Lima, the coastal capital of Peru lies on the country's arid Pacific coast. With a vibrant historic center, beautifully landscaped parks, a thriving food scene, and sweeping ocean views, Lima has something for everyone. Often used as a stepping stone to Cusco & the Sacred Valley, Lima has plenty to offer and should be a destination in its own right.
Despite its size, much of Lima is walkable, especially if you are staying in the Miraflores or Barranco neighborhoods, and is a great way to get out and explore the city. The public bus system is also fairly efficient and easy, as they have dedicated lanes on the freeways to speed things along. UBER is another easy and safe option readily available throughout the city.
WHERE TO STAY
1| Hotel de Autor II - Former Miraflores mansion turned charming & well-designed B&B within walking distance of all the sites in Miraflores. The rooms are generously sized and a gourmet breakfast is included.
2| Belmond Miraflores Park - As with all Belmond properties, the Belmond Miraflores exudes luxury and sophistication. The property sits right on the cliffs offering stunning views of the Lima coastline.
3| 3B Barranco - Hip and urban B&B in the trendy Barranco neighborhood with a friendly staff, clean rooms, and breakfast.
WHERE TO EAT
Considered the food mecca of South America, a visit to Lima is pure joy for a food lover. Not only can one find the staples of Peruvian cuisine: ceviche, lomo saltado, pisco sours, etc., but one can also enjoy a variety of international flavors such as sushi, chinese, italian, and even delicious San Francisco-esque breads. One month in Lima wasn't enough time to sample all the good eats the city has to offer, but here is my shortlist.
Photo by Erin Bozarth
1| El Pan de la Chola - My happy place in Lima. 4 months without a loaf of Tartine bread was slowly taking a toll on my well-being, and thus El Pan de la Chola bakery was a true lifesaver. Here you can purchase fresh loaves of bread and focaccia as well as a whole slew of pastries, cakes, and other goodies. For those who want to stay awhile there is a great selection of sandwiches and toasts in addition to coffee, pressed juices, and avocado toast (the greatest thing of all time). It gets quite busy on weekends between 9:30 and noon. (WiFi is available)
Photo by Stephanie De Schryver
2| Central - #5 in the world, a visit to Central is a sensory exploration of the ecosystems of Peru by acclaimed chef Virgilio Martinez. Each dish is created with ingredients found at a certain altitude, with the whole meal taking you from below sea level to almost 4000m above. Make a reservation well in advance (ie: months).
3| La Picanteria - Only open for lunch, Hector Solis' casual seafood eatery La Picanteria is a local favorite. Fish is sold by the weight and can be prepared in the method(s) of your choosing. Dishes are served family style on picnic tables with colorful plastic table cloths and an over-the-top chandelier hanging above you. The environment is lively and you will leave satiated and happy.
Photo by Michelle Henry
4| El Mercado by Rafael Osterling - Another lunch only spot by a Lima food alum, Mercado is a beautifully designed indoor/outdoor dining venue with beachy, coastal vibes. Order a few maracuya sours and work your way through the extensive menu, but be sure to try a ceviche or tiradito or two.
5| Salon de la felicidad - For a taste of Asia head to Barrio Chino near the historic center and pop into Salon de la Felicidad. Their menu is extensive and features Cantonese favorites, but be sure not miss their selection of Dim Sum (Chinese dumplings).
6| Chez Wong - Chef Javier Wong has basically become an institution in Lima, serving a simple fish-based menu from a room in his home. To start, Chef Wong pulls out a giant fish and quickly chops some cubes of fish, throws in some seasoning and citrus, and in seconds you have a refreshing and tasty ceviche in front of you. Next, a saltado (stir-fry) made with the same fish and some veggies, cooked up in his flaming wok. Although a bit pricey, the experience is well worth it. Be sure to make a reservation.
7| Rafael - Open for nearly two decades, this fine dining restaurant has withstood the test of time. Flavors span Peru, the Mediterranean, and a bit of Asia making for a unique, yet comforting meal. The homemade pastas are delicious!
8| Cosme - With a ceiling of multicolored recycled bottles, Cosme exudes cool. Dishes are ideal for sharing and mix Peruvian, Asian, and Italian flavors. Easy to walk in without a reservation.
9| Maido - Nikkei (Peruvian & Japanese fusion) cuisine at its best. Maido is #8 in the world and offers a few tasting menu options as well as a la carte options - highlights include the nigiri, the Cod Misoyaki, and Poda Ceviche. Make a reservation!
10| Ik - In a beautiful space full of wood elements and plant life is the brain child of Chef Ivan Kisic who tragically died before the restaurant opened. His brother Franco returned home from Spain and took over the reins, opening the restaurant with great reception from critics and diners. The Peruvian cuisine features many ingredients endemic to the Andes and can be enjoyed a la carte or with a tasting menu.
11| Amaz - Amazonian cuisine at its best. Portions are generous and meant to be shared, so bring a few friends. For the more adventurous there is a selection of dishes with unusual ingredients such as snakes and river snails. All the dishes cooked in banana leaves are wonderful!
12| Isolina Taberna Peruana - Located in the hipster chic neighborhoood of Barranco, Isolina takes up two floors in a former colonial house and serves up comida criolla. Some of the menu items may sound strange, but everything is delicious and portions are quite generous.
Photo by Lindsay Deutsch
13| Mayta - Known for their vast selection of pisco macerados (essentially pisco infused with fruits and herbs), Mayta's bar is one of the prettiest, with hundreds of glass bottles housing various colorful blends all lined up next to one another. The restaurant is visually stunning and serves both lunch and dinner - think Peruvian classics with a twist.
14| La Lucha - The best sandwich shop in Lima, conveniently located right on Parque Kennedy in the heart of Miraflores is always humming with activity. Grab a sanguche (sandwich) to go and people watch whilst eating it in the park.
15| Pardos - Polla a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) is a Peruvian staple, and this somewhat fast food joint does it best. Locations are scattered throughout the city and are great for groups.
16| La Fiorentina Gelateria - Gelato. Need I say more?
17| Al Toke Pez - Hole in the wall 5-seat counter joint that doles out some of the best ceviche in the city.
Photo by Brooke Fawcett
18| Gaston Acurio Restaurants - A worldwide ambassador of Peruvian cuisines, Gaston Acurio is likely the most famous and well-known Peruvian chef. Starting with his flagship fine dining Lima restaurant, Astrid y Gaston (named after himself and his wife), Gaston quickly rose to culinary fame. Since, he has opened a whole collection of restaurants worldwide, perhaps the most notable being the La Mar ceviche chain. Other Gaston Acurio restaurants in Lima include Panchita (Peruvian anticucheria), los Bachiche (Peruvian-Italian), Madam Tusan (chifa or Chinese-Peruvian), La Mar (ceviche), Tanta (Peruvian), Papachos (hamburgers), and more.
WHAT TO DO
Photo by Stephen Walsh
1| Explore the historic center of Lima, full of colonial architecture, the cathedral of Lima, and impressive plazas.
2| Walk (or run) the Miraflores cliffs on El Malecon and take in the sunset at the Lighthouse or at El Parque del Amor
3| Explore the boho-chic Barranco neighborhood. Make sure to pop into the Museo Mario Testino for a dose of fashion photography by one of Peru's greats and have an ice cream at Crem de la Crem.
4| Visit Museo Larco and its oddly erotic collection of pre-Colombian artifacts.
5| Paraglide off the cliffs and enjoy the sweeping coastal views.
6| Swim in the cool waters of the Pacific or catch a wave with a Surf lesson.
7| EAT. See above list for recommendations. Alternatively, to sample a few Peruvian favorites in a shorter time period, take a food tour with the Lima Gourmet Company.
8| Enjoy the fountain shows at the well-maintained and beautiful Parque Reserva. The park is open from 3pm-10pm daily.
9| Rent bikes and cruise down the coast.
WHAT TO PACK
Lima has a temperate tending to warm climate year-round and is one of the driest capitals in the world. Spring and summer clothing with a light jacket to throw on on cooler days is all you really need.