Penned under our expert traveler series, this guest post is written by travel blogger, Rowena of A Nomad on the Loose. She spent four days hiking the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu. She will be your 48 hour travel guide to best things to do in Lima.
Lima is the gateway to Peru for many international travelers coming to the country, most of who only dip their toes in Peru’s capital before shuttling off to more popular regions such as the Andes and the Amazon. While Lima may not have an Eiffel Tower or Great Wall, it’s worth spending a day or two in the city, especially if you love food.
Here’s what to do and eat if you only have 48 hours in Lima, Peru’s capital.
48 hours in Lima | What to Do, See & Eat
The Larco Museum
If you’re in Peru to hike the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu as many tourists to Peru are, start your day at the Larco Museum. Located a 25-minute cab ride from Miraflores, this private collection of pre-Columbian Peruvian art is fascinating and provides invaluable context for all the Inca ruins you’ll likely visit. There’s a lot on the history and culture of pre-Inca Peruvian societies as well, and for those interested, there’s also a separate gallery on premise of pre-Columbian Peruvian erotic art.
The Larco Museum opens up its inventory room for visitors to explore, so don’t miss out on a backroom visit after you’re done with the main galleries. Location: Avenida Bolívar 1515, Pueblo Libre. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; admission is $11.50.
Eat at a Cevicherias
On your way back to Miraflores, stop to take a walk along the Pacific coastline and walk into one of the city’s many cevicherias for lunch. Most of the best cevicherias are open only for lunch, and popular ones will have sizable waits, so go early.
Three of the best spots in the city:
- La Red, Av. La Mar 391, Miraflores
- Chez Wong, Jr. Enrique León García 114, La Victoria)
- La Mar, Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores.
For those who don’t have the time to wait during the day or want good ceviche for dinner, a good choice is Punto Azul in Miraflores. Location: Calle San Martin 595
Next, head down to Parque Kennedy- a park honoring President John F. Kennedy- and enjoy an afternoon espresso and hang out with the wild cats. Dozens of wild cats roam around Parque Kennedy and are its most famous attraction. Some are more familiar with people while others prefer to be left alone. Location: Diagonal, Miraflores Lima 18, Peru
Complete your day with a nighttime visit to the Huaca Pucllana. The adobe and clay pyramid stands smack dab in Miraflores. Built roughly 1500 years ago, this pyramid was an important site for the Lima civilization that gave the Peruvian capital its name and stands in stark contrast to the modern buildings around it. Location: Calle General Borgoño 8 . Hours: Mon to Sun, 9AM-5PM, 7PM-10PM
Explore Lima’s Historical District
While Inca culture is the huge draw, you can’t ignore the influence colonialism had on the country. So spend day two in the Peruvian capital in its historical district. It’s easily accessible via Metropolitano buses that run throughout the city. Get off at the Jirón de la Unión stop.
Don’t be so busy rushing from landmark to landmark that you miss the people-watching. It’s one of the best parts of the historical center, especially on the weekends when more of the locals come out. There are often spontaneous singing performances and free-for-all dances, and you can join in if you wish. If you’re lucky, you may even encounter a local festival or parade. Food vendors are all over the place in the historical center, so create your own tasting tour of Peruvian snacks and sweets as you wander around.
Start in the main square, Plaza Mayor (also called Plaza de Armas) to tour the Cathedral of Lima and the Presidential Palace. At noon there’s an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony at the palace, so make sure to arrive a bit early to secure a solid spot.
Catacombs in the Basilica of San Francisco
Next walk down the side streets to the Basilica and Monastery of San Francisco. You’ll need to join a guided tour in order to see the monastery’s impressive library and its famous catacombs, but it’s well worth the 10 soles admission. Discovered in 1943, the catacombs have existed since 1808 and it’s estimated that 25,000 bodies are buried there. If you’re interested in seeing more religious sites, the Church of Santo Domingo is close by and a gorgeous and peaceful place to spend an hour.
Location: Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily, with tours (including the catacombs) approximately one hour; the entrance fee is about $2
Should you have the time or energy after your time in the historical district, walk down and explore the hip neighborhood of Barranco, which is just south of Miraflores. Or simply walk around and dip into the many shops and bars in Miraflores to have a relaxing night as your 48 hours in Lima comes to an end.
What to Eat in Lima
The gastronomic capital of South America, eating is in itself an activity in Lima. For those who have plenty of time to plan and the budget to splurge Lima has 3 spots on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list:
#3: Central, Miraflores
#5 Maido, Miraflores
#33 Astrid y Gaston, San Isidro (a neighborhood located north of Miraflores)
No worries if multiple dollar signs are out of your budget or if you can’t secure one of the few reservations available. Lima is full of amazing food at all price tiers.
You can’t leave the city without having some freshly prepared ceviche. Lima, the coastal city that it is, has some of the best ceviche in the country. Most of the best cevicherias are open only for lunch, and popular ones will have sizable waits, so go early. Three of the top spots in the city are La Red (Av. La Mar 391, Miraflores),Chez Wong (Jr. Enrique León García 114, La Victoria), and La Mar (Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores). For those who don’t have the time to wait during the day or want good ceviche for dinner, a good choice is Punto Azul in Miraflores (Calle San Martin 595).
Chifa (aka Peruvian Chinese food)
Another type of cuisine that’s super popular in Peru but may surprise many visitors is chifa, or Peruvian Chinese food. You can’t walk around Lima without seeing restaurants with the word “chifa” in the name. Chifa grew out of the native dishes of Cantonese workers who immigrated to Peru in the late 19th and early 20th century. As these new immigrants integrated Peruvian ingredients into their ancestral recipes, their dishes grew to become a distinct cuisine. Even lomo saltado, one of the most popular Peruvian dishes, is actually a chifa dish!
La Lucha sandwich
Those who are hungry but in a time crunch should try a La Lucha sandwich, which is basically a Peruvian Philly cheesesteak. The most popular one is at La Lucha Sangucheria Criolla, located across from Parque Kennedy, but they’re available at sangucherias across the city. The La Lucha sandwich makes for the perfect quick lunch or even an afternoon snack.
Other Must Try Dishes in Lima
Other delicious Peruvian choices include pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken); mazamorra morada (a purple corn pudding that you can buy from food carts across the city); and palta a la reina ( a Peruvian chicken salad that’s loaded with avocados and quickly became my favorite Peruvian dish!). And of course, if you drink, make sure to try the many variations of pisco sours while in Lima. My favorite was made with passion fruit juice.
Avocado lovers can rejoice with this Peruvian delight that packs an entire avocado in each plate of palta a la reina.
How to Get Around Lima
Within its various neighborhoods, Lima is quite walkable. However, you’ll most likely need a motorized form of transport to get between neighborhoods. Where it’s available, Lima’s Metropolitano is the most convenient way to get around. The bus system is cheap and safe, and because it runs in its own lane, it doesn’t get stuck in traffic as other vehicles would. Only one route has been completed, however, so there is a limit to where you can go with it.
Otherwise, taxis are easy to hail and relatively inexpensive, though many taxis roaming the streets of Lima are unofficial. Look for official ones with license numbers painted on the sides, especially at night or when traveling solo. Uber is also available if you’d prefer to pre-enter a destination and be able to track your ride.
Lastly, for the adventurous traveler who speaks at least conversational Spanish, Lima has a wide network of minibuses and vans that runs a variety of routes for cheap. Just wave down the bus you want; routes are typically posted on their windows. This phrase book-Spanish speaker didn’t attempt these buses but was told they can be a little chaotic, so be warned.
Where to Stay in Lima
Miraflores is by far the most popular district for travelers. While a little pricier, it’s convenient and safe. It’s a roughly one hour drive from the Jorge Chávez International Airport and costs around 60 Peruvian Nuevos Soles (PEN) for a taxi. Solo travelers may want to opt for the Airport Express Lima instead, which only costs 25 PEN to get to Miraflores.
There’s a wide selection of accommodation choices at all budget levels. A personal favorite is the Dazzler Lima, perfectly situated in Miraflores with large rooms and an amazing breakfast buffet featuring foods from different Peruvian regions. For those looking for a cheaper and cozier spot, Airbnb offers hotel-like amenities plus a living room and kitchen for around $30 USD a night.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
Most areas in Lima that tourists will visit are relatively safe, with few violent crimes. Some more off-the-beaten path landmarks will be in more fringe neighborhoods though, and most locals would suggest that tourists avoid areas such as Rimac and La Victoria at night or if traveling solo.
As with many places, pickpockets and other types of monetary theft are present in Lima. Be aware of your surroundings, limit the number of valuables on you, and avoid crowded areas. Be especially cautious with anything involving money. One popular scam is to ask tourists to help break a large bill, only to have the Good Samaritan tourist end up with counterfeit money.
Travel Essentials for Lima
|Recommended Essentials for Lima. Click to Shop.|
So if you’ve got limited time in Lima, make sure to fill up on good food and the dynamic history of the city before taking off for your next destination.
| Author’s Bio: Rowena Li is a San Francisco-based traveler who seeks places steeped in tradition and/or natural beauty. She shares the allure of the places she visits on A Nomad on the Loose, mixing history, opinions, and photos with practical logistical info. She’s currently traveling throughout Asia.|
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