep windows open at night. And the noice at night was something else. There are a lot of cars trying to cross the city with its multiple one way streets (that to me didn’t have a certain logic). There’s a lot of pollution and the shadier districts make it somewhat akward. Still, these two (and probably many others too!) make a big metropol Lima worth a visit. At least for a day or a two.
End the day with a local Pisco sour.