Last updated: 24 June, 2023
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 for a day.