The 9 Best Things To Do In Lima, Peru
The most diverse country in South America, Perú has something for everyone. From ancient Inca ruins to alpine mountain ranges that rival the beauty of Patagonia and a desert oasis with just waiting to be explored- Perú has something for everyone.
In this guide, we'll take a look at:
- 1. Visit Miraflores Neighborhood
- 2. Visit The City’s “cat Park” (Kennedy Park)
- 3. Hop On A (Free) City Tour
- 4. Plan A Trip To Huacachina
- 5. Go Out For A Dose Of Culture
- 6. Visit The City’s Markets
- 7. Go On A Food Adventure
- 8. Watch The Light Show At La Reserva Park
- 9. Get Buzzed On Pisco Sours
- 10. Bonus: Other Important Things To Know About Traveling In Lima, Peru
Lima, the country’s buzzing capital, is the perfect starting point for travelers looking to explore this incredible destination. And foodies? Boy, you’re in for a treat! The food scene in Perú, and particularly Lima, is ever-evolving, and it continues to grow thanks to newly recognized restaurants and the chefs that call this city home.
Lima offers big city vibes in a chill coastal environment, and it’s the best of both worlds for travelers looking to experience everything they can with a short amount of time. Plus, the eclectic mix of beach and city also makes it easy to hide away when the hustle gets too much.
By now you’re probably wondering what to do in Lima while you’re there. No worries, you know we’ve got your back!
Here is a quick rundown of our favorite things to do in Lima, Perú!
1. Visit Miraflores Neighborhood
First on our list of things to do in Lima is a stop by the trendy Miraflores neighborhood.
Some of the best hotels in Lima are located in Miraflores, an affluent neighborhood that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is packed with chain and boutique hotels and hostels. The area is also surrounded by plenty of restaurants, bars and shops. Start off by walking down to Larcomar, an upscale shopping centre, for a strong coffee and delicious sweet treat at Tanta, an award-winning restaurant in Lima that overlooks the beach.
Once you’ve finished your morning treat, head over to the cliffside along the Malecón. You’ll soon reach El Parque del Amor. Legend has it that this park has romantical powers that can help even the loneliest of travelers score big with their sweetheart. If you’re willing to try anything, take a picture in front of El Beso (The Kiss) – an unmissable sculpture – for good luck in all your future relationships.
Looking for a place to rest your tired feet? Selina Miraflores is a home away from home that welcomes travelers worldwide for an authentic experience in the heart of Lima. With a top-notch coworking space suited for digital nomads, a cozy movie room, pet friendly accommodation, and an activity-packed tour desk, Selina’s charm will win you over from the moment you step foot inside.
2. Visit The City’s “cat Park” (Kennedy Park)
Once you’ve placed your love life in the hands of destiny, the next best thing to do in Lima is wander over to Kennedy Park, also known as the city’s finest “cat park”, and meet the little four-legged friends that roam freely throughout the premises. If you’re a fan of cats, this will basically feel like heaven on earth! Pet them, take selfies, and fall in love with these whiskered pals. The city government has been taking care of them for years and most cats, except for newcomers, are regularly vet checked and have been properly sterilized.
If all this walking and cat-petting has left you hungry, walk across the avenue to one of Lima’s oldest and most famous sandwich shops: La Lucha Sangucheria. An institution for locals and a top place to eat in Lima for travelers, this fast food joint is usually packed, but turnover is fast and you won’t have to wait too long for a table.
3. Hop On A (Free) City Tour
Next on our list of things to do in Lima is the always-popular city tour. Depending on your budget the city has plenty of tour operators and companies eager to show you the best of town. Make sure you research exactly what you want to do and who you want to do it with: Lima is huge and there’s always the chance that you won’t be seeing what you want to see because you picked the wrong group to go with.
One of the most popular destinations on these tours is the old district of Lima. It’s the place where all important government and historical buildings are located, and it’s usually a hotspot for travelers who are looking to learn more about the architecture, politics and history of the country.
If you’re still keen on seeing more of Miraflores, a free walking tour could also be ideal when it comes to what to do in Lima. These are usually donation-based and, since they’re led by younger locals and students, they tend to be a lot more personal and engaging than other tours in the city.
4. Plan A Trip To Huacachina
If your itinerary doesn’t include heading south, then another thing to do in Lima is take a day-trip to the desert oasis of Huacachina. The sand-drenched town is three hours south of Lima and can easily be done in one day if you plan accordingly. When boarding your transport, make sure you get a seat on the right hand side of the bus or car as the views of the coastline are breathtaking. Once you’ve departed the city, you’ll arrive in Huacachina around mid-morning. There, you’ll have the chance to take a walk around the watering hole and grab a coffee at my personal favorite: Wild Olive Trattoria.
For incredible panoramic views over the sand dunes and a birdeye’s view of the desert oasis, walk up the ridge of the sand dunes. Be warned, though: It’s a somewhat tough hike that takes approximately 15 – 30 minutes. Aside from the epic views you’ll be rewarded with once the climb is done, heading downhill is both fast and very fun as you slip, jump and slide back into town. If you have time and money, sign up for a dune-buggy tour and jet out across the sand dunes. You’ll get a chance to sandboard down a few hills and you’ll also get a full sense of the sheer size of the sand dunes.
Head back to Lima after the sunset over the dunes, and make sure you pack a change of clothes so you can ditch your sandy ones.
5. Go Out For A Dose Of Culture
If culture’s what you’re here for, there are plenty of things to do in Lima that involve diving into the city’s history, art and architecture.
A visit to Larco Museum is a must, and it should be at the top of your list of things to do in Lima. Located inside a former mansion, this museum is home to thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts. The museum’s winning display? A large collection of erotic pottery that would leave your grandma on the floor.
Once you’ve ticked off this kinky-yet-cultural experience, the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) is a great next stop. Not only does the MALI have a great collection of Colonial art, but it also houses contemporary pieces from local artists. This includes photography, pottery, jewelry, and paintings. Make sure you have a few hours to spend here: the museum itself is huge.
If you’re into the obscure, we also recommend a visit to the San Francisco de Lima Basilica and Convent’s catacombs. Used as a burial ground until 1808, it’s the burial site of more than 250,000 bodies, and it is creepy, but it’s also one of the best things to do in Lima. Tours are offered daily, but make sure you’re there early in order to avoid the long lines of curious travelers looking to get their spook on.
Cleanse your cultural palette by visiting one of the city’s many beautiful churches. The city center has plenty of these to choose from, and they’re all equally gorgeous and impressive. From the Catedral de Lima (Lima Cathedral) to the Church of San Francisco and Church of La Merced, these buildings are home to some unique colonial artwork, and their stories are unmatched.
6. Visit The City’s Markets
Shopping ‘til you drop in Lima is absolutely possible. Aside from the stores you can find worldwide, the city also has a wide array of local markets where travelers can find unique gems to take home with them. From fuzzy alpaca sweaters to leather sandals and keychains, Lima’s markets are a must-do for anyone who’s struggling to find the perfect Perú souvenir for their friends and family back home.
The Inca Market, for example, is a great one-stop shop to get your fill of trinkets, handcrafted objects and Peruvian textiles. Remember to wear your best haggling pants – without insulting the seller – and try to knock down the price of whatever you’re buying. Some shopkeepers love the game, and they’ll be sure to let you know when you’ve overstepped.
A visit to the Mercado Central is also at the top of my favorite things to do in Lima. It’s a lot less “touristy” than the rest, and you’ll get a real sense of local Lima life when you step through the door. Rumor has it that, if you can’t find what you’re looking for at the Mercado Central, it probably doesn’t exist in Lima. There, you’ll see everything from potato-only stalls to fresh fruit to seafood that’s still kicking about in a bucket.
As with everything, make sure you keep an eye on your belongings and that you carry around cash. Some of these places don’t take cards, and you’ll be disappointed to find out that your shopping experience can be deterred simply because you didn’t stop by an ATM before your visit.
7. Go On A Food Adventure
Peru’s gastronomy has grown to be one of the best and most famous in South America, and the country’s diverse landscape has made it easier to grow produce that is now enjoyed all around the world. Home of quinoa, and of over 3,000 varieties of potatoes, Peru is a true foodie – and carb lover’s – heaven.
Ceviche is one of Peru’s main dishes, and trying this seafood sensation is one of the best things to do in Lima. Being by the coastline, Lima’s ceviche is almost guaranteed to be fresh – and you really can’t go wrong with that! Barra Maretazo, located in Miraflores, serves up a great selection of ceviche dishes made from either fish, octopus or both. They’re impossible to pass up, so make sure you’re ready to unbutton your jeans if need be.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, like yours truly, check out Manolo, another popular restaurant that’s made a name for itself thanks to their deep-fried churros and accompanying chocolate sauce.
Now, depending on your budget, Lima has plenty of five-star dining experiences. These culinary affairs are usually some of the best things to do in Lima, and they’re well-worth the extra penny, even if it’s just to tell your friends you’ve dined at one of the city’s five-star restaurants. Netflix’s popular Chef’s Table took viewers to Central, one of Lima’s hotspots. Their 16-course degustation takes diners on a tasting tour of Perú, and is designed around the elevation of the area where each main ingredient comes. From -10m clams to 3,800m potatoes, people learn about, smell, taste and experience the very best of Perú’s local produce. It is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Lima.
8. Watch The Light Show At La Reserva Park
Once the sun starts to set, a visit to Parque La Reserva should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do in Lima. There you’ll find the Magic Water Circuit in Lima, known as the largest electronic water fountain display in the world.
The lights, music, and water display is definitely a must-see in the city, and you’ll spend hours just walking around the park and interacting with some of the light exhibits you find along the way.
Once you see the crowd starting to gather, make sure you head over to the main fountain for the show. Grab a good spot and keep your eyes peeled for all the shapes, colors and images you’ll see displayed on the water. It’s, without a doubt, a magical way to spend the evening.
9. Get Buzzed On Pisco Sours
A little party never killed nobody, and Lima definitely knows it. Home to the delicious and tangy pisco sour, Lima has plenty of bars where you can get your fill – and your buzz.
The spirit, made from distilled fermented grape juice, is the country’s drink of choice, so much so that they even have a special Pisco Sour Day (celebrated on the first Saturday of February, just so you know). Pisco sours are made by combining pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg whites and Angostura bitters, and serving them over ice. Don’t let the egg white put you off: these drinks are delicious. They’re also very sneaky, so be wary of how many you’re drinking.
Bonus: Other Important Things To Know About Traveling In Lima, Peru
Where to stay in Lima, Peru:
The best hotels in Lima, Peru are located in Miraflores. The area is affluent, safe and a great place to stay in Lima. Selina has two apartment blocks in Miraflores with community rooms, private rooms and spacious apartments. For those working on the road or needing to catch up on emails while on their holiday, there’s a lively coworking space with hot desks for hire on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
There is no train network in Lima. Public buses can be used, but Uber is a cheap, safe, and reliable option. Plus, if you’re coming from the airport, there’s a shuttle bus that will drop you off directly to Miraflores; this is a cheap and frequently-used safe option for travelers and locals alike.
Peru’s currency is Peruian Soles. Credit cards are not widely used, especially in regional areas, and most people expect to be paid in cash. ATMs are easy to find and money is easy to withdraw. No one ever has change, so make sure you break up larger notes wherever possible.
These days, it’s easy to stay connected by getting a local SIM card with data. Booking Ubers and navigating Lima is so much easier when you have a phone and online map handy. Claro and Movistar have great short term SIM plans for 3, 7, 15 and 30 days, and apps like Whatsapp, Facebook and even Instagram are free to use without draining your newly purchased package.
Lima is the international gateway to Machu Picchu and other main cities such as Huaraz, Huacachina and Arequipa. Most people fly to Cusco to visit the Inca Ruins, but long-term travelers also do so overland on the efficient bus network. We used Cruz del Sur throughout Perú, and both the economy and VIP class seats were the best we’ve experienced in South America.