For travellers, Lima is often just a brief stop on the way to Cusco and Machu Picchu. But in recent years, the Peruvian capital has transformed into one of South America’s trendiest and most interesting cities and an exciting destination with much to offer travellers interested in food, history and culture.
Lima Fashion Week from 5-7 November was just one example of how the Peruvian capital is coming out of its shell. At 16 runway shows, critically acclaimed Peruvian designers like Jessica Butrich and Sitka Semsch showcased their modern take on traditional Inca patterns and materials like alpaca wool.
Lima’s remarkable transformation has resulted in international attention. In the spring, New York Daily News called Lima “South America’s secret new hipster hangout”, praising the city’s innovative culinary scene, hip neighbourhoods like Barranco and Miraflores, and fascinating historical sights. Get on the bandwagon and explore the cultural and culinary delights of Lima.
5 things to do in Lima
Take a stroll through colonial Lima
Peru’s Spanish heritage is omnipresent in the old town around the central square, Plaza de Armas, designed by the city’s Spanish founder Francisco Pizarro. The main plaza is the historic heart of the city and a good place to start your Lima visit. On the square stands Lima’s cathedral which houses the earthly remains of Pizarro. After visiting the cathedral, take a stroll around Lima’s charming old town, a maze of grandiose colonial churches, palaces, parks and plazas. Finish your city walk with a pisco sour at the stately Gran Hotel Bolívar.
Narrow cobblestoned streets lined with fashion boutiques, experimental art galleries, coffee shops and charming boutique hotels. Barranco is Lima’s artsy and bohemian neighbourhood, and many travellers stay in this part of town. Visit MATE, a gallery opened last year by the famous Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino in an elegant 19th century Barranco mansion. The gallery runs exhibitions by Testino himself as well as other artists. The museum has a café where you can enjoy a light lunch or coffee.
At sunset, take a stroll along the famous Bridge of Sighs, and enjoy gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. Barranco is also the place to go out for a drink at night, with many laid-back bars and peñas with Peruvian folk music shows.
Eat at a cevicheria
Lima’s exceptional culinary food scene is no longer a very well-kept secret. Peruvian food has become trendy worldwide, not least due to the efforts of star chef Gastón Acurio, whose Lima restaurant Astrid & Gastón was named the world’s 14th best restaurant this year on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
One of the cornerstones of the Peruvian kitchen is ceviche, and trying this delicious specialty made of raw fish marinated in lime juice at a local cevicheria is a must. Try a modern version at El Mercado, go classic at Los Dos Piratas, or enjoy your ceviche with an ocean view at La Rosa Nautica.
Check out an exhibition at MALI
The newly renovated MALI (Museo de Arte de Lima) displays 3000 years of Peruvian art history under one roof – from Pre-Columbian textiles to 19th century paintings and contemporary art. On 16 November opens an exhibition about the Peruvian photographer and performance artist Sergio Zevallos. On Sundays, entry to the museum costs just 1 sol (about 30 cents).
With over 20 kilometres of Pacific coastline, Lima can boast of world-class waves right in the middle of the city. Surfers take advantage of this at Waikki Beach and Makaha Beach in Miraflores, which are great spots for beginners. There are plenty of surf schools offering classes. Experienced surfers tend to prefer Punta Hermosa as bit further south, where waves average about 4 meters in height.
If you prefer to stay dry, try paragliding off the cliffs Miraflores, soaring above crowds of shoppers and café goers below – a truly unique Lima experience. A 15-minute tandem jump costs around 150 soles, or 40 Euros.