All You Need to Know about Lima

Lima is one of the largest cities in South America. Every district has its own identity and charm, be it artsy Barraco, Lima´s Historic Centre, or upscale Miraflores with some stunning coastal views.

Miraflores is my favourite district. clean, safe, environmentally friendly, laced with great restaurants and varied entertainment attractions. The residents located in Miraflores are in general rich and educated, belonging to sector A (there are four sectors in Peru, D being the poorest and most populous). That fact obviously reflects itself in the cleanliness of the area, in the usage of city bikes, in the way people spend their Sundays (jogging and cycling along the beach or doing other sports) etc.

Miraflores is the only part of Lima that is agreed on as “safe” by basically anyone you ask. As for the historical downtown (Cercado de Lima and Rímac area) and artsy Barranco, opinions on safety differ. Generally, the locals would not advise you to stroll pass Mexico Street (or possibly even Canada Street). Yet, it is in the downtown where you find expensive hotels such as Sheraton and also some of the architectonic gems you might want to see, such as The Cathedral of Lima, The Archbishop´s Palace, Torre Tagle Palace, or the renowned balconies (there are about 1600 of them) that were built in the Viceroyalty era as well as in the Republic. In order to retain their conservation, the Municipality of Lima has invited individuals and companies to adopt a balcony to maintain it.

Anyone visiting Lima should definitely take a walk along the seaside promenade of Miraflores and Barranco. The upscale, stylish district of Miraflores also offers the Huaca Pucllana ruins, The Love Park, The Lighthouse, and paragliding. Yes! Walking along the promenade, you might end up seeing the city from above – for just 240 soles (with an instructor).

The district is interweaved with top star hotels and some of Lima´s best restaurants. Of the lavish choice, I have opted for the 5-Star, luxurious J&A Pardo Hotel (the Junior King Suite) and for the mid-range 3-Star Hotel Santa Cruz. Both are located just about a ten-minute walk from the famous Love Park and both well-correspond to their official ranking with the extra facilities provided, so the choice merely depends on your budget. 

J&A Pardo Hotel – 5-Star Luxurious

I made this choice especially since I was travelling with my partner and he was going to celebrate his birthday in Lima, so I was looking for privacy, comfort and a lively yet chilled atmosphere of the hotel quarter. Situated right in the heart of Miraflores, J&A Pardo Hotel enables you to go jogging along the beaches and enjoy some cool restaurants of international cuisine in the neighbourhood without the need to use a taxi. I loved the hotel gym which offers a view right over the Huaca Pucllana ruins and the adjacent lobby overlooking (with a 360° view) Miraflores where my partner and I enjoyed some evening drinks. The hotel provides a sauna too which offers perfect privacy and the terrace right next to it enables you to walk out for the relaxing time in between your sauning sessions to enjoy some fresh air. Our Junior King Suite was spacious, had a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a perfect, fast Wi-Fi connection and some essentials (cutlery etc.) in the dining part. The beds and beddings were extremely comfy so I slept like a baby, with no sound from the streets below disturbing. The hotel surprised us with a cake on the day of my partner’s birthday, which was truly thoughtful.

To see the video from the hotel and its surroundings, please click HERE.

Hotel Santa Cruz – 3-Star Mid-Range

Though just a 3-Star hotel with a double room available for 150 soles (so merely 75 soles per person), the rooms are cosy, the blankets warm, there is hot water both in the shower and in the sink tap in the bathroom (which is not always so in Peru in mid-range hotels), air-con and heater are present (so you can use any depending on the season you arrive in) and the hotel provides a restaurant with a bar where we enjoyed some chilcanos one night which were really good (the bar is open until 1 am which is great as it allows you to have a late night cap). I really enjoyed the fact that there is a room-service breakfast available, so the breakfast is brought by the hotel staff upon a phone call (and is included in the price of the room). Both my partner and I found the staff extremely helpful in every single respect, when we needed more clothes hangers (I do not always travel light), a bulb change, a help with a personal item delivery which arrived when we were having lunch out, and much more. The staff was always ready to help out. I could practise yoga in the room as it was big enough and the hotel staff also allowed me to practise in the hotel lobby in the evenings which they cleaned spic and span just so I would feel comfortable with placing my mat down on the floor. We were allowed to park our car at the hotel premises free of charge.

To see the video from the hotel and its surroundings, please click HERE.

Where to Eat in Lima

As a yogini, of course, I enjoy the dishes of Indian cuisine. One of my favourite Indian restaurants in Lima is Zaika, situated about a five-minute walk from J&A Pardo Hotel. Another good one is Dhaasu in Barranco.

If you enjoy eating good quality meat, make your way to San Isidro (another lovely district in Lima, see below) and the Carniceria Osso. They also have amazing artisanal salads (in case you´re a vegetarian but want to be nice to your company who simply loves meat). There is just one minus – the portions should be bigger as the amount of food you get (especially the salad) by no means corresponds to the price (sometimes overrated).

Lima is renowned for its Nikkei, the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food which is starting to sweep the globe. I honestly love the Hanzo restaurant at San Isidro. Just a few blocks away from the restaurant, you find the Super Nikkei food shop where you can get the ingredients to cook your own nikkei (or just Japanese) food which is healthy and tasty. And one certainly needs to try out Maido, a regular on The World’s 50 Best list.

In the district of San Borja you encounter (except for a lot of Chinese restaurants and interesting street food bistrots) a little gem: a Vietnamese food restaurant simply called Viet – A Taste of Vietnam. They might not have any webpage (just a very basic Facebook page), but their food is amazing and compares well to what I know from Hanoi (where I lived for some time, years ago).

Central Restaurante is a famous restaurant located in the Barranco District. It is the flagship restaurant of Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz and serves as his workshop in the investigation and integration of indigenous Peruvian ingredients into the restaurant’s menu.

What to Do and See in Miraflores

The stylish district of Miraflores offers the Huaca Pucllana ruins, the renowned boardwalk (malecón) which hugs the coast for almost 10 kilometres and opens up to stunning cliffside views overlooking the ocean, the Love Park, the Lighthouse, and paragliding. Yes! Walking along the promenade, you might end up seeing the city from above.

The pre-Inca clay and adobe pyramid of Huaca Pucllana represents an interesting contrast to the sleek, modern buildings which surround it. This site served as an important ceremonial centre for the Lima culture who lived in Peru’s coastal region between the years 200 and 700 AD.

The Love Park – Parque del Amor – is running along the beach promenade (which is truly splendid, as it is situated atop the cliffs, so you get some marvellous views over the bay of Lima) becomes packed on Sundays and at sunset. There is a strip of mosaic wall which might remind you of Gaudí Park in Barcelona and a famous statue called “El Beso” (The Kiss) by Victor Delfín. You can enjoy a pancake and juice in the small café right next to the statue.

Located at the promenade, Larcomar shopping centre is one of the most popular attractions that travellers visit when they are in Lima. Built into the side of the cliff and mostly underground, this mall makes for quite the sight. It has incredible views of the Pacific Ocean (and the paragliders) and is perfect to spend an afternoon shopping and enjoying the food offered in the many restaurants there, e.g. in the Ko Asian Kitchen.

Miraflores Central Park and Kennedy Park are two urban greens with paths and playgrounds where you can chill, people-watch, read a book or enjoy a picnic.

The Inca Market (products from the communities in the Andes mountains) and the Indian Market (products from the communities in the jungle) – a two-minute walk one from the other – are totally worth your attention if you like handmade, artisanal products and crafts. Here, you can get traditional textiles, jewellery, alpaca and llama scarves, shawls and clothes, handcrafted shoes, bags, the traditional music instruments, dream catchers and even Pisco, all for reasonable prices.

There are two surfer-friendly beaches (and several surfing schools) in the area: Makaha beach and Waikiki beach, both allegedly good for beginners.

Other Districts to See

From Larcomar, it is pretty close to continue walking to Bohemian Barranco, a quarter filled with street art and colourful buildings, colonial mansions which were turned into cool cafés and boutique bars. Barranco has been home to some of Peru’s and Latin America’s finest artists. It has gained a reputation of the Bohemian or hipster part of Lima, and it is in Barranco where you find the Bridge of Sighs and MATE museum that was founded by famous Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino. Located in a restored 19th century mansion, the museum exhibits the best of national and international contemporary art and photography. Sadly, due to the pandemic, the museum is (just like many other museums and galleries) closed.

While Miraflores is the heart of tourism in Lima, San Isidro is where you’ll likely stay if visiting on business as it is the financial hub of Lima and the home to the country’s top banks and largest companies’ headquarters. Amongst the quiet enclave of upper-class residential neighbourhoods (the district was designed on the American model of suburban-style houses featuring lawns and gardens), you find the Lima Golf Club, the Olive Grove Park – Bosque El Olivar (one of Lima’s largest green spaces featuring quiet ponds and 3, 000 olive trees) – and some luxuries shopping on Avenida Conquistadores. Just like in Miraflores, the public parks are litter-free, all spic and span, welcoming you to sit down on the manicured lawns.

Just as Miraflores features Huaca Pucllana, San Isidro offers the charming (especially at night) Huaca Huallamarca ruin, also known as Pan de Azúcar (Bread of Sugar). The pyramid served as a shrine and burial site 200 AD.

Some would say San Isidro is the only district which could threaten Miraflores in the dining category, but others disagree and claim it would more likely be Barranco; well, each to their own, but the famous Central Restaurante (which was also featured in Zac Efron´s Down to Earth) of the hot and sexy Virgilio Martínez Véliz is located in Barranco…

Lima´s Historic Centre which stretches from The Plaza de Armas to Plaza San Martín. If you like colonial architecture, it should definitely be on your list. 

La Molina is a district where the upper classes, including some politicians and celebrities, have found their homes. The surrounding hills, many green areas and two artificial lakes, Las Lagunas, have turned the district into a residential area for the richest part of the population. The streets are clean, the villas beautiful and the private schools are of high prestige. La Molina is also known to have more hours of sunshine per year than the other parts of the city.

La Punta del Callao is one of six districts that make up the Constitutional Province of Callao. It is located on a peninsula in the western part of the province and is almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, except on its eastern side, where it is bordered by Callao downtown. The smallest dictrict of Lima offers several pebble beaches, cool cafés, a lovely square with artisanal product markets and kids´ playgrounds. You can go on a boat trip to the islands offshore, e.g. the “Mysterious Island” of San Lorenzo, the Island of Death “El Frontón” or the Palomino Islands with their unique wildlife. Boats depart daily in the morning from the piers of La Punta or Callao. You need to book a tour in advance at one of the numerous travel agencies or at the tourist booth and the trips last for about 4 hours. Once in La Punta, you can walk to the Callao downtown to see the Real Felipe Fortress or the lovely Monumental Callao, where you find art galleries, design shops, graffiti art, great restaurants and varied cultural activities. 

Once place you surely need to see at night-time is Circuito Magico del Agua (Water Fountain Park). For just five soles you can enjoy the 19-acre (eight hectare) park with the series of 13 illuminated fountains and shows going on. Upon its construction in 2007, the Magic Water Circuit made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest water fountain complex in a public park. This shiny and fun place keep kids happy and bring quiet smiles to even the most cynical of adults – especially in the interactive water tunnel.

Know that there are free walking tours in Lima which depart every day (except for Sunday) at 10:15 from the Tourist Information Centre located in Miraflores. Though free, it is polite to pay a little contribution to the guide in the end of the tour. You could also go around Lima on one of Mirabus panoramic buses. Tours depart daily (day & night) from Parque Kennedy located in Miraflores.

Andhere is some of the Christmas decoration of 2023 in La Punta and Monumental Callao.

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