Bucketlist Travels logo

Travel bucket list idea:

A day in Lima

  • Lima Region, Peru

Last updated: 02 April, 2024

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.

Who to go with: tour operators

7

Gold Museum

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

A golden sculpture of a face, with gemstones

Experience

One of the world’s largest collections of pre-Colombian Peruvian gold, more than 7,000 artifacts, 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

Good for age: 8+

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

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

Experience

Larco Museum

Lima has two unmissable museums, the Museum of Art and the Larco; the Larco preserves one of the best collections of pre-Columbian and indigenous objects in Peru.

There are pieces from over 3,000 years of Peruvian history – from brilliantly-painted Moche ceramics to glittering Inca gold and intricately, hand-stitched textiles. This is the only museum anywhere to have an entire room of pre-Columbian erotica. These priceless pieces are kept in the vast, gleaming-white, fortified palace of the colonial viceroy; itself built over an ancient pyramid.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

The exterior of the Roman Catholic style cathedral

Experience

Lima Cathedral

With massive, imposing neoclassical bell towers framing a saint-encrusted baroque facade topped with the Virgin Mary, the capital’s first church, built in the early 16th century, is a joyless statement of religious authority in stone.

It’s appropriate then, that the battered corpse of Francisco Pizarro is entombed inside, in a modest chapel in the crypt. Francisco Pizarro was the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire, capturing its capital city Cuzco in 1533 and founding the city of Lima in 1535. Most people come to see him.

The nave is unremarkable – its baroque art was destroyed in an 18th-century earthquake. But look out for the silver-covered altars and Pizarro’s coat of arms (next to those of Lima) in passing.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 18+

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Exterior of the museum building

Experience

Lima Art Museum

If you want to see ancient Peruvian art and artifacts then MALI and LARCO are Lima’s two must-see museums. While LARCO is a 15-minute cab ride from anywhere, MALI is easy to visit on a walk around the colonial centre.  

There’s a lot to see – with more than 7,000 pieces dating from the time of the Paracas desert people in 800BC (ancestors of the Nazca civilisation) to the present day. There’s some fabulous indigenous-painted Cusco art and the collection is housed in a lavish art-nouveau-meets-neoclassical palace sitting in shady, lawned gardens.

Adult price: £2

Good for age: 18+

Surquillo Market

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Customers buying vegetables at the market

Experience

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.

Good for age: 18+

Saint Francis Monastery

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

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

Experience

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

Good for age: 18+

  • Lima, Lima Region, Peru

Close up of a ceviche dish

Bucket List Experience

Lima’s best food & drink

If there’s one reason to stop over in Lima it’s the food. The city has some of the finest restaurants in the world – with chefs like Virgilio Martínez, Jaime Pesaque and Gastón Acurio ranked in the World’s ‘Fifty Best’ on the exclusive San Pellegrino list.

What makes Lima chefs so exciting is their virtuoso fusion of unique national ingredients with Asian and European techniques. Star chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has a plate on his degustation comprising only potatoes arranged to look like beach pebbles – all from different Andean locations with astonishing, divergent flavours.

Peruvian-Japanese Micha Tsumura serves fiery tiger milk tuna tiraditos alongside river-fish sushi, and 50-hour-cooked Amazonian beef.

You could spend a week in the gastro-hub suburbs of San Isidro, Miraflores and Barranco and get a mere taste of the exciting scene. But be sure to dine in Astrid y Gaston – the pioneer of Lima gastronomy and Central, by Michelin-starred Virgilio Martínez.

For a sense of the huge variety of ingredients Lima’s top chefs draw on visit Mercado No1 de Surquillo – packed with exotic fruit, vegetables and medicinal plants. It’s also a good spot to sample simple ceviche, but don’t focus on the street food – Lima’s all about fine dining.

Adult price: £35

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
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

12

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

  • Lima

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:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Lima

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:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Lima

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:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Lima

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:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Lima

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:

Viator Logo
Website >