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Things to Do in Lima - page 2

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Presidential Palace
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12 Tours and Activities

Dominating the northern quarter of Lima’s UNESCO-listed Plaza de Armas, the grand Presidential Palace, or Casa de Pizarro, is one of the city’s most impressive historic buildings. Built in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro to mark the founding of the city, the Presidential Palace has been the official home of the Peruvian government since the viceroyalty of Peru was first established.

Designed by architect Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski in a French Baroque style, the original building was erected on the site of Indian chief Taulichusco’s former home, and was later the site where Jose San Martín declared the Independence of Peru in 1821. Along with its historical importance, the building itself has undergone numerous renovations and restorations throughout the years, and today, most of the existing structure dates back to the 20th century.

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Callao
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13 Tours and Activities

Located just up the coast from Lima, the seafront town of Callao has been Peru’s most important port since the colonial era and remains the capital’s principal cruise port, receiving thousands of annual visitors. With easy transport links to the center of Lima, most cruise travelers find themselves heading straight into the city, but there are still a few worthwhile attractions to visit in Callao itself.

Explore the imposing Real Felipe Fortress, built during colonial times to protect the shores from pirate invasions and named after King Felipe V of Spain; hit the beach at La Punta; or discover Callao’s rich maritime history with a visit to the Abtao Submarine Museum and the Naval Museum. Callao is also the starting point for cruises to the Pacific islands of Palomino, Cabinzas and El Frontón, renowned for their variety of birdlife and sea lion colonies and a popular day trip from Lima.

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Lima Chinatown (Barrio Chino)
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10 Tours and Activities

Much like New York and San Francisco, the city of Lima has its own Chinatown (Barrio Chino). Peru’s ethnic Chinese community comprises an estimated 1.5 million people — some five percent of the total population — and the hub of that community lies in the heart of Lima’s historic district. The neighborhood was founded by Chinese immigrants during the mid nineteenth century when Chinese import companies began opening commercial houses in the area.

Visitors pass through the red Chinese archway and into a maze of traditional Chinese architecture. Streets are lined with Buddhist temples, shops selling traditional ingredients and medicinal herbs, and dozens of Chinese restaurants, known locally as chifas. Come at midday, and many restaurants will offer set menus.

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Huaca Huallamarca (Pan de Azucar)
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A gigantic adobe pyramid set amidst the office blocks and residential apartments of San Isidro financial district, the archeological site of Huallamarca stands in startling contrast to its surroundings. Also known as the Pan de Azucar (Sugar Loaf), after the farmlands that once covered the ruins, the existing structure has been extensively rebuilt and restored, but was originally constructed as a sacred burial temple, or ‘Huaca’, between 200 and 500 CE.

Although much of the site’s long history remains shrouded in mystery, the Huaca Huallamarca is believed to have served a number of roles over the years, from pre-Columbian burial site to Inca settlement. Today, visitors can climb to the pyramid’s upper platform where the views expand over San Isidro or explore the on-site museum, which displays a number of items excavated from the site, including Ichma ceramics, funerary masks, musical instruments, weaving equipment and even a well-preserved mummy.

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Archbishop’s Palace of Lima
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Located in Lima’s Plaza de Armas, the Archbishop’s Palace is an extraordinary example of neo-classical architecture. Rising next to the Lima Cathedral, this plot of land has been the Archbishop’s residence since Francisco Pizarro decreed it as such in 1535. The building, however, is relatively new, constructed in 1924 after the previous building, which had stood for years, was in dire need of repair. In addition to the soaring and intricately carved façade, there are spectacular carvings on the cedar balconies that hang above the front door. On the palace interior, light filtering through stained glass windows falls softly on marble staircases that are lined with duel wooden balconies. With its regal—almost museum-like—quality, it’s hard to imagine that anyone is actually fortunate enough to live in the palace, which is still the home of Lima’s Archbishop and holds offices for the Cardinal of Peru.

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Larcomar (Centro Comercial Larcomar)
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With its atmospheric location on the Miraflores waterfront and an unbeatable selection of shops, restaurants and entertainment, the Larcomar Shopping Center is one of Lima’s premier shopping destinations. The newest and most fashionable of Lima’s modern shopping malls, Larcomar is notable not only for its range of stores, but for its dramatic architecture and unique setting. Built into the coastal cliffs and offering expansive views along the Costa Verde beaches, the mall’s sweeping canopies and futuristic curves were designed to mimic the surrounding rock formations and even the interiors are unique, with its open-air terraces, market area and food court maintaining a village-like feel.

Shopaholics will be in their element at Larcomar, but along with over 160 shops and boutiques, the shopping center is also home to a multiplex cinema, bowling alley, and amusement arcade, as well as a number of hip bars and discotheques.

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Municipal Palace (City Hall of Lima)
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When walking around Lima’s Plaza de Armas (which is also called the Plaza Mayor), you’re walking where Pizarro established the city in 1535. Though many of the buildings would ultimately succumb to earthquakes, fire, and wear, there are those like the opulent Municipal Palace that were fantastically rebuilt and restored. Built in a neo-classical style with a French Renaissance influence, the current Municipal Palace building dates back to 1944. Its pale yellow exterior with white trim is a staple of the Plaza de Armas, and the symmetrical marble staircases inside offer a setting that’s fit for kings. When wandering around the Plaza de Armas, step inside for a free peek at Lima’s regal history, and in addition to the exquisitely vintage architecture, the palace also houses an impressive library with 15,000 titles—notable of which is a copy of Peru’s Declaration of Independence.

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Pedro de Osma Museum (Museo Pedro de Osma)
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Originally founded in 1948 to showcase the vast private collection of aristocrat Pedro de Osma Gildemeister, the Museo Pedro de Osna took on its current name in 1987 and has since earned itself a reputation as one of the city’s most intriguing museums. Located in the Barranco district of Lima, close to the Bridge of Sighs, the museum is housed in the ornate Palacio de Osma, a stately mansion encircled by landscaped gardens and decked out with intricate wood inlay floors, hand-painted frescos and exquisite stained-glass windows. The permanent collection of the Museo Pedro de Osna includes an array of Peruvian art, sculptures, colonial furnishings and silverware, spread throughout a series of richly decorated theme rooms.

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Santiago de Surco
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Between bohemian Barranco, glitzy Miraflores, and the coastal streets of Chorillos, the Surco district is a part of Lima that few visitors see. Located well off of the tourist trail—though physically not far away—Surco is stocked with universities and hundreds of manicured gardens. It’s a place that was heavily looted and destroyed in the War of the Pacific with Chile, and a place where locals gather in droves in the green oasis of the parks. Take a stroll through the Surco district’s very own Plaza Mayor, which is punctuated by the baroque Iglesia Santo Apostol rising up from the square. While there aren’t a lot of formal sights, Surco becomes a sight unto itself whenever it hosts a festival. The Vendimia festival in the second week of March is an ode to the district’s wine harvest, when downtown Surco becomes festively punchdrunk on music, drinking, and song.

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More Things to Do in Lima

Dédalo Arte y Artesanía

Dédalo Arte y Artesanía

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If it isn’t a vacation until you go shopping, Dedalo Market in the Barranco district will make the visit official. Here at this bohemian, coastal plaza, visitors can find everything from designer jewelry to contemporary Peruvian art. The items you’ll find at Dedalo Market are different than you might find in Cuzco, and there isn’t as much Incan or “traditional” heritage at this finer, higher-end market. Instead, shelves are filled with colorful blown glass and handmade ceramic bowls, or elegant wood and stone carvings you’d use to decorate a home. Prices are fixed at most of the stores and the setting is modern and comfortable, so there isn’t the haggling or pressure to buy that accompanies goods on the street. To take a break from the souvenir hunt, relax at the small coffee shop on the plaza’s inside patio, or cross the street for a view of the coast and the smell of salt on the breeze.

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Jockey Plaza

Jockey Plaza

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Lima is inarguably the best shopping city in Peru, and Jockey Plaza is its biggest, newest and best shopping mall. The American-style shopping complex offers a mix of small boutiques and international brands, like Puma, Carolina Herrera, Nike, Zara and Brooks Brothers (among others), as well as some South American department stores, like Falabella and Ripley.

While the layout is a bit confusing, the mall has ample outdoor areas with seating, making it a nice place to spend an afternoon, even if you’re not buying. Non-shoppers will also find a sizable Cinemark movie complex, a food court serving a variety of international and Peruvian options and a small theme park for young children.

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National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History

National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History

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When compared to cities like Trujillo and Cuzco with their wealth of archaeology, modern day Lima can sometimes seem like a city without a past. For what it lacks in ruins, however, it more than makes up for with its fascinating museums and collection of ancient artifacts. At the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History, visitors can easily spend 2-3 hours exploring the trove of artifacts. In fact, not only do the 100,000 artifacts comprise the largest collection in Peru, but seeing as the museum was first opened back in 1826, it’s also the oldest state run museum anywhere in Peru. During your stroll through Peruvian history, look at ceramics, arrowheads, and jewelry that date back thousands of years, and read through exhibits of the Spanish occupation that led to modern Peru. Browse through one of the world’s most important displays of traditional textile art, or ogle at over 15,000 human skeletal remains.

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Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

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The arid plains surrounding the small town of Nazca are detailed with South America’s most enigmatic sight, the extraordinary Nazca Lines.

Etched into more than 80km (50 miles) of rocky desert, and only properly appreciated from the air, the Nazca Lines are made up of more than 800 lines, 300 figures and 70 animal and plant outlines.

Creatures drawn here include monkeys measuring 90m (300 feet), lizards, spiders representing fertility, and an astronaut lookalike. Birds like the hummingbird, condor and flamingo represent summer and winter, and point exactly to where the sun rises and sets. The largest drawings measure 200m (660 feet) across.

There are a number of theories behind the lines and their construction - who made them, why and how? - but no one knows for sure, and they were only rediscovered in 1939.

One theory dates them to between 400 and 600 AD, believing that they were mapped as an astronomical calendar by early mathematicians.

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Ballestas Islands (Islas Ballestas)

Ballestas Islands (Islas Ballestas)

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Often called “the Peruvian Galapagos,” the Ballestas Islands are where savvy travelers can experience wildlife on a budget. Here, on these rocky islets about 90 minutes off the coast of Paracas, hundreds of sea lions lounge on rocks that are covered in thousands of birds, and the cost of visiting is a fraction of the cost of visiting the Galapagos in Ecuador. When approaching the eroded islands by sea, there are so many boobies, cormorants, and penguins resting on the rocky cliffs, the entire island seems to vibrate with the collective fidgeting of feathers. Humboldt penguins are another draw for visiting the Ballestas Islands, and these tuxedo-clad birds can only be found off the coast of Chile and Peru. While motoring out to the guano covered islands, keep an eye out for the Candelabra Geoglyph that’s etched into the hillside. At 595 feet in height, the mysterious, ancient, unexplained symbol can be seen 12 miles out to sea.

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Lima Cruise Port

Lima Cruise Port

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With roots dating back 10,000 years, Lima was once the richest and most important city in South America. Today, it boasts over eight-million residents and serves as a primary cruise port for trans-Pacific ships arriving from the Far East, as well as for cruise ships following the South American coastline.

How to Get to Lima

Your cruise ship will arrive at the Port of Callao, about seven miles from the center Lima. Taxis into the city are available at the port and are reasonably priced – the ride to the center should take around 30-45 minutes and cost around $15.

One Day in Lima Spend your morning exploring Peru’s colonial history in central Lima. The entire area, featuring long, wide streets in a grid-like design, is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Your starting point should be the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by the Lima Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace, City Hall and Government Palace.

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Palomino Island (Isla Palomino)

Palomino Island (Isla Palomino)

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Lima isn’t exactly a city you usually equate with wildlife. After all, this is the same country with the Amazon basin and its staggering biodiversity, so the thought of finding wildlife in the capital might seem a little bit strange. Believe it or not, however, there are a number of enthralling wildlife experiences that can be found right here in Lima—a city best known for its cosmopolitan and colonial sites on shore. Perhaps the best wildlife experience in Lima is visiting the Palomino Islands, a rocky collection of small islets off the coast of Callao. Step aboard a comfortable boat for a cruise to the offshore islands, where thousands of sea lions gather to swim and sun themselves on the rocks. If the water is calm enough and you’re feeling brave, take the plunge to swim with the sea lions as they flop and jump all around you.

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Park of the Reserve (Parque de la Reserva)

Park of the Reserve (Parque de la Reserva)

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With 8 hectares of neo-classical gardens and pagodas, dotted with ornamental sculptures, Parque de la Reserva is a welcome pocket of greenery, located on the cusp of downtown Lima. Although the park was laid out in 1929 to commemorate the civilian armies of the War of the Pacific, it wasn’t until 2007 that it became a feature on tourist itineraries, opening its hugely popular Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Mágico del Agua).

The dazzling new installation features thirteen individual fountains, each with cybernetic or interactive qualities that perform an impressive light and water show, using state-of-the-art lighting effects, lasers and choreography to music. Currently holding the record for the world’s largest fountain complex in a public park, the Magic Water Circuit is a ticketed, self-guided attraction that has quickly garnered acclaim as one of the country’s most unique spectacles.

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Huanano Falls (Catarata de Huanano)

Huanano Falls (Catarata de Huanano)

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Huanano Falls, located in San Jeronimo de Surco about two hours outside of Lima, is one of the most popular destinations near the capital for trekking and repelling. The trek to the waterfall begins in Surco and takes around one to two hours. Along the way, the well-marked trail passes a few stone ruins left by early settlers to the area.

Upon arrival at Huanano Falls, some trekkers chose to go for a swim at the base or simply relax and enjoy the view. But adrenaline junkies come here for the chance to repel down the 100-foot (30-meter) face of the waterfall.

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