"Peru, Peru. My heart's lighthouse."
Lima is by no means your typical travel destination. Despite being the largest city in Peru with a population of a little over nine million people, most pay it no attention. What they don't know is the city boasts an amazing street food culture, historic archeological sites, and one of the largest local markets in South America. This is a list of my top 10 favorite things to do, in the city of Lima.
FOR A LIST OF MY FAVORITE STREET FOOD SPOTS AND RESTAURANTS, CLICK HERE
1. Museo Larco
It's very rare that I'll start a top 10 list with a museum. If you know the way I travel, I generally skip museums in favor of live music or killer street food. That being said, Museo Larco is truly unique. Not only does it boast the largest collection of Inca artifacts (over 10,000 years of history!), but it's also home to the world's only exhibit of Incan erotic pottery. Yes, you read that right, erotic pottery. A must see while in Lima.
Price: $11.50 USD (~37 Soles)
Hours: Daily, 9am - 6pm
Address: Av. Bolívar 1515, Pueblo Libre, Lima, Peru
2. Monastery of San Francisco/Catacombs
The San Francisco Monastery was completed in 1674, and aesthetically is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. Towering arches, unbelievably ornate artwork, and a library that contains over 25,000 antique texts and scrolls. If your lucky you'll be able to see a Peruvian wedding like I did (you can see me video about Lima here).
Beneath the monastery are the mysterious catacombs that house the remains of over 25,000 bodies. The tunnels snake there way under the church in every direction, and neatly organized skulls line the path. Bonus points for going after dark!
Price: Monastery, Free
Hours: Daily, 9am - 8pm
Address: Plaza San Francisco, Jirón Lampa y Ancash, Lima, Peru
3. Gamarra Market
Now we'll get into the dirty, unapologetic, and utterly local parts of the city that are without a doubt my favorite part of any city. Gamarra market is a perfect example of that. Before I went, at least three taxi drivers told me that it was too dangerous to go (the area is known for its high crime rate). Now, I don't know if your like me, but doesn't that just immediately intrigue you? Maybe I have a bit of a death wish but this is part of what excites me about traveling.
Located in the La Victoria district, Gamarra’s 20,000 textile shops, manufacturers, contractors, and retailers employ over 100,000 people and the Gamarra economy is estimated at over $1.4 billion a year! Packed with every kind of merchandise available, dozens of amazing street food stalls, and locals clamoring to get the best deal, the energy can be best be described as electric.
Price: Varies (foreigners will be quoted a higher price, so don't buy anything unless you've talked them down to at least half)
Hours: Daily (although some stalls are only open on weekends)
Address: Jr. Gamarra, La Victoria, Lima LIMA13, Peru
4. La Punta de Callao
This is kind of a two part attraction. On the one hand you have Callao, which is home to the largest Pacific Ocean port in South America, in addition it is also an infamous slum notorious for crime (however, I walked all over and felt like that moniker was a bit of an overstatement).
The second part of this area that's worth checking out is La Punta de Callao, an upscale district of wealthy homes and yacht clubs located in a tiny peninsula. Full of seaside restaurants and outdoor sports fields, the contrast is pretty amazing (again, you can watch my experience with this part of Lima in my video here)
Address: La Punta District, Callao, Lima
Lima has the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America, and because of that they have some amazing asian-fusion dishes that you can't find anywhere else. In addition to, of course, ceviche and the national dish of lomo saltado.
Check out my food map at the bottom of this page for a complete list of my favorite restaurants, bars, and clubs in this city
6. Machu Picchu/Cusco
I'm going to cheat a little and include Machu Picchu on this list only because you'd have to be insane to go to Lima and skip Cusco.
Constructed in 1450 A.D., it was the center of the Inca Empire for a hundred years, and despite the Inca being conquered by the Spanish around 1572, the Conquistadors never knew of its existence so it remained untouched until the present day.
Price: Entrance fee is about $40 USD
Address: Machu Picchu, Peru
Lima has a pretty killer live music scene, with great spots like La Noche and El Dragon, there are plenty of places to grab a pint, sit back, and take in the city's local musicians. Rock n' roll, funk, jazz, there really is no limit to the types of music that come from this city.
For a full list of my favorite bars and clubs click here
8. Huaca Pucllana
Its name can be translated from Quechua, meaning “place of the ritual games” and it was an important ceremonial center where human sacrifices took place! The pyramid was built using staggered platforms and research has shown that it was able to withstand multiple earthquakes throughout its history.
Today the site is open for tourists, and included is a free tour in multiple languages. A great introduction to the history of Lima's rich culture.
Price: ~$3 USD (a guided tour is included)
Hours: 9AM–5PM, 7PM–10PM Daily (closed on Tuesdays)
Address: Cuadra S/n, Calle General Borgoño 8, Miraflores, Peru
9. Circuito Magico de Agua
This massive park features a water fountain circuit that consists of 12 different colorful fountains complete with music and lights. The fountains go all night long and are sometimes accompanied by live music. Locals and tourists converge on this spot to blow off some steam and have a good time in this unique park.
I recommend bringing a change of clothes if you plan on getting wet!
Price: ~$1.50 USD
Hours: 3PM - 10:30PM
Address: Jr. Madre de Dios S / N, Cercado de Lima, Peru
The hippest area of the city, Barranco is full of trendy shopping, murals and graffiti. Dozens of the city's most popular restaurants and live music bars are located here and it's a great place to spend the night partying with the locals.
Take a sunset stroll along the waterfront and watch families setup picnics and throw frisbees in the many parks located here.
Address: Barranco, Lima
WHERE TO STAY?
The best place to stay is probably Palermo Soho or San Telmo. Both are great neighborhoods to walk around in and are decently priced (I recommend using Air BnB). The one advantage that Palermo has is it is slightly more central to most of the attractions in Buenos Aires, but the city is so large you end up taking taxis to most of the places you'll visit.