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Lima is the capital of Peru and is located on a desert strip overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is the second-largest desert city in the world, following Cairo in Egypt. Lima was founded in 1535 by the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro on the Catholic holiday of Epiphany when the Three Kings visited baby Jesus. This is the reason why Lima is known as the City of Kings.
I visited Lima, Peru with a jam-packed itinerary, including swimming with wild sea lions at Palomino Islands and exploring the capital during political unrest. Check out my must-do’s in Lima, Peru:
Plaza de Armas de Lima
Plaza de Armas is located in the historic district of Lima and houses the Government Palace, Cathedral, and Presidential Palace. It is the heart of the historic Lima district – Peru’s independence from Spain was declared in this square in 1821.
The historic district of Lima was shut down to vehicles during my visit due to the potential for riots. The former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, was incarcerated for mass murder and corruption and was released from prison in a sudden decision from the Constitutional Court on March 17, 2022.
Police in full riot gear lined the streets throughout the district but rather than fear filling the streets, locals were practicing traditional dance for upcoming festivities, people gathered for peaceful protests, and the lack of vehicles allowed for an enjoyable day to explore the city. Not once did I have concerns over my safety and the hundreds of police that were present were extremely friendly, fist-pumping the little kids that walked by and giving a warm smile to anyone that locked eyes.
Address: Plaza central Lima, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Government Palace of Peru
The Government Palace of Peru, also known as Palacio de Gobierno, is located at Plaza de Armas and is the official residence of the Peruvian president. It was built in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro but because of frequent earthquakes and fires, it has been rebuilt and remodeled several times.
Changing of the guards occurs outside the Presidential Palace at noon each day and is accompanied by a musical performance. Unfortunately, because the historic district was shut down, the changing of the guards did not occur the day I visited for safety reasons.
Address: Jirón de la Unión s/n, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Need to know: It is said that Palacio de Gobierno is open to the public but requires an appointment. To make an appointment, call +51-(0)1-311-3908.
Cathedral of Lima
The Cathedral of Lima is a Roman Catholic cathedral located at the southeast corner of Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima. Construction began on the cathedral in 1535 and was not completed until 1649. Over the years, the cathedral has been rebuilt several times due to earthquake damage and remnants of each time period can be seen within the cathedral.
Cost: 10 soles (About USD 2.50)
Address: Jirón Carabaya, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Need to know: Be sure to visit the crypt downstairs.
Convento de Santo Domingo
The oldest Convent in South America that during the 17th century had the tallest tower on the continent.
Cost: Free to enter the church. Museum and Convent entry is 15 soles (About USD 4)
Address: Jirón Camaná 170, Jirón Conde de Superunda 262, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Need to know: A guide is not mandatory.
Saint Francis Monastery (Basílica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima)
Saint Francis Monastery is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Historic District of Lima. The site contains a monastery, library, Catacombs, and the Archbishop’s Palace. The monastery was completed in 1674 and is a prime example of Spanish Baroque architecture. The library is famous for the over 25,000 antique texts it houses which include the first Spanish dictionary and a Holy Bible edition from 1571. This site contains Catacombs with an estimated 15,000 bodies. It served as a burial place until a city cemetery was opened in 1808. The Catacombs were forgotten until 1943 and it is believed that the site contains secret passageways. Lastly, the Archbishop’s Palace is the residence of Lima’s Archbishop.
Cost: 15 soles (About USD 4)
Address: Jirón Lampa, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Need to know: You may only tour the site with a guide. Guides are included with the entrance fee and include a visit to the catacombs.
Pasaje Santa Rosa
This street holds a sacred rock for the living natives. It is still used today for offerings to the Gods.
Address: Pje. Sta. Rosa, Cercado de Lima, Peru
Torre Tagle Palace
A couple of blocks east of Plaza de Armas is Torre Tagle Palace. It was built in 1735 for Jose Bernardo and became a symbol of style and wealth. This building is known for its intricate wooden carved balconies.
Address: Jirón Ucayali 363, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Need to know: Torre Tagle Palace is only open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 10 AM – 5 PM.
Plaza San Martin
Plaza San Martin is a central monument declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. The monument gives homage to José de San Martín, Peru’s liberator. The plaza is surrounded by ornate buildings and gardens.
Address: Av. Nicolás de Piérola, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
San Pedro Church (Iglesia de San Pedro)
Iglesia de San Pedro is a church located in the historic district built by the Jesuits and completed in 1638.
Address: Jirón Azangaro 451, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Jirón de la Unión
A popular pedestrian street with unique architecture and local music. The street has several restaurants and shopping options.
Address: Jirón de la Unión, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Palacio de Justicia (Palace of Justice)
The Palace of Justice is the seat of the Supreme Court in Peru. The building was inspired by the Justice Palace in Brussels and began construction in 1929, finishing in 1938. In the basement of the Justice Palace are prison cells. The Justice Palace isn’t open to the public but is absolutely worth seeing the outside.
Outside the Palace of Justice was a peaceful protest given the current political situation, along with hundreds of dancers practicing for upcoming events. Dozens of police in riot gear were present to ensure everything remained peaceful.
Address: Av Paseo de la República, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit at The Reserve Park)
The Reserve Park opened in 1929 in honor of those who fought in the Pacific War of 1881. The Magic Water Circuit is the largest fountain complex in the world, consisting of 13 unique and interactive fountains. The Magic Fountain is the largest of the 13 and shoots water over 262ft (80m).
Cost: 4 soles (About USD 1)
Address: Jr. Madre de Dios S/N, Cercado de Lima 15046, Peru
Need to know: Multimedia performances light up the fountains each night.
Huaca Pucllana (Pyramids)
Located in the Miraflores district of Lima, Huaca Pucllana is an ancient clay pyramid that dates from between 200-700 AD. The pyramid was built by a Pre-Incan indigenous tribe that was in the Lima area from roughly 100-650 AD. This tribe mastered the landscape, having the ability to create extensive networks of water that were carried from the springs and rivers to the town. Huaca Pucllana was most likely used for public meetings and ceremonial events dedicated to the God Pachacamac. Once the area was taken over by the Wari culture, the site became a significant burial site for the high ranks. It wasn’t until 2008 that the first intact tomb was discovered at Huaca Pucllana. It contained the remains of three people: two adults and a sacrificed child.
Cost: 15 soles (About USD 4)
Address: s/n, Ca. Gral. Borgoño cuadra 8, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Need to know: You may only tour the site with a guide. Guides are included with the entrance fee. Stop by early to select a tour time. Bring plenty of water and a hat – you absolutely feel the desert climate at Huaca Pucllana!
Swim with Sea Lions – Mar Adentro Excursiones
I reserved a spot with Mar Adentro Excursiones to swim with wild sea lions off the island of Palomino! The sea lions of Palomino Island have no natural predators and are very curious creatures, making them especially friendly. Thousands of sea lions call Palomino Island home.
From the Lima Marina Club, we took a speedboat navigating by Callao and San Lorenzo Islands, an area with a rich history and a popular spot where yachts anchor. Along the way to Palomino Island, we spotted Humboldt penguins and other native birds. Once we arrived at Palomino Island, we dressed in wet suits and jumped in the chilly water! We were told to float on our backs, with our feet stretched out in front of us, allowing the sea lions to make their way over to us.
Mar Adentro Excursiones was one of the biggest highlights of Lima, Peru for me and I highly recommend the tour. Even if you are not up to jumping in the water, there is so much wildlife to see from the boat.
Cost: 270 soles (About USD 72)
Address: La Mar 229, Callao 07021, Peru
Purchase Tickets: Available on Tripadvisor
Parque El Olivar
Parque El Olivar is a colonial olive tree plantation in the San Isidro district. The park was declared a National Monument in 1959 and is a valuable addition to the San Isidro district. The park contains over 1600 olive trees, some more than 400 years old.
Address: Constancio Bollar, San Isidro 15073, Peru
Parque Kennedy is the unofficial main square of Lima and is located in the Miraflores district. It is named after US President John F Kennedy and is about 5.5 acres. At the park is a Catholic Church built in 1939, a Municipal Palace for the headquarters of the Miraflores local government, and an Amphitheater. The park is filled with beautiful gardens and local vendors. The park is also a short walk to the Miraflores Boardwalk.
Address: Miraflores 15074, Peru
El Parque del Amor (Love Park)
Love Park is located in the Miraflores district which has a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean. It is located along the Miraflores Boardwalk and is famous for its large kissing sculpture.
Address: Malecón Cisneros Miraflores LIMA, Miraflores 18, Peru
Need to know: A highly recommended spot for sunsets.
The Miraflores Boardwalk is a coastal pathway that spans over 6 miles. It has incredible panoramic views of the ocean and the upscale Miraflores district. The boardwalk is the perfect place to at sunset. The views are incredible.
Address: Mal. de la Reserva 275, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Where to Stay
While reading about Lima, every resource I found listed Miraflores as the safest district in the city. I stayed at Atrium Miraflores Hotel for $37 a night (for two people, including breakfast).
Map of All Locations
Have you been to Lima? Comment your favorite place in the city!
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