Lima is the capital of Peru and a popular stop for those heading to Cusco to visit the Machu Picchu.
As the airport of Lima, known as Jorge Chavez airport is the only international one in Peru so far (they are building a new international airport near Cusco, by the way) a stop in the city is mandatory for anybody coming into the country. Sadly, despite all the things to do in Lima most people just skip the city and head to other more tourist areas.
But since you are passing by, why not take a walking tour in Lima?
Lima walking tour: Things to do in Lima
Different than Cusco, or Arequipa for instance, Lima is a metropolitan city, modern and developed, less traditional than other tourist destinations in Peru, but this doesn’t make Lima less interesting. The city still preserves part of its history and heritage in the Historical Centre, the oldest part of the city, where the colonial houses and churches still display all their glory.
Miraflores on the other hand, the famous neighborhood where most of the hotels are located, is a more modern area, with skyscrapers and nice malls.
Lima is a big mix, it has a bit of everything, and a great city to use as an introduction to Peru, so don’t miss the chance to visit it. To make things easier for you when building your Lima walking tour route, here is a list of the best things to do in Lima.
Things to do in Lima
Take a free walking tour
If you just arrived in Lima and are feeling a bit lost to visit places on your own, don’t worry, you have the option of taking a walking tour through Lima with one of the groups that offer the tour.
There are different tours that cover different areas of the city, like the Historical Centre, Barranco neighborhood, and even a food tour. You just need to pick your favorite and go! Or in doubt, just take them all!
If you prefer to see everything at your own speed, take a look at this list below of things to do in Lima and you can build your personal Lima walking tour.
Plaza Mayor is the main square in the city of Lima. Located in the Historical Centre, there in the square and in the cities around it, you will find the oldest buildings in the city. It is a perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about how life was back in colonial times.
The square is surrounded by important buildings such as the Government Palace, also known as House of Pizzaro, which is the official residence of the President of Peru. There, it is possible to watch the Changing of Guards ceremony that happens every day, as well as other ceremonies.
Most of the city’s event and parades take place on the Plaza Mayor, that is also known as Plaza de Armas. When I was there I had the chance to join two of these events. It is a nice way to experience the local culture.
The central piece and highlight of the Plaza Mayor are the Cathedral of Lima, completed in 1649. The Cathedral is also a Religious Museum and houses the tomb of Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish conquistador.
The other buildings in the Plaza Mayor are the Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, and the Palace of Union.
Catacombs of Basílica y Convento de San Francisco
A block away from the Plaza Mayor, is located another iconic church, the Church of San Francisco. In this church, Jude the Apostle is venerated. Besides the church and monastery, the complex also offers a library and its famous catacombs.
Under the church, the catacombs that have survived the ages and earthquakes houses the skulls and bones of more than 25,000 bodies. The catacombs served as burial sites until 1808, when a cemetery was opened outside the city of Lima, leaving the catacombs abandoned. They were rediscovered in 1943.
Today it is possible to take tours to visit the inside of the catacomb, but remember to bring a jumper with you, as it can get a bit cold inside.
Another highlight of the Historical Centre of Lima is the Aliaga House. It is the best example of a colonial house you will find in the city. It was built by Captain of Aliaga, a Spanish conqueror, in the lot given to him by Francisco Pizarro himself. The close location to the Palace shows the high regard Pizarro had for Captain of Aliaga.
The house was built in 1535 and is the oldest house in the South Hemisphere that is still inhabited by the same family. After 5 centuries, the house changed a little bit since it was first built due to earthquakes and fashion changes, but most of it remains the same and gives a good idea of how life was in a colonial house.
If you are a history freak like me, you will enjoy the tour for sure. All the beautifully decored walls with paintings of important figures in Peru history hanging and the old furniture that resembles a medieval castle/hunt residence are worth seeing.
San Cristobal Hill
San Cristobal Hill is an iconic landmark in Lima and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the city. From the Plaza Mayor to the Larcomar, the hill with a shining Cross can be spotted from any point.
San Cristobal Hill can be visited and offers one of the best views of Lima. To get there, you just need to take a bus known in Lima as ‘Urbanito’, the bus brings you to the highest point of the hill, unfortunately, the service only offers tours in Spanish, but if you want to get to the San Cristobal Hilltop, you must take the ‘Urbanito’ bus.
Do not try to climb it on your own. First, because this is a tiring and steep climb, second because it is dangerous, especially for foreigners. So if you want to have a view of Lima from San Cristobal Hill do take the ‘Urbanito’ bus.
Kenedy Park is one of the famous and favorite parks for both locals and tourists. It is also known as the Cat Park and by the nickname, you can already guess why it is so popular.
The Kennedy Park is located in the heart of Miraflores, the modern side of the city of Lima. It is home to around sixty cats, hence the nickname. They have been there for over 20 years now but nobody can explain how they got there in the first place.
Nowadays they can be seen everywhere in the park, chilling on the grass, napping around, waiting for some attention. If you are a cat person like I am, this is definitely a place for you.
I admit I spent a good amount of time here since I was missing baby Shamlu, my fat cat.
Magic Water Circuit
On the way between the Historical Centre and Miraflores, in the Parque de la Reserva, a beautiful place, by the way, there is an attraction known in Spanish as Fuentes Magicas, the Magic Water Circuit, that made it to the Guinness Book as the world’s largest fountain in a public park.
The illuminated fountain show is a good option for those looking for a chill night out. Of course, you have a bunch of pubs to spend your nights in Lima, but if you are looking for a different option, the Magic Fountains show would be a good one.
Larcomar is a mix of a fancy mall and a cool viewpoint.
There are around 100 shops from international to national brands, but the highlight of this mall is the beautiful view you can have from the coastline of Lima.
Even for those who are not into shopping, the Larcomar is a must-visit, as it is such a unique mall. it was built on the top of a cliff, and from there, you can admire the wild beach of Lima and the Pacific ocean.
Another good option is to have breakfast or dinner in the mall, it offers a variety of restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to try a ceviche or the ‘desayuno’ (the breakfast).
Leaving the Larcomar mall, you can take your time to admire the view while strolling along the El Malecon, which is a cliff-top walkway that offers a scenic view of the sea and the coast of Lima.
Among the seven or eight parks, you will pass through, along the Malecon, is the famous Parque del Amor, which is one of the main tourist spots of Miraflores, it is known for the romantic statues, the biggest and most famous of them all is called “The Kiss” by Victor Delfín.
Another option in the El Malecon, of course, if you feel like adding some adrenaline to your Lima walking tour is to head to “Parque Antonio Raimondi”, the biggest park in El Malecon, and experience the paragliding in Lima. In the park, there are many instructors offering classes and the possibility to take you on a 10 minutes flight.
For those of you looking for learning more about the ancient civilization of Peru, this is the go-to. The private-owned museum displays artifacts of pre-Columbian tribes, organized in chronological order, covering a period of 10,000 years.
There you will see from ancient jewelry to art and pottery, the museum is also famous for its collection of sexual pottery, yeah, apparently this was a trend back some 5,000 years ago, surprise? So was I.
The house where the museum is located in a vice-royal residence built in the 18th century.
In the middle of the modern center of Miraflores, a contrast: a clay pyramid. It is impossible not to notice the 25 meters tall ruin called Huaca Pucllana.
It was built by the Lima Culture, a pre-Inca tribe that inhabited the region from 200 AD to 700 AD with influences of the Wari culture, that lived in the region from 500 AD to 1000 AD. Huaca Pucllana served as a religious site, is used for ceremonies, as well as administrative purposes.
The pyramid is surrounded by a plaza and a wall that divided the site into two sections. In one of them (the religious section) evidence of offerings was found, fishes and other marine animals were used in an attempt to please the gods.
Huaca Pucllana has located just 20 minutes away from Kennedy Park and the ticket costs just 5 soles.
Another must-see ruin in Lima. Also as Huaca Pan de Azúcar, the pyramid was built in 200 AD, as a ceremonial site and converted into a cemetery in 300 AD, serving different cultures over the years.
The 85 meters high ruin as we see today was rebuilt in 1950.
Natural History Museum of Lima
The Natural History Museum of Lima was established in 1918 and is today considered the most important museum of Peru. The museum was first located in the local University of Humanities and Social Science and was relocated to its actual building in 1934.
In its collection, you will find specimens of the Peruvian fauna and flora as well as minerals. The highlights are the fossils of South American horses, fossils of the Giant Sloth, and a skeleton of a sperm whale, the largest toothed predator.
The museum also counts with a dinosaur exhibit.
Barranco is the bohemian neighborhood of Lima, offering a variety of pubs and restaurants. It is perfect if you are looking to spending the night in a cool place and have some fun, perhaps try the traditional Peruvian drink, the Pisco.
The restaurants in Barranco also offer traditional meals and I suggest to you not to miss the chance to try the real ceviche!