Less frequented by travelers than Cusco or Machu Picchu, Lima has lately become one of the most vibrant cities in South America thanks to its gastronomic richness and a cultural boom that includes the opening of Mario Testino’s MATE Museum. Founded in 1535 by spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro, it became the capital of the Virreinato del Peru and the most important city in South America during colonial times. Traces of this era can be found in the city’s historic center in buildings such as the Cathedral and the Casa de Aliaga which are still in perfect architectural condition. After the independence from Spain in 1821, Lima became the Republic of Peru’s capital city and has ever since been its economic and administrative center.
Known as “the city of kings” for it was founded in the name of Charles V of Spain, Lima is located on the coast bordering the Pacific Ocean and has now more than 9 million inhabitants. Its proximity to the sea gives it a mild climate with temperatures ranging from 54 to 84 °F. There’s a local saying that in Lima it never rains, it just drizzles so despite the common winter fog don’t hesitate to visit year round.
What to do in Lima in a day
Morning: stroll through Miraflores
Take a walk through the Miraflores District boardwalk and enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean. If you are the adventurous type, you can try either a surfing or paragliding lesson at one of the schools you’ll find along the way. If you prefer investigating the city’s rich history and past then head to the Hauca Pucllana, an archeological site dating from the V century. We highly recommend making the guided tour -which is available in english every 30 min- and learn about this former ceremonial and administrative center from pre-Columbian times.
Noon: have lunch at the iconic Astrid y Gastón restaurant
Peruvian cuisine is one of the most vibrant and flavourful cuisines in the world because of the many ingredients (think 5000 varieties of potato!) that can be found from the Andes mountains to the 3080 km of coastline. One of the heroes of the rise of peruvian gastronomy is chef Gastón Acurio who co-founded Astrid y Gastón along Astrid Gutsche in 1994. This is one of the most iconic restaurants in the city and a regular feature on the gastronomic lists around the world. Set in a wonderful 300 year old building called Casa Moreyra you can’t go wrong with any dish. A must try are of course the tiraditos and cebiches and the sea urchin causa. Pair it with a pisco, the national drink.
Afternoon: a grasp of the pre-Columbian peruvian past at the Larco Museum
Spend the afternoon at the Museo Larco, created in 1926 by Rafael Larco Hoyle –a collector and scholar of pre-Columbian objects and textiles– and discover 5000 years of history. Our favorite features at the museum are definitely the open deposits containing more than 30000 classified works among which you can walk and marvel at the archeological richness of the pre-incaic cultures and the erotic room where you’ll find vases that reflect how these civilizations approached desire, attraction and sex. The garden and coffee shop are quite cool as well so be ready to spend a few hours at this spot.
Evening: dine at the best restaurant in South America
If you are a foodie then you’ve most certainly heard about Virgilio Martínez (or at least you’ve seen him on that highly talked about episode of Chef’s table). So when in Lima you can’t miss Restaurante Central, located in the Barranco District and the best restaurant in South America according to The World 50’s Best Restaurants. Virgilio has been studying the peruvian geography, ecosystems and culture for more than a decade and his menu celebrates this biodiversity in its dishes which are organized by geographic regions ranging from the mountains to the sea.
Ayni tip: if you can’t afford or do not feel like splurging on the tasting menu, you can dine at the restaurant’s bar called Mayo and located in the same premises. Order some small dishes and a few drinks and get ready to take Lima’s nightlife by storm (or to have a good night’s sleep at the hotel after an unforgettable day!)