Peru’s capital, while not the most appealing of cities, does offer stately colonial architecture, fascinating museums of Peru’s empirical; history and world-class dining.
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.
While you’re there
Look out for the exquisitely-carved Moorish wooden balconies on the archbishop’s palace next door.
Getting there & doing it
The cathedral is located in the heart of old Lima, on the east side of the Plaza de Armas de Lima, next to the archbishop’s palace. Guides who speak English and other languages can be hired at the admissions desk. For aficionados this can be worthwhile, since there is little wall text explaining the art.
When to do it
It’s open to visitors all year round, Monday to Saturday. Sunday for mass only.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
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.