Table of Contents
My Favorite 36 Things to do Lima – Understand
Lima is a jewel of a city. The weather is temperate here year-round (though winter and spring see the most fog). The city has several clean, urban and still affordable neighborhoods right by the sea. The views are spectacular and the locals are friendly.
To sum it up, Peruvians are South America’s foodies and have a strong, indigenous food culture that will surprise you.
I just spent two weeks in Lima (this was my second time) and I had a hard time finding even a ‘hair in the soup’. The constant movement in all public places can be annoying, though, given that you are not likely to be familiar with the scenery at first.
Spanish is required but even just a few words will go a long way. Traffic can be annoying and dismal, but as long as you are in the Miraflores district you can just walk wherever you want to go.
My Favorite 36 Things to do Lima – Safety
As with many cities in South America, it is all about the neighborhood. Areas like Miraflores and San Isidro are safe both day and night; I did not worry once. However, Centro is a different beast altogether and would be considered risky even during the day. There is little violent crime here, especially against tourists, but pickpocketing and muggings are not uncommon.
My Favorite 36 Things to do Lima – Get Around
Traffic in Lima is rather depressing, with many old ‘stinkers’ and buses polluting the air. It is not as bad as Bogota or Medellin but it is still noticeable. There is a lot of traffic that does not mix well with the somewhat urban neighborhoods and it’s not well-planned here for sure.
Nevertheless, it flows at most times and Uber is in town. Most rides are under $3, but here was the first time I felt ripped off, as Uber charges $16 for the airport pickup (I got an old car with no AC) whereas the negotiated taxi rate is half that. It’s worth it for a good, new and quiet car but not for the car I got. To play it safe, just walk a bit outside the airport and move your pin on Uber and the price should become ~25 PEN instead of the outrageous 50 PEN when requesting inside the airport.
I never used public transport in Lima as it seemed too cryptic and slow, but this can save you even more money.
My Favorite 36 Things to do Lima – Sights and Eat & Drink
I have divided this guide by neighborhood, since it makes the most sense to explore Lima by neighborhood to avoid the manic weekday traffic. Keep in mind that opening hours are often strict, with many places only open for lunch or dinner (and the latter is often from 7.30PM or later) and closed on Sundays. You need to first get into the same time rhythm as everyone else here to get used to the opening times.
Centro is a rough neighborhood where going out at night is taking a real risk.
Nevertheless, the two parks and museum below are in the better parts of the neighborhood and pose no safety risk at all.
This was hands down one of my favorite places in Lima. The entrance fee is $1.30, so you would not expect much – right? However, expect some of the best little fountains you have ever seen (many of which you can walk through).
The illumination at night is gorgeous and the park is rather empty during the week. There is a ‘night show’ at 7.15PM and 8.15PM but I found this one quite a letdown. Go before sunset so you can see the fountains first with sunlight and then without – and prepare to be amazed!
Parque de la Exposición (Exposition Park)
This park will transport you back to Mexico City, as that’s exactly what it looks like.
It’s a great place to people-watch on a weekend and it’s calm and clean.
Museo de Arte de Lima – MALI (Lima Art Museum)
This is supposedly Lima’s best museum and the best contemporary art in Peru. The entrance fee is a rather high $8 for non-Peruvians and kids over eight are charged as well. It’s a small building, so I found it a bit overpriced.
San Isidro / Lince
San Isidro is Lima’s business district and it’s superbly safe and clean – day and night.
Lince is right next door and is a bit more rough, but nothing to worry about usually.
Spizza takes Sicilian-style pizza seriously. The pizza here is just super-thin and has this great sour tomato sauce that Sicilians do so well. It’s moderately cheap as well.
This eatery-style spin-off from the (more expensive) full-service restaurant nearby has only one menu item – the ceviche platter for $7. And what a delight it is! It comes with fresh fish, corn and fried octopus.
It gets really crowded on the weekends and it’s only open for lunch (until 4.30PM). You will be pushed around by the masses, but you’ll feel happy afterwards.
D’Sala is a great little neighborhood coffee shop with a great vibe, despite its location so close to the sterile San Isidro neighborhood. The focaccias are delicious, as is the coffee.
I tried to go to La Linterna twice, but it was closed at both times. The pizzas look good, though!
Barranco is the hipster and bohemian hideout of Lima. The houses are older, the crowds are more alternative and it is decidedly more dangerous and polluted. I would not want to stay here, but it’s still a great place for nightlife and some eateries.
MATE – Museo Mario Testino (Mario Testino Museum)
This great little photography museum is located at a busy thoroughfare in Barranco. I arrived too late – just before closing – but it looked promising (though small).
Burrito Bar is one of the few original Mexican food places in Lima. The staff are friendly and the options and fresh ingredients will warm your heart. It’s not as cheap as the location suggests, though; expect Chipotle prices, but better flavors.
If you come at night, stop first at La Noche de Barranco for a drink (and to see the many beautiful colors in the old villa)…
Then go on to Picas for some more modern music.
Boulevard de Barranco is lively during the day and night. Sadly, though, a bit too many street hawkers will try to sell you a spot at the rooftop terrace restaurants here that are just mediocre. Still, the area has a great vibe to it.
Miraflores is Lima’s playground by the sea. It’s a mixed residential and commercial area that is just gorgeous. It is clean, safe and still affordable (when looked at from a US level).
El Malecón (cliff walk)
I did this for a week, every single day – I ran and walked the cliffs an hour before sunset. Lima gets very little rain and the afternoon sun usually breaks through the fog.
The sunsets the area receives are magical and stunning.
The cliff walk is superbly maintained, but can be crowded at times. You will walk by the shopping mall Larcomar, which has been beautifully inserted into the sheer cliffs.
The cliff walk through the many parks and little green areas was easily my favorite thing to do in Lima.
There are a number of pyramids in Lima from the city’s original settlers. This area is a rather large excavation and the guided tour gives you a good idea of how life in ancient Lima must have been.
The entrance fee was low, at just ~$5 for the one-hour tour that was absolutely worth it.
El Enano does tacos, juices and lots of South American dishes. They manage to make it fresh in front of you and it’s cheap and delicious.
If you are craving an IPA, this is the place to visit. BarBarian has 20 different beers on tap and many are local IPAs. The service is friendly and prices are moderate, but it’s extremely loud, so bring earplugs!
Despite its name, Bla Coffee certainly looks exciting, with a gorgeous exterior and interior. The trouble is that the road can be badly polluted and, well, the coffee is just very mediocre. It’s still a good spot to work on some emails, though.
True Artisan was my morning routine while in Lima. It’s a small, yet organized coffee bar. The WiFi was fast, the service was extraordinarily friendly, the coffee was sublime and the desserts were perfect. $4 gets you a delicious espresso and pastry here.
Parque Kennedy (Kennedy Park)
Parque Kennedy (also known as the ‘cat park’) is the ‘center of Miraflores’. It just went through a major renovation and is now as beautiful as ever. It’s a great urban oasis and locals visit in droves. This can be an issue, as it gets crowded on the weekends, but it is still a great place to be at night or day.
Manolo serves classic Spanish/Mexican-style churros with all sorts of fillings. The ambiance is decidedly traditional but it’s surprisingly expensive!
If you crave bubble tea, then this is the place to get your tapioca fix.
Aromia is the expats’ favorite morning hangout. It has a small yet uber-cozy interior, fantastic coffee and decent desserts and the WiFi is fast. What else could you need?
Homemade is the place for a proper, fancy American breakfast. Eggs, bacon, ham – it is all here and it’s being celebrated every weekend by the locals.
This is a highly acclaimed seafood restaurant that I must have walked past 5 times; it was always closed. I wish I could have tried this place!
La Cumbre is a great, small seafood restaurant that serves delicious ceviche. I liked it so much I came by every day at some point.
Pardos is a chain and this is likely the biggest outlet of the chain. The chicken is good – not something you would want to eat every day, but still good to try.
Papacho’s is a burger chain in Peru. I liked the burger and the atmosphere but it’s nothing really to write home about 🙂
THIS is the place to tell your friends back home about. It’s rated as one of the best restaurants in the world and is still somewhat affordable. You certainly pay less here than at home at The French Laundry.
This is another well-rated fine dining restaurant in town. Given that I’m not a fan of fine dining and had my kids with me on this trip I skipped it, but maybe you shouldn’t.
Another burger chain – really? Yes and one where I liked the vibe a lot and the staff tried their best to accommodate us. The burgers tasted excellent (even though they were a bit on the raw side). However, this might have been a misunderstanding with my terrible Spanish!
This little park comes to life on Saturday mornings when the nearby BioFeria Farmers Market is open. The farmers market is a great way to see local health products and produce and everyone sits down for a picnic afterward. I loved the atmosphere!
If you want to hit the beach, here’s where to go. The waves can be rough and the water can be breathtakingly cold (plus the traffic a few yards behind the pebble beach does not help either). It really does not look too inviting – but boy was I wrong.
I loved hanging out on the warm rocks, getting a tan and jumping into the refreshingly cold Pacific waters here. Bring STRONG sunscreen, though, as the UV is easily on a level with Perth, Australia.
My Favorite 36 Things to do Lima – Where to Stay
The Radisson has a perfect location, but is not my favorite hotel by any means. The air conditioning is super-loud (and you can’t open the windows).
The Airbnb lottery worked out rather well for me this time, however. The second apartment we got was like a superb Hyatt – an exceptional, modern apartment with all possible amenities, and in a fantastic location, too.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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