The must-see neighbourhoods in Lima, Peru.
With an estimated 10 million inhabitants, Lima is the second largest city in South America. As international flights to Peru always go through Lima, making a stopover in this city is unavoidable. Truth to be said, Lima is neither the prettiest city in South America nor in Peru. However, with Peru’s economy being centralised here, it is a vibrant city that has a lot to offer. The capital is home to diverse districts which are unique in each own way. Having studied abroad in this metropolis for three months, I had ample opportunities to explore the various areas. When spending a few days in Lima, these are the places worth visiting:
The Waterfront area stretches from the coast of Miraflores all the way to Barranco. As cliffs dominate the coastline, you can enjoy incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. One of the best panoramas can be observed at the Larcomar shopping mall. Larcomar is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lima. The Mall has several stores with well-known clothing brands, as well as Peruvian souvenirs and garments made of alpaca or vicuña wool. An afternoon of shopping can be followed by a fancy dinner in one of the many restaurants, a visit to the cinema or a drink in one of the upscale bars or clubs around. However, the Waterfront has much more to offer outside the mall. To truly breathe in the fresh ocean air, you can opt to take a walk along the pier. Along the way, you can find various beautiful and well-maintained parks. The most romantic one of Lima is called the “Parque del Amor” (translated: the Love Park), where couples flock to during the sunset hours, sitting near the statue of two lovers kissing. If you are tired of all the walking, you could treat yourself with a “crêpe” break at the popular pancake shop “El Beso Francés” while watching the waves break. If you want to experience the latter in the ocean itself, it is possible to go down to the beaches. Redondo Beach, Waikiki Beach and Makaha Beach are perfect for surfing, whether you are a beginner or not! Surf rental shops that provide equipment and lessons can be found along the beach. Finally, if surfing isn’t exciting enough for you, it is possible to go paragliding by the coast. Offering a bird's-eye view of the green areas, ocean and urban buildings of Lima’s coast will not disappoint!
Barranco, being home to some famous Peruvian writers and artists, is probably the most trendy neighbourhood of Lima. Thus, it is not surprising that you can find an abundance of art galleries, street art and handicrafts here. The colourful and charming streets can mainly be found around the main plaza. Street musicians and little food stalls also found their way the the main plaza, which make it a pleasant place to spend some time. Strolling around the area will also bring you to “La Puente de Los Suspiros” (translated: the Bridge of Sighs). There is a myth that states that you can make one wish when crossing the bridge for the first time while holding your breath.
The most popular neighbourhood among tourists is undoubtedly Miraflores. The district is one of the most modern, beautiful and safe areas around, which is also why the majority of the tourism facilities can be found here. Accommodation ranges from backpacker hostels to luxurious resorts, attracting travellers of all kind of budgets. Additionally, Miraflores is home to some of the most renowned Peruvian cuisine, quality shopping and active nightlife with many popular bars and nightclubs around. The entertainment is largely concentrated around the Parque Kennedy. This rather small, but most central park is a green oasis amidst the frenetic life of the district. With its significant number of street performers and stray cats, many individuals are drawn to take a stroll through the park.
Besides the variety of entertainment, Miraflores is also interesting in terms of its history. Only discovered and excavated about a decade ago, Huaca Pucllana is the only remaining pre-Inca ruin in Miraflores. This archaeological highlight is said to be a pyramid of more than 1,600 years old used for religious rites. Today, the site itself can be explored during a guided tour, which runs about every 30 minutes. In addition, the complex comprises a museum that exhibits various ceramics, textiles, artefacts and other remains where were found there.
For those interested in Peru’s history and colonial past, the historic centre is a must visit! The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, stretching from the Plaza de Armas to Plaza San Martín. A perfect introduction to Lima’s history is to participate in one of the “free walking tours” that the city offers. The tours usually start at one of the main plazas depending on which company you choose. A personal recommendation is the “Strawberry Tour” that runs every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:30am. The tour departs from the Obelisk in Plaza de la Democracia and brings you to all the historic highlights of the area. These historic, but also architectural highlights, include the Plaza Bolivar, the San Pedro Church, Plaza de Armas, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral of Lima, and the Church and Convent of San Francisco. The latter is also known for its catacombs where over 30,000 people were buried until the beginning of the 1800s. The crypts can be visited with a guide with whom you wander through the silent tombs covered in human skulls and remain. This is not for the faint-hearted!