Tour Lima like a local during your layover to Cusco and discover the heart of this underappreciated city.
Lima has been in the spotlight lately with the success of the annual culinary festival Mistura in September and residents already gearing up for the art festival in October, Semana de Lima. For the second year in a row, downtown Lima will be turned into a huge art installation with five main projects erected in the city’s most historic plazas from October 22nd through November 1st.
These festivals are just temporary exhibits, but they also indicate to the world what Peruvians have known for a long time— Lima is truly blossoming and becoming an important center for the arts and culture in South America.
If you are planning a trip to Cusco, a Machu Picchu tour, or a trek through the Sacred Valley, chances are at some point or another you will land in Lima. Unfortunately, most people who pass through often miss out on the rich cultural life which makes the city a favorite among locals and expatriates. That’s because Lima is similar to a ruin— you can walk right by it and unless it has been uncovered for you, you won’t see its true beauty.
Those of us who live in Lima and have the time to dig a little are rewarded with a burgeoning city with excellent and varied nightlife, delicious innovative cuisine, and a lively art scene. You probably won’t have the time to discover the hidden treasures yourself, so we have done the research for you. Here are the must-sees and must-dos on a Lima tour if you are interested in learning about the contemporary culture.
Literary and Art Scene
There is no better way to discover the art scene in Lima than by taking a leisurely stroll through the famed bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, home to many of the city’s writers and artists. Travelers can take a taxi or a combi (small bus) to Barranco, but it’s much nicer to walk.
From your hotel in Miraflores you can head down Larco Avenue to Larcomar, a cliffside mall with excellent vistas, to enjoy unparalleled views of the Pacific. From here, follow the bluffs via the Malecon, to Barranco. This charming neighborhood is filled with old pastel-colored estates, and artists’ galleries.
Head to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s house to see where this world famous novelist spends his days, before exploring some of the nearby galleries. The best place to visit is Dédalo, an artisans’ collective housed in an old mansion where each room offers different types of crafts. Shoppers can find lamps, leatherwork, clothing, and jewelry from close to 1,000 artists. There’s no pressure to buy and a café in the back serves wine, coffee, and tea if you want a snack. Also nearby is Lucia de la Puente gallery which has contemporary art exhibits that change monthly.
After you visit the galleries, pick up a copy of Etiqueta Negra and relax in the pleasant palm filled plaza while you peruse its pages. Etiqueta Negra is a nonfiction literary magazine published in Lima and argued to be the best contemporary literary magazine from South America. Established in 2002, this magazine has featured some of the best work from the finest artists and writers throughout the world. Some names you may recognize are Mario Vargas Llosa, Susan Orlean, Jaime Bayly, and Daniel Alarcon.
Pick up any gourmet magazine and you are bound to hear some mention of Peruvian cuisine. From its world class seafood, dangerously delicious cocktail the pisco sour, and award winning chefs, Peruvian delicacies are on the tips of gourmand’s tongues.
If you are in Lima on a weekday, the best place to try Peruvian cuisine is either the Surquillo food market on the edge of Miraflores, or in Barranco’s main plaza for lunch.
Chefs set up food stands and prepare homemade dishes like anticuchos (marinated beef heart kebobs cooked over open flame), aji de gallina (chicken covered in a creamy spiced sauce and served with rice and potatoes), and lomo saltado (sautéed beef and vegetables served with rice). All these dishes are under 12 soles (roughly $4) at the markets and you can get pisco sours for 5 soles (roughly $1.80). If you are in Lima on a weekday check out Sankuay, a restaurant renowned for its ceviche. Another option is to take a guided tour of the best restaurants in Lima with Peru For Less.
Some of the most accessible nightlife and music venues in Lima are in Miraflores and Barranco. Whether you want to hear some local musicians play instruments in the peñas, relax and listen to talented jazz musicians, dance with the bohemian crowd, or rub elbows with the young and beautiful, Lima has something for everyone.
In Barranco, one of the best informal peñas is Manos Morenas, a criollo restaurant with great food and a lively show. La Noche, also in Barranco, is probably the best place to catch some great local live acts. It has a casual atmosphere with an outdoor terrace and an indoor dance-floor.
On Mondays there is excellent jazz and no cover. For an older crowd, head to La Estación de Barranco Pedro de Osma for criollo music. The Jazz Zone in Miraflores has live jazz most evenings and a mature crowd. Other great options for live music in Miraflores are Pasaje El Suche and Satchmo.
If you are looking for a one of a kind piece from Lima´s best designers, head to either Avenida Conquistadores in San Isidro for high-end fashion, or to Calle Berlin in Miraflores for more bohemian inspired pieces. Avenida Conquistadores has boutiques from famous Peruvian designers Gerardo Privet and Viviane Fiedler, and nearby shoppers can find the designs of Vanessa Dellepiane and Ani Alvarez.
If you head to San Isidro don’t miss the nearby Olivar de San Isidro, a grove of twisted and gnarled olive trees over two centuries old. On Calle Berlin in Miraflores shoppers can find little shops selling vintage clothes and handmade pieces by local up and coming designers. La Pulga is the best place to pick up a designer-made item for under $50.
For more information about what to do in Lima, contact one of our Travel Advisors who can customize a Peru vacation for you based on your interests.
Challen is a contributing writer for our travel blog.