At the center of Lima’s Miraflores district, you will find what has become the unofficial main square of Lima, curiously named after an American President. Parque Kennedy is the point of convergence of both locals and travelers alike, and arguably the forefront of modern Lima.
Surrounded by a vast array of restaurants, cafes, shops, and about every other thing the capital of Peru could offer you, checking out Parque Kennedy is a must for any visitor.
We updated this popular blog on September 2019, so that it may continue to be a useful reference for travelers like you.
Parque Kennedy Overview
Parque Kennedy occupies an area of approximately 240,000 square feet. As most main squares of Lima, Parque Kennedy has a Roman Catholic temple – the Virgen Milagrosa Church – built in 1939, and also hosts the Municipal Palace, headquarters of Miraflores’ local administration. The Chabuca Granda Amphitheater and a number of smaller mini-squares within are where you can find everything from handcrafts and artisans to street food vendors.
Colorful flower beds frame the park and tall trees add to the park’s beauty.
Curiously, Parque Kennedy has become a natural shelter for dozens of friendly cats and kittens, which wander throughout the green areas, sharing the space with visitors who very often decide to adopt one.
In recent years the park has also become the main station for Mirabus, a city sightseeing service that connects several tourist spots throughout Lima – departing from and arriving at Parque Kennedy.
The Park’s History
Parque Kennedy is located at the very center of Miraflores, one of the main districts of Lima. Miraflores was founded in 1856, though the area was known before that as a coastal locality for Lima’s upper classes. By 1900, the area that Parque Kennedy currently occupies was known as Parque Central and was solely filled by a church and an open area.
In the 1960s, Parque Central became two separate public areas:
- (1) The Parque 7 de Junio, commemorating one of the most important battles of Peruvian history and the National Flag day.
- And (2) Parque Kennedy, honoring President John F. Kennedy and the role that the Alliance for Progress played during mid-century Peru. Although the park’s official name is Parque Central, most people refer to it by the name of the largest area – Parque Kennedy.
Parque Kennedy suffered the daunting years of civil conflict during the 1980s and 1990s in Peru. Since the return to democracy, after the collapse of Fujimori’s regime and the recovery of the country’s stability, Parque Kennedy has become the symbol of how Lima and the country at large would like to present themselves.
What To Do & See
A visit to Parque Kennedy brings the opportunity to experience the following attractions.
Food is an essential part of urban environments in Peru, and street food has been part of the culinary boom observed internationally. Yet for visitors it is often risky to try some of the street delicacies available in Lima. That is not the case as far as Parque Kennedy’s street food is concerned. The municipal administration and public health department certify all these vendors and their products.
Although options are somewhat limited, you should feel free (and safe) to try what vendors inside the park have to offer.
Popular Food Sold By Street Vendors
- Delicious butifarras are turkey breast and ham sandwiches topped with fresh chopped onions and lime juice.
- Picarónes are a traditional Peruvian dessert. It kind of resembles a fried doughnut, its dough prepared from sweet potato flour, and then drizzled with honey for extra sweetness.
- Refreshing chicha morada is a juice made from purple corn and flavored with cloves, cinnamon, and sugar.
Since the early nineteenth century, popular paintings and street art have been an essential aspect of Lima’s cultural scene. Back in the years when Peru was seeking its independence, a painter named Pancho Fierro (1810-1879) – allegedly of African descent – used watercolors to portray a vivid image of Lima’s daily life in years of social turmoil. The result was a quintessential expression of what later became known as Costumbrismo: a visual interpretation of day-to-day practices.
When visiting Parque Kennedy you will find some of the inheritors of Pancho Fierro’s talent: popular painters permanently observing, interpreting, and pictorially portraying their urban surroundings. While many of them follow a formulaic aesthetic that intends to sell well among tourists, some are daring enough to escape such rule and venture themselves into becoming twenty-first century costumbrista painters. A careful look at their art is definitely worth your time.
Amphitheater Chabuca Granda
One of Lima’s most deeply rooted legacies is the ideal of Criollismo, a largely political project that intended to formulate the notion of a racial democracy in Peru by promoting a somewhat Hispanophile feeling of racial, social, and – most importantly – cultural miscegenation.
Chabuca Granda (1920-1982), a Huancayo-born singer and composer, ranks among the top symbols of Criollismo. Her song “La Flor de la Canela” is a sort of parallel national anthem for limeños. Miraflores built and named an amphitheater after her, honoring her musical and cultural legacy while also creating a space for future generations of artists.
The amphitheater typically hosts shows of young artists, dancers and bands, which otherwise would not find room for presenting their work. Most shows are free and the space tends to get overcrowded quickly – so consider yourself lucky if you manage to get a good spot. A monthly schedule of events is available on the website of the Municipality of Miraflores. When not used by artists, people stop here to enjoy a nice day outside, sitting down to eat a quick snack, or just simply taking five before continuing a demanding work day.
No one knows how it originally started, but Parque Kennedy has become a haven for cats. These days you can see several dozens of friendly cats walking around the park, climbing on the trees, and otherwise sharing the space with locals and visitors.
While this might sound unhealthy, you should rest assured the municipality has already properly sterilized most of these cats – except probably for the latecomers – and carries a very detailed account of the number of these little fellows and their sanitary conditions. More importantly, cat lovers have founded an association to care and defend the rights of these felines as well as to supervise the adoption process in case someone is interested in taking one of them home.
Where To Grab A Bite To Eat
Around the Parque Kennedy you can find pretty much everything you may need, want, or crave: from fairly well known American chain restaurants to Peruvian gourmet places.
Here are a few recommended places around Parque Kennedy to grab a casual bite to eat: (1) Haití (Av. Diagonal 160, Miraflores), a historical, old-fashioned café famous for its aromatic coffee and wonderful omelets. (2) If you are among those who like breakfasts at all times of the day, you might want to visit La Tiendecita Blanca (Av. Jose Larco 111, Miraflores), a Swiss restaurant that offers, among other things, a good number of cheese-based delicacies and delicious sandwiches. (3) For Peruvian sandwiches, you can try La Lucha (Av. Diagonal 308, Miraflores), a place that celebrates both Peruvian flavors and our love for bread.
Bars & Entertainment
Parque Kennedy also is a meeting point for Peruvian youth and visitors at night. There are a number of karaoke places, bars, and pubs. Check out Barbarian for a taste of artisanal beer brewed in Lima. Further down on Av. Diagonal, you can find a bar named La Emolientería, Gastón Acurio’s latest flimflam proposal of bringing popular traditions upfront with a hype twist.
Shopping is another main activity when visiting and walking around Parque Kennedy. On both ends, north and south, there are two main department stores in Lima: Saga Falabella and Ripley, respectively. If you are looking for jewelry in Lima, Joyería Murguía offers quality pieces of the finest jewelry and watches. For top quality Peruvian leather, visit Renzo Costa: a prime store that offers almost anything that can be made out of leather.
At a Glance
Location: Parque Kennedy lays at the intersection of three main avenues of Miraflores: Manuel Pardo, José Larco, and Diagonal. It is less than a mile away from the city’s coastal area known as Malecón Cisneros and about a mile away from Lima’s main highway, the Paseo de la República, through which Lima’s official bus system – the Metropolitano – transits.
Busiest Times: 7:00 – 9:00am , 6:00 – 9:00pm, and weekends
Shops: Saga Falabella, Ripley, and small street vendors
Banks, ATMs, and Money Exchange Available Around the Park: GlobalNet, BCP, Scotiabank
Favorite Restaurants & Bars: Haití, La Lucha, La Tiendecita Blanca, Barbarian, and La Emolientería
Franchises & Fast Food: McDonalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Starbucks, Burger King, and Bembos
Transportation: Parking limited, bus and taxi accessible. Also, Metropolitano is within walking distance.
We hope you make the most of your stay in Lima and have fun visiting Parque Kennedy. For help customizing you trip itinerary, contact Peru for Less.
Former guide with Peru for Less and now professor of Latin American and Latino/a Studies at a college in the United States, Javier contributes his endless knowledge of Peru’s past and present.