While most people who visit Peru want to see Machu Picchu as soon as possible, the capital city of Lima is also a very exciting and interesting travel destination. It is a city of many contrasts, with a mix of colonial and modern architectures on every street. For those who have never visited Lima before, it can be difficult to choose where to stay. Lima is a city with an ancient history, which is well prepared to welcome tourists with its many hotels, resorts, and hostels. With so many vacation options, it is easy to imagine how challenging it is to figure out where to stay in Lima.
“But don’t let your first impression of Lima mislead you, because the ride from the airport to town is chaotic and not representative of the gems that Lima has to offer. Actually, it’s best not to look out of the window for the first 20 minutes or so. Ask the driver to take the route along the cost line that offers you some welcoming views of this great coastal city”. (Angelo from The Netherlands, who lived two years in Lima).
Lima, the capital of Peru, is located between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Lima is located in a desert, but it has many areas of green thanks to the presence of the rivers Rimac, Chillon, and Lurin.
Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535; for many years, Peru was a kingdom of the Spanish crown. It has since become an amazing place for foodies, as it has been chosen five times as the best culinary destination in the world by the World Travel Awards (WTA).
One of the restaurants in Lima, “Central”, owned by renowned Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez, is ranked the number 4 restaurant in the entire world. Lima’s restaurants have also been featured on the Netflix documentary known as Chef’s Table, which has an entire episode dedicated to Chef Martinez.
Lima is a big and modern city, and it is well-prepared for tourism. You will enjoy the contrasts between the modern and colonial styles, as well as the kindness of the Limeños.
The weather is always great in Lima because it is never too cold nor too warm, and there is almost no rain. You will occasionally experience a mist-like rain known as “Garua”. The sky is almost always cloudy and overcast, which is why Lima’s sky has been nicknamed the “Donkey’s belly” by locals. I do remember many beautiful sunny days where the sky was blue, however.
Lima is a huge city with over 9 million inhabitants and 43 districts. In this article, I will share with you my opinion on the best districts to stay during your visit to Lima.
The district of Miraflores is one of the favorites among tourists due to its breathtaking views of cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. In Miraflores, tourists can enjoy cycling paths. My favorite cycling path is one along the promenade, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. This cycling path also connects the districts of Miraflores and Barranco, making it great for intercity travel.
Miraflores has a big concentration of bars, cafes, shopping centers, and restaurants, proving that there is always something to do in the city. It is also one of the most pedestrian-friendly places in Lima.
Miraflores is a safe district, with the Municipal Guard Service of the Serenazgo on patrol 24 hours a day. This gives Miraflores a carefree and easygoing atmosphere, speaking to its popularity by the tourists.
Things to do in Miraflores:
• You can visit the shopping center known as “Larcomar”, which is a popular travel destination. It is impressively built with modern architecture, as it is built into a cliff which faces the ocean. Within the shopping center you will find a cinema, a bowling alley, many clothing shops, and great restaurants. I would recommend Tanta, which is an excellent restaurant with a variety of Peruvian dishes. Another great restaurant is “Mangos”, which is a great place to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset.
• I would recommend you rent a bicycle while you tour the different areas of Miraflores. You can ride your bike along the Pacific Ocean, all the way from Miraflores to the center of Lima. The best time to do this is on Sundays, as the Arequipa Avenue is closed for cars.
• You should spare a visit to the Huaca Pucllana pyramid, which was built between 200 and 700 AD. In front of these ancient ruins is a restaurant known as “Huaca Pucllana”, which is a great spot for lunch or dinner (try the Ceviche). At night time, the Huaca is illuminated, making it a beautiful and romantic location.
• Are you in the mood for crepes? You can try some at “Palachinke”, which opened its doors for the first time in 1978. They serve the biggest crepes I’ve ever eaten in my life! You can choose between sweet or savory crepes. My favorite? The ones with ice cream inside! This is a fun place for kids too!
• The market of Surquillo is another great place to visit in Miraflores. Surquillo is walking distance from the Ovalo of Miraflores. This is a safe market where you can taste a variety of fruit. Try the sweet Chirimoya, which is a creamy fruit native to the Andes and Central America. I would also recommend that you try the sweet “granadillas”, which is similar to passion fruit. If you visit the market on a Saturday, you will find a special market for organic products, such as Peruvian chocolates and Peruvian coffee sold directly from the producers.
• Kennedy Park is a nice place to visit, as it is frequented by painters, artists, and many friendly cats which are taken care of by Lima volunteers.
• Another great park to visit is the park of love. You can admire the sculpture of two lovers kissing, which is a famous statue crafted by Victor Delfin.
• Walk to the Marina Lighthouse and watch the beautiful sunset! Or, walk the pebble path of the Bajada Balta all the way to the sea!
• Try a surfing lesson. You don’t have to book lessons in advance – all you have to do is walk to Makaha beach and ask for more information! The surfer schools are aplenty and the lessons include equipment and a personal teacher. This is great for visitors of all ages, including children.
• Try paragliding at Costa Verde. While I have personally never tried this, I know that it is very popular among those looking for their next adrenaline rush! This is another great opportunity that you don’t have to book in advance. There is a kiosk located next to the park of love where you can purchase lessons. They are open every day, weather permitted.
• You can get designer T-shirts at the La Quinta outlet for amazing discounted prices! Peru is known for having one of the best cotton qualities in the world, producing soft clothing that is sold to a variety of international brands.
• Fancy a drink? Try a Pisco Sour at the Rosa Nautica bar. While children aren’t allowed, you can truly enjoy it if you are an adult. It is located at the end of a pier in the ocean. You can catch the sunset from here!
• You can get familiar with Lima’s local artists by visiting “The Red House”, which is the gallery of Peruvian graphic artist Cherman. In his artworks, you will see many influences from great artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
• The Inca Market sells many great souvenirs! You can visit many shops which sell sweaters made from Alpaca wool, as well as ceramics and silver jewelry at great prices! Aside from cotton, Peru is also one of the largest producers of silver in the world.
• If you’re on a budget, there’s still plenty to do! You can eat like a local by trying a restaurant with a “Menu”, which in Lima means that it is a fixed menu that includes an entree, main dish, dessert, and drink. At places like “Sakana” in Calle Berlin 556, you can eat a menu for as little as $4, or 13 soles. This is a clean and modest restaurant with fast service. It opens at 12 o’clock and is a popular destination for locals that like to visit the restaurant during their lunch break. There is also a “light menu” option, which serves healthier dishes like fish and salad.
• “La Emolienteria” serves great cocktails, and it is a fun place with Inca masks decorating the walls. While I wouldn’t recommend it for the food, the drinks are affordable and tasty.
• Lastly, you can try delicious chocolate bonbons at “Xocolatl”. Peru produces some of the finest cacao in the world, and you will find many interesting chocolate tastes such as bonbons with Maras salt, Pisco, and even chili inside!
Where to stay in Miraflores:
Top End Hotels:
JW Marriott Hotel Lima (A few steps from Larcomar, located in the heart of Miraflores).
Belmond Miraflores Park (J-Lo has stayed here before!, it has incredible views of The Pacific Ocean and a great restaurant: “Tragaluz”).
Hilton Lima Miraflores (Located in a very quiet area of Miraflores and walking distance from “Amaz” restaurant, where you can taste delicious dishes from the Amazon region).
Radisson Hotel Decapolis Miraflores (The location is great, they have a nice rooftop pool and very good cocktails).
The district of Barranco in Lima was founded in 1864 and became the preferred beach resort of the Limeños by the beginning of the 20th century. The district gets its name due to the cliffs (Barrancos) that separate it from the beaches. It is definitely a place worth visiting. It’s a district full of old houses, bohemian streets, cultural centers, and very romantic sunsets. Barranco is a great place for nightlife, as there are many bars, restaurants, and places to listen to live music. There are old neo-colonial houses too, which are well-preserved and painted in vibrant colors. You will find some interesting museums as well.
Things to do in Barranco:
• You can walk along the Bridge of Sighs and make a wish! Tradition says that whoever sees the bridge for the first time and can cross it without taking a breath will have their wishes granted.
• Take a picture of the Ermita, which used to be a popular place of pilgrimage due to its divine origins. Unfortunately, this church is now in very bad shape and may collapse at any moment. For this reason, entry is not allowed.
• Take a walk to El Mirador, which overlooks the Costa Verde (which is very near the Ermita!).
• Walk from the “Bajada de baños” to the Pacific ocean (under the Bridge of sights). This is a descending path that is very popular to walk at all times of the day.
• Drink another Pisco Sour! This time, you can enjoy it at “Ayahuasca”, which is a bar that specializes in Pisco-based drinks. It is only open at night time, and minors are not allowed. Inside the bar, you will be met with beautiful decorations and colorful designs. It is located inside a beautifully-renovated mansion!
• You can visit MATE, which is the museum of Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino. The museum exhibits his best works, including portraits of Lady Diana and Madonna.
• Another great museum you can visit is MAC, which is a museum of contemporary art. Many of the artworks in this museum contain pieces from Peruvian artists.
• You can enjoy coffee any time of day with a strong drink from “Tostaduria Bisetti”, a coffee shop where you can try different types of fresh Peruvian brews. They also serve delicious carrot cakes and sandwiches as well. Coffee is the main exported product in Peru! (Try the coffee with Pisco)
• You can visit the elegant Casa Pedro de Osma: This is a well-loved art museum and impressive house, which was built in 1906. It used to be the summer residence of the wealthy Osma-Berkemeyer family.
• At sunset, I highly encourage you to take a walk along the beach boardwalk and watch the sunset.
• You can also go shopping for unique souvenirs and works of art at Dedalo Gallery.
• Visit Barranco Beer Company where you can taste a wide variety of local beers made in their facilities.
• The best thing to do in Barranco is to admire the colorful wall art. These murals are painted within the district. Barranco is one of the few places in Lima where you can still find beautiful street art. This is because the mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda, ordered the elimination of all street walls in the city and historical center of Lima in 2015.
Where to stay in Barranco:
Top End Hotels:
Hotel B (A charming boutique hotel).
Second Home Peru (The residence and Atelier of painter Victor Delfin, it has incredible views of the Ocean).
Casa Republica. (A reconstructed residence from the 1850’s, decorated with beautiful art pieces).
Low Budget Hotels:
3. San Isidro
San Isidro is considered one of the most important financial centers in Latin America, where banks and financial institutions line the streets.
This is an upper-class district of Lima and considered one of the most expensive places to buy or rent property. The property in San Isidro has some of the highest prices per square meter in all of Lima. San Isidro is also home to many embassies. This district is strategically located near Miraflores because it easily connects to the Javier Prado Avenue, the main street that connects the eastern and western sides of Lima. In San Isidro, you will also find great access to the Paseo de la República, also known a Via Expresa. This is an important avenue in Lima, as it connects the northern and southern districts.
During the weekdays, San Isidro is full of life, because there are so many restaurants, bars, and shops around. On the weekends, however, San Isidro can be quieter as many of the restaurants are closed.
Things to do in San Isidro:
• You can visit the “Parque Olivar”, also known as Olive Grove Park. This is one of the oldest parks in Lima, and has been officially declared as part of the National Heritage of Peru. It has 23 hectares, two artificial lagoons, and 1674 olive trees. The park is a quiet and beautiful place, although there are a large diversity of birds flying around. This is a great place to relax and get away from the busy city life of Lima.
• Try visiting the Huaca Huallamarca, which is an archaeological site. This was built between the years 200 AE to 200 DE.
• Do you like churches? If so, you should visit the Iglesia del Pilar, which contains a beautiful colonial altarpiece from the 18th century.
• Visit the Maria Nunez de Prado Museum, which is the home of the famous Bolivian sculptor. This museum is built inside a neo-colonial house in the middle of the Parque Olivar. Definitely worth a visit!
• Drink another Pisco Sour at “The Country Club Lima Hotel”. Experts say they have the best Pisco Sour in Lima! The atmosphere is elegant and refined, and it is located inside of a historic building with beautiful areas of green.
• The Eco Market is a famous market where you can buy organic products straight from the farmers that produced them. The market is located on Miguel Dasso Street Blocks 1 and 2 every Sunday.
• Lastly, you can take a stroll through the Malecon Bernales (a sea boardwalk) with impressive views of the Pacific ocean. Try visiting at sunset!
Where to stay in San Isidro:
Top End Hotels:
Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center (President Obama stayed here in 2016!).
Swissotel Lima (A luxury hotel with many restaurants, including “La Locanda”, one of the best restaurants in all of Lima!)
Country Club Lima Hotel (A luxury hotel located In front of the golf club.)
NM Lima Hotel ( It is located in a convenient part of San Isidro).
Atton San Isidro (Good business Hotel, but there is not much nightlife nearby).
Sonesta Hotel El Olivar ( It has amazing views of the Olive Grove Park-Parque Olivar).
4. Downtown Lima
Downtown Lima was founded by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, and he chose this location to build the Government Palace. At the time, it was the most strategic location for control and irrigation of water in all of Lima. Lima quickly became the capital of the powerful Viceroyalty of Peru, and the Spanish residents constructed many colonial buildings and churches in the now-sprawling city center.
In 1989, Lima’s downtown area was taken over by street vendors, trash, and delinquents. That’s why architect Juan Gunter paired together with Eduardo Arrate (the founder of Lima Tours), to make the “Patronage of Lima”, which was a pact that promised to clean the streets of downtown Lima. They also moved to protect the historic buildings that were demolished and not properly restored. They managed to create a place free of crime, so that tourists and locals alike could safely walk the streets and visit all of the historical monuments.
In 1991, the historic center of Lima was finally recognized as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
Interesting fact: The historical center of Lima has 29% of all the cultural heritage of the nation!
Note: If you are staying here, consider that access to downtown Lima from other districts such as Miraflores can take a long time because of the heavy traffic. It is also a place that does not have much nightlife.
Things to do in downtown Lima:
• If you’re itching to walk around, I highly recommend that you visit the main square and enjoy the view of the Municipal and presidential palaces.
• Visit the Cathedral of Lima on the Plaza de Armas.
• If you like churches, you should visit the Church of Santo Domingo, where you can find the remains of important colony saints, such as Saint Rosa and Saint Martin de Porres.
• A famous place of interest is La Casa de Aliaga, a private family residence built and preserved in the colonial style. The house has been home to the same family since 1535.
• You can take a walk along the Jiron de la Union and watch the street artists work their magic. Jiron de la Union used to be the most aristocratic street in the city center, and the upper-class residents would visit various restaurants wearing their finest clothing. Now, it is one of the busiest pedestrian streets in downtown Lima. I love the black and white tiles on the floor and the variety of clothing and appliance stores along the street.
• You can enjoy lunch at “Cordano” restaurant and bar, which was originally founded by an Italian family. The Cordano family came from Milan in 1905 and built what is one of the most favored restaurants by many Presidents. It is located in front of the side-door of the government palace, and next to the Desamparados train station. “Cordano” still serves traditional dishes and comes with an atmosphere that will take you back in time. You will experience what it was like to live in Lima in the 50s! When the owner of the restaurant died, his children did not want to take ownership of the restaurant, and so it was sold in 1978 to a waiter named Rafael Cerna. My favorite dish at this restaurant is the famous Northern-Ham sandwich, which is a popular and traditional Peruvian sandwich.
• Visit the “Casa de la Literatura”, which is the house of Peruvian literature. It is located in the Desamparados train station, which connects Lima to the city of Huancayo. To reach Huancayo, which is located in the Andes, you need to take the second-highest train track in the world. The Casa de la Literatura is located next to the Government Palace and in front of the “Cordano” bar. It has a bookstore named “Mario Vargas Llosa”, named after the Peruvian writer who received a Nobel Prize in literature in 2010.
• Lastly, you should visit Chinatown, which is located in the heart of the city’s center, and in the surroundings of Capón Street. You will find a mix of Peruvian and Chinese customs here.
Where to stay in Downtown Lima:
Top End Hotels:
Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center (Great location to visit the main highlights with an excellent buffet restaurant).
Low Budget Hotels:
1900 hostel (It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, It is located in front of the Lima Art Museum. They offer private and shared rooms as well).
There are Many Reasons to Visit Lima!
Well, here are my personal recommendations for the places to visit while in Lima. As I mentioned earlier, Lima is a huge city, and there are numerous interesting districts such as Surco, San Borja, and Pueblo Libre. Many of these districts are residential, though. The districts I mentioned in this article, such as Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro, and downtown Lima, are the best places to explore in the city. This is due to their location and their proximity to important landmarks in Lima. Whether you’re on a budget or looking to experience the best of Peruvian culture, you will find everything you need in Lima!
Note: The Spanish version of this article is here: Donde alojarte en Lima: Una guía detallada para descubrir los mejor de la capital del Perú.
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