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Bucket list destination:


  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Last updated: 24 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

Founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro – audacious conqueror of the Inca Empire – Lima was the capital of most of Spanish South America for nearly 300 years. The affairs of an empire were once managed from its narrow, low-slung streets, but today the city’s colonial heart is choked with traffic and soot.  

However, to understand Peruvian history, this 500-year-old grid is a must-see, housing extravagant baroque churches, historic buildings, the presidential palace and the cathedral where Pizarro is buried. Look out for the San Francisco church with its bone-filled catacombs, the filigree-carved balconies of Torre Tagle mansion and the opulent, rococo archbishop’s palace.

Elsewhere, there are fascinating museums dedicated to Peru’s history. The best museums sit in the colonial centre. They include MALI, a Lima Art gallery, with 7,000 pre-Columbian and Spanish pieces, all housed in a beautiful art nouveau building set in gardens. The Gold Museum has glittering artefacts from the country’s principal ancient civilisations.

The city also has a renowned world-class dining scene and some of the finest restaurants in the world, serving up a virtuoso fusion of unique national ingredients with Asian and European techniques. Book ahead for the best restaurants.

Most trips to Peru inevitably involve a stop in Lima – thankfully there’s plenty worth seeing.

Culture & Customs

Evening activities are limited since historic buildings (and many restaurants) only operate during the day. Note that some churches also close for a short period after midday mass.

Travel advice

When to go

May to November Lima is blanketed in thick Garua sea mist, when everything looks grey and damp and temperatures can drop to 8°C. Visit November to April when the sun breaks through and temperatures peak at around 30°C.

Getting there and away

The Jorge Chávez International Airport serves numerous airlines and connecting flights from major cities worldwide and from domestic destinations. Alternatively, if you prefer a more scenic journey, you can travel by bus from neighbouring countries like Ecuador or Chile.

From the airport, take a Lima Airport Taxi (around 25 to 30 minutes, £15 during light traffic).

Getting around

The central district is easy enough to explore independently on foot since most of the important sights lie within a few blocks of the main square. The inner suburb museums are easily visited by taxi (use Uber or Cabify, don’t hail from the street), or you can take an organised day tour that visits all the key sights.

Where to stay

Most visitors to Lima opt to stay in one of Lima’s three main districts.

Centrally located Miraflores has an upscale vibe, breathtaking ocean views with a lovely boardwalk, a vibrant nightlife and many of the city’s top restaurants are here. It’s a reliable and convenient option.

For something a little more edgy, try Barranco. Known as Lima’s bohemian district, it captivates with its artsy ambiance, colorful houses, and lively music scene. Here you can wander through charming streets, visit art galleries, enjoy live performances, and unwind at the scenic Barranco Malecón.

San Isidro, Lima’s financial and residential hub, appeals to those seeking luxury and tranquillity. It offers upscale hotels, beautiful parks, exclusive restaurants, and high-end shopping.

Health & Safety

The security situation has improved dramatically in downtown Lima over the last decade but pickpocketing is still a problem, especially in crowded public areas.