Visiting Lima: What to see? Museums, monuments, attractions

Visiting Lima: What to see? Museums, monuments, tourist attractions

Although Machu Picchu is the most interesting monument in Peru, every foreign tourist must visit the capital of the country, Lima, at least for one day. The reason for this is prosaic - the local airport. Local Airport of Jorge Chávez operates international flights, including those from neighboring countries. And when you are in the capital of a country, it is worth visiting it, even if only for a tourist obligation, right? However, I would like to break this stereotypical thinking a bit and show you that in terms of monuments and attractions for visitors, Lima is not inferior to the largest European capitals such as London or Paris.

Well, maybe my comparison was a bit exaggerated, but this does not change the fact that you have to see Lima with your own eyes, and it is worth planning your visit carefully. In this post, I will tell you a bit about the history of the Peruvian capital, I will present some practical travel tips for getting around the city and accommodation, and at the end I will make a comprehensive overview of the most interesting sights of Lima.

Lima, Peru - History of the city

Lima - city history

The city was founded on January 18, 1535 by Francisco Pizzaro, a Spanish conquistador who was famous for destroying the Inca Empire. Initially, Lima was proudly called the "City of Kings" (Ciudad de los Reyes), but its inhabitants used the name Lima on a daily basis, which comes from the Kechuan word "limaq", meaning "the speaker" (or so modern linguists say). Initially, the city was a base for further conquests of Pizzaro and other conquistadors, but the convenient location attracted Spanish merchants, thanks to which Lima turned from a military camp into a sizeable trading city.

Numerous earthquakes left a scar on the history of the Peruvian capital - Lima lies at the junction of the South American plate and the Nazca plate, which makes local earthquakes almost as devastating as those in Japan. The most famous earthquake in the history of the city took place in 1687 - almost all buildings of Lima were destroyed, and the local port (and the entire neighborhood) lost its commercial importance. Fortunately, there is nothing to worry about now - the buildings in the Peruvian capital are built to withstand large seismic shocks, and the last significant earthquake occurred in 1940. If you are still feeling unconvinced, there is a detailed guide on how to behave during the quake on WikiHow.

Lima airport, Peru

How to get around in Lima? Cheap and safe accommodation

I have included general tips on the practical aspects of visiting the city in the travel guide to Peru, but here I will give you some practical details.

How to get from the airport to the center of Lima?

Jorge Chávez International Airport is very close to the city center, and there are many quite expensive but good hotels in its near areaa. Unfortunately, the local metro does not reach the place, and you should go to the city center either by relatively cheap taxis (as a standard, I advise you to be cautious - in Lima you can find a lot of scammers, and the rate is usually negotiated before the journey begins), or extremely cheap city buses.

Public transport and taxi

The second option is definitely more profitable in my opinion. Contrary to appearances, public transport in Peru is well developed, and buses from the airport to the city center run every few minutes during rush hours. When using the bus, it is worth remembering that most of the stops are on demand and you need to wave the driver a bit to make him decide to stop. A single trip ticket is 2 Peruvian salts (a bit more than 50 cents). For comparison - a taxi fare from the airport to the city center is approx. 30-60 sols (depending on the time of day, negotiated rate, etc.), so you can see with the naked eye what is more profitable. Buses have warnings to watch out for pickpockets, but otherwise public transport is safe.

Accommodations

In terms of accommodation, I will not write too much, I did it in a travel guide to Peru, but in short - if you want to visit Lima first of all, I advise a hotel outside the city center but located near the only metro line. Most of the monuments are located in the area of the old town, and wasting time on tiring bus commuting while you can using the fast and comfortable metro simply misses the point. I also boldly advise you to use AirBnB and coachsurfing - many of the capital's residents from the city center rent their flats / rooms to foreign tourists, and this way you can save some money.

Tourist attractions of Lima

Visiting the capital of Peru and the most interesting tourist attractions of Lima

Visiting the capital of Peru, Lima, and its most interesting tourist sights, I recommend starting with walking around the historic city center, which is inscribed on the UNESCO list. I don't know of a better way to get into the atmosphere of a visited city than a slow walk through the local old town.

Pizarra House (Casa de Pizarro), Lima, Peru

Historic center of Lima - what to see and visit?

The most important point of the old town is Plaza De Armas De Lima, where you can find the so-called Archbishop's Palace, which is an extremely magnificent seat of the local curia. The original building was built a few years after the city was founded, but at the end of the 19th century it was destroyed during anti-church protests. The reconstruction of the palace was undertaken by a descendant of Polish emigrants, Ricardo de Jaxa Małachowski. Next to the Archbishop's Palace there is an equally impressive City Cathedral (Catedral de Lima), and next to the square you can also find the historic building of the City Hall (Palacio Municipal de Lima) and the so-called Pizarra House (Casa de Pizarro), where the President of the State resides together with the Peruvian Council of Ministers.

Plaza de Armas, Lima

In fact, each of these three buildings houses some kind of museum or exhibition - I found the interior of the City Cathedral particularly interesting, which reminded me of St. Mary's Church in Cracow in terms of the richness of sacred art. There are dozens of tombs in the temple, including the most important Tomb of Pizarro, the founder of Lima. Unfortunately, the nearby House of Pizarra can only be visited by tourists on selected days during the official foreign trips of the president, etc. Nevertheless, it is worth going to the presidential palace and seeing the ceremonial changing of the guard, which is carried out with pomp and pathos even greater than the London Queen's Guard.

There are numerous churches, monasteries and basilicas in the area around Plaza De Armas De Lima. It is true that they cannot boast of the splendor of the City Cathedral, but personally I like inconspicuous places such as the Basilica of Santo Domingo (Convento de Santo Domingo) standing off the beaten track of the Pizarro House, and the Basilica of St. Peter (Iglesia de San Pedro) in the southern part of the old town. Visiting all the local churches is a day-long activity, so if you like sacred art, you may feel warned!

City Cathedral (Catedral de Lima)

The old town of Lima - the most interesting museums

There are several interesting, smaller museums in the old town, although the most interesting ones are scattered throughout the other districts of Lima. In addition to the Archbishop's Palace and the City Hall, inside which there is an exhibition of the works of the Peruvian painter Pancho Fierro, there are several historic houses from the 16th century open to the public, among which the archaeological site at the Bodega Quadra House (Museo de Sitio Bodega y Quadra). The place is small, but hellishly interesting to visit - a visit to this museum gives you a unique opportunity to enter the world of archaeological excavations on your own.

Museum of the Central Bank of Peru (Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú), Lima

Museum of the Central Bank of Peru (Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú)

I would like to encourage all enthusiasts of economics to visit the Museum of the Central Bank of Peru (Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú), where through an interesting, interactive exhibition you can learn about the history of the Peruvian sole, as well as learn details about printing (and counterfeiting) money. I recommend this attraction especially to fans of the Netflix "House of Paper" - the museum has various presses for the production of banknotes, so you can feel like one of the heroes of this series.

Museum of Minerals (Museo de Minerales)

In the are of the Peruvian headquarters of the central bank there is the Minerals Museum (Museo de Minerales), quite small but interesting, especially because of Lima's past, which is dominated by earthquakes and volcanic activity. The exhibition is in English, you can also borrow an English audio guide about Lima's geological history for a small fee of 3 soles. It may sound like boredom, but I can guarantee you that the museum's authorities did a great job and that you can watch the exhibition with real pleasure.

Museum of the Inquisition, Lima, Peru

Other museums in the old town of Lima

In the south-eastern part of the historical center of Lima, there are also two interesting, small museums - Museum of the Inquisition (Museo de la Inquisición y del Congreso) and the Numismatic Museum (Museo Numismático del Perú). I haven't been to any of them, so I won't recommend them for a personal experience, but both are often recommended in Lima travel guides and the feedback from tourists on Google Maps is overwhelmingly positive.

Finally, as a curiosity, right next to the Pizarra House is the Pisco Museum (Mudeo del Pisco), that is... a bar serving pisco, traditional Peruvian brandy based on fermented grapes. In the restaurant, you can try different varieties of pisco, but also learn something about the local traditions of distilling this drink.

Lima interesting places

Lima - what are the most interesting museums outside the city center?

Staying on the topic of museums, the Puebro Libre district is home to the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum (Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú), which houses a collection of almost 10,000 primitive skulls. It is true that during the tour you can only see a dozen of the most interesting exhibits, but it is still worth considering a visit.

AMANO, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Fabrics (Museo Textil Precolombino)

From other interesting places, you should visit the AMANO, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Fabrics (Museo Textil Precolombino). It was founded by... Japanese collector Yoshitaro Amano, who is fascinated by the art of Peruvian Indians. The fabrics are really beautiful, they resemble the Wawel (Cracow) tapestry collection - I would even say that they are even prettier!

Lima Art Museum (MALI) in Peru

Larco Museum (Museo Larco)

The Larco Museum (Museo Larco) has a similar character, cataloging various types of pre-Columbian art. Although "ordinary" sculptures or jewelry have their charm, the museum is famous for a huge collection of... Indian art on erotic topics. I recommend them to all those interested in this subject - the former inhabitants of Peru has definatelly an interesting imagination...

MALI (Lima Art Museum)

Modern art lovers should visit the MALI (Lima Art Museum), where you can find works of art from the pre-Columbian, colonial and modern era. MALI is huge, and I advise you to reserve at least four and a half hours for visiting it, especially since the museum authorities quite often create interesting temporary exhibitions (unfortunately additionally payable), devoted to, for example, Peruvian modern applied art (e.g. grafitti).

What else is worth visiting in Lima?

Of course, Lima does not only offer a continuous visit to its various museums. Therefore, in this part I will try to briefly tell you what else is worth visiting in Lima, Peru.

Viewpoint and Mount Cerro San Cristobal, Lima, Peru

Cerro San Cristobal Mountain

If you are looking for beautiful landscapes to take souvenir photos, consider climbing the iconic Cerro San Cristobal mountain, which offers an amazing view of Lima. There is quite a crowded trail to the top, but the hiking is not too tiring and should take about an hour. At the very top, there is a small (and free!) Museum dedicated to the history of Peruvian photography, a fairly expensive pub, and several viewpoints from which you can take great photos.

Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Mágico del Agua)

In the evening it is worth going to the Magic Water Circuit show (Circuito Mágico del Agua), where you can see artistic fountains show. I have to admit that it looks amazing and the adjective "magical" is indeed deserved - for a moment I had the impression of being the hero of one of Disney's fairy tales!

Ruins of the ancient Inca temples Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca

In the nearest area of the city, there are two pre-Columbian pyramid-shaped temple ruins that even predate the Inca era, called Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca. Though the ruins are not in the best condition today, it's hard to underestimate the sacrifice of their builders - temples must once have been enormous. It is a pity that the Lima authorities did not decide to open a museum in one of these locations, so if you want to learn something about the ruins, only the Spanish-language Wikipedia remains (here is the link to Huaca Pucllana, and here to Huaca Huallamarca), because there's not much information in English Wikipedia (I recommend translating Spanish version with a translator, although of course you can switch to English on the left at the bottom of page, although then you will get pages with much less content).

Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru

Lima Zoo (Parque de las Leyendas)

I also recommend the Lima Zoo (Parque de las Leyendas), which is probably the largest and best kept zoo in South America outside of Brazil. Personally, I do not like this form of entertainment, because I don't like animals being closed inside cages, but the Parque de las Leyendas is visited by crowds from all over Peru, and local residents highly recommend it to tourists.

More unusual tourist attractions of Lima

Finally, I would like to propose two quite unusual attractions while visiting Lima. First of all, the city has a well-developed bicycle infrastructure, and on site you can rent regular and electric bikes for a reasonable fee, both as part of an independent tour of the capital's monuments and in the form of an organized bicycle tour with an English guide. You can find an example of that kind of an offer here. Of course, this form of visiting Lima has its drawbacks (it can be extremely hot in the city, and cycling, however, is tiring in the long run), but for regular cyclists it can be just fine, especially since the prices are not that bad (about $32 for a few hours trip with a bike and a guide is not a bad price in my opinion).

Local Peña Music Clubs, Lima, Peru

Local Peña Music Clubs

In the evening you can visit one of the many so-called peña music club, i.e. local pubs with food, alcohol and, above all, dance performances and folk music in the style of nueva canción (more about which you can read here). Peña music clubs are an important meeting place for Peruvians, similar to British pubs or Czech beer taverns. Food in these places is usually quite expensive, but you can buy quite cheap beer, pisco or Peruvian wine on the spot and go ahead and dance for a few hours in the atmosphere of a fiesta. Peruvians generally do not mind tourists, so if you stay in a good neighborhood of Lima and you don't end up in some extremely unfriendly place while adhering to the safety rules (keeping an eye on drinks, etc.), then you don't have to worry.

Summary

I hope you will find this travel guide to the most important tourist attractions of Lima, interesting places, monuments, and information about what to see in the city will be useful for you. I would like to wish you an unforgettable experience from visiting the Peruvian capital and encourage you to use my Peru travel blog, which will help you cheap and safe travel.

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!


4.86 | 7 votes
Comments: 1
  •   6th August 2020, 15:47

    Lima is a fantastic city in General in Peru, I really liked it and I regret that I was not able to stay there longer. This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Lima to przepiękne miasto, ogólnie Peru bardzo mi się podobało i żałuję, że nie udało mi się zostać tam na dłużej.

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