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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 02 April, 2024
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 for a day.

Recommendations

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Gold Museum

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

A golden sculpture of a face, with gemstones

One of the world’s largest collections of pre-Colombian Peruvian gold, more than 7,000 artefacts, includes items from Inca, Sican and Moche culture. The museum also houses an extensive collection of weapons from around the world, dating back to the 13th century. Open daily.

Adult price: £6

Best for ages 8+

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Larco Museum

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

The exterior of the museum, with red-leaved plants and a Peruvian flag

The city’s most prestigious and encyclopedic art museum, with a vast permanent collection spanning three millennia of Peruvian art.

Adult price: £7

Best for ages 18+

Lima Cathedral

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

The exterior of the Roman Catholic style cathedral

A temple to Spanish power, this huge, imposing cathedral houses the remains of Pizarro, Conqueror of the Incas.

Adult price: £6

Best for ages 18+

Lima Art Museum

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Exterior of the museum building

Peru’s national art collection, with over 7,000 pieces dating from pre-Columbian times to the present day, showcased in a stately palace.

Adult price: £2

Best for ages 18+

Surquillo Market

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Customers buying vegetables at the market

Mercado No1 de Surquillo, Lima’s food market, is packed with exotic fruit, vegetables and medicinal plants. It’s also a good spot to sample street food – simple ceviche and Butifarra pulled-pork sandwiches.

Best for ages 18+

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Saint Francis Monastery

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

The pastel yellow exterior of the monastery, with birds gathering in front

A UNESCO World Heritage listed Spanish-colonial monastery, dating back to 1674, with striking baroque architecture and bone-filled catacombs. The convent’s library possesses over 25,000 antique texts, including the first-ever Spanish dictionary and a Holy Bible edition from 1572.

Adult price: £3

Best for ages 18+

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More details >

Lima’s best food & drink

Lima, Lima Region, Peru

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Bucket List Experience
Close up of a ceviche dish

Lima is one of the best places to eat out in the world – with an astonishing restaurant scene and the finest chefs in South America.

Adult price: £35

Best for ages 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: 1 day

Getting there & doing it

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 cab, or you can take an organised day tour that visits all the key sights.

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.

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

When to do it

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.

Who to go with: organised tours

5

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Lima Half-Day City Walking Tour: Pick-up & Drop Off Small Group

Lima

Lima Half-Day City Walking Tour: Pick-up & Drop Off Small Group
Discover the city of Lima known as the "City of Kings"! We will visit the highlights of the Historic Center of Lima such as the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral of Lima, the Monastery of San Francisco with its incredible Catacombs and other historical places that make this unique experience full of culture, history and memorable memories. In addition, you should know that our company mission is to support our nonprofit sister organization, Reciprocity NGO. With the profits from our tours, Reciprocity NGO is able to implement social projects that improve the quality of life for the communities living below the poverty line.

Price: $38

Min age: 0

Rating 4.93 / 5 [633 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Half-Day Lima City Sightseeing, Cathedral & Santo Domingo Convent

Lima

Half-Day Lima City Sightseeing, Cathedral & Santo Domingo Convent
Explore the City of Kings, starting in Miraflores. Our initial stop is the iconic Park of the Kiss, offering a scenic view of Lima Bay. Next, we venture to historic Downtown Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site brimming with tales of yesteryear. En route, we pass the Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca pyramid. Arriving at Plaza Mayor, surrounded by the Cathedral, Archbishopric of Lima, Government Palace, and Municipality, we enter Lima Cathedral, housing the crypt of conqueror Francisco Pizarro. Continuing, we step into the Convent of Santo Domingo, a colonial jewel frozen in time, holding the remains of saints like Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martín de Porres. Inside is a 15th-century library, a testament to historical richness. This convent, where San Marcos, the first University of America, was founded, beckons exploration. As we conclude our downtown Lima visit, it's time to return to the hotel, having absorbed a tapestry of cultural, historical, and architectural wonders.

Price: $59

Min age: 0

Rating 4.31 / 5 [501 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Lima Airport Arrival Transfer

Lima

Lima Airport Arrival Transfer
Arrive in Lima stress-free and make the most of your time in Peru by pre-booking your arrival airport transfer. Enjoy a smooth and stress-free journey from Lima airport to your hotel, lodging or home. Skip all the long taxi lines and travel from Jorge Chavez International Airport without a worry! This transfer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Price: $20

Min age: 2

Rating 4.63 / 5 [262 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Private transfers from Lima Airport or to Lima Airport

Lima

Private transfers from Lima Airport or to Lima Airport
Exclusive transfer service, fully equipped vehicles for all capacities, professional drivers, security and punctuality, live a comfortable travel experience. When booking, choose the correct option if it is from the Airport to the address or Hotel or also from the Address or Hotel to the Airport. If it is from the Airport to the Hotel, do not forget to enter the flight number, if it is from the Hotel to the Airport, keep in mind that for National flights, it is recommended to be at the Airport 2 hours before and it would add one more hour which is the approximate route. With traffic to the Airport, in the case of International flights, it is recommended to be 3 hours early, which would add 1 more hour to the journey. In any case, after making the reservation, our help and support center is available 24/7 and we can add any information that is missing or we can recommend a new schedule.

Price: $17

Min age: 0

Rating 4.43 / 5 [223 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Lima Airport Departure Transfer

Lima

Lima Airport Departure Transfer
Travel from your Lima hotel to Jorge Chavez International Airport worry-free and without a hassle. These shared transfers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Transfer is available from Miraflores, San Isidro, Barranco, Downtown, Magdalena, San Miguel, Jesus Maria areas.

Price: $20

Min age: 2

Rating 4.63 / 5 [94 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Peru

Peru

Peru

A land of spectacular deserts, high mountains and rainforests that teem with wildlife, Peru is also home to an array of dramatically situated pre-Colombian ruins, including Machu Picchu.