Parque Kennedy has become the symbol of how Lima and the country at large would like to present themselves.
Dive into the contemporary heart of Lima
When traveling to Peru, you will most likely stay in one of the several hotels located in the Miraflores district, a vibrant and thrilling area of contemporary Lima and allegedly one of the cores of the tourist boom in Peru. At the center of Miraflores, 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 limeños and travelers alike, and arguably the forefront of modern Lima. It is surrounded by a vast array of restaurants, cafes, shops, and about every other thing the capital of Peru could offer you. Visiting Parque Kennedy is therefore a must for any visitor.
Where is Parque Kennedy?
Parque Kennedy is located approximately 11 miles (18 km) away from Jorge Chávez International Airport and about 7 miles (11 km) from Lima’s colonial main square. It 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 coastal line and the 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. Parque Kennedy is accessible by bus, taxi, and car. Although, you might find parking to be exceedingly difficult and traffic during rush hours can be chaotic. Once you arrive, walking is the best way to get acquainted with your environment. Parque Kennedy is possibly one of the safest areas of Lima and you should feel free to wonder around its streets, theaters, street vendors, painters, and every other attraction.
Parque Kennedy occupies an area of approximately 240,000 square feet. As most main squares of Lima, the Parque Kennedy has a Roman Catholic temple – the Virgen Milagrosa Church – built in 1939, and it also hosts the Municipal Palace, headquarters of Miraflores’ local administration. Besides these buildings, the Parque Kennedy also hosts the Chabuca Granda Amphitheater, and a number of smaller mini-squares within where you can find everything from handcrafters and artisans to street food vendors. Of course, seemingly endless green areas and beautiful landscapes frame this entire infrastructure, making the Parque Kennedy visually attractive and environmentally friendly. In recent years the park has become the main station for Turibus, a city sightseeing service that connects several tourist spots throughout Lima – departing from and arriving at Parque Kennedy. Finally, the park has also become a natural shelter for dozens of cats and kittens, which harmlessly wander throughout the green areas, sharing the space with visitors who very often decide to adopt one.
A mini history lesson
Parque Kennedy is located at the very center of Miraflores, one of the main districts of Lima. Miraflores was founded only in 1856, though the area was known before that as a coastal balneary for Lima’s upper classes. By 1900, the area that the Parque Kennedy currently occupies was known as the Parque Central and was solely constituted of a Church and an open area. In the 1960s, the Parque Central became two separate public areas: the Parque 7 de Junio, commemorating one of the most important battles of Peruvian history and the National Flag day; and 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 also 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.
So much to do & see
Food is an essential part of urban environments in Peru, and street food has certainly nurtured 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. Although options are somewhat limited, you should feel free (and safe) to explore and try what vendors inside the park have to offer. Delicious butifarras (turkey breast and ham sandwiches topped with fresh chopped onions and lime juice), traditional Peruvian desserts (including the famous picarón, a donut made with pumpkin and sweet potato and served with honey), and refreshing chicha morada are only some of the options that you will find in the park. The municipal administration and public health department certify all these vendors and their products.
Besides food, other street vendors will offer you traditional handcrafts, alpaca products, and even some collectible antiquities.
Ever 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 becoming independent, 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 and bands, which otherwise would not find room for presenting their work. Most shows are free, but because of that the place tends to get overcrowded quickly – so consider yourself lucky if you manage to get a good spot. A monthly schedule of events is available here. 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 during the past couple of years Parque Kennedy has become a haven for cats. These days you can see several dozens of 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.
For the traveler
Surprisingly, there are no major hotels in the area immediately adjacent to Parque Kennedy. However, there are at least three backpacker alternatives for the budget visitor. Pariwana Backpacker Hostels at the corner of Larco Avenue and Bonilla Street; Flying Dog Hostel on Diez Canseco Street; and La Casa de los Sánchez on Diagonal Street. All are conveniently priced and require reservation in advance. Other major hotels, including the renowned Casa Andina Private Collection, are within a walking distance from the park.
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. Recommended places around Parque Kennedy include Haití, a historical, old-fashioned café famous for its aromatic coffee and wonderful omelets. If you are among those who like breakfasts at all times of the day, you might want to visit La Tiendecita Blanca, a Swiss restaurant that offers, among other things, a good number of cheese-based delicacies and delicious sandwiches. For Peruvian sandwiches, you would like to try La Lucha, a place that celebrates both Peruvian flavors and our love for bread. If you do not feel as hungry and are otherwise looking for a relaxed afternoon conversation over coffee and/or tea, Dédalo: Arte y Café offers a combination of good drinks and small art exhibitions. For a delightful dessert do not miss the Tienda D’Onofrio, a paradise for ice-cream lovers. For more detailed restaurant recommendations, be sure to check out our Lima Restaurants Guide.
Parque Kennedy also is a meeting point for Peruvian youth and visitors at night. There are a good number of karaoke places, bars, and pubs. The area is also famous for the so-called Calle de las Pizzas (Pizza Street), a whole street that in fact does include a couple of pizza places but that also turns into a party boulevard after the sunset. Farther down on Diagonal Street, you can find a newly established 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, you will find the two main department stores in Lima: Saga Falabella and Ripley, respectively. If you are looking for jewelry in Lima, Joyería Murguía offers outstanding, world quality pieces of the finest jewelry and watches. For finding some top quality Peruvian leather, visit Renzo Costa: a prime store that offers almost anything that can be made out of leather. For budget clothes shopping, in case your luggage was lost upon arriving at Lima, you will be surprised about what you can find at La Quinta.
At a glance
Location: Miraflores, approximately 10 miles from the airport
Busiest Times: 7:00 – 9:00 a.m., 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., and weekends
Shops: Saga Falabella, Ripley, La Quinta, and small street vendors
Banks, ATMs, and Money Exchange: Available around the park: GlobalNet, BCP, Scotiabank
Favorite Restaurants: Haití, La Lucha, La Tiendecita Blanca
Cafes and Bars: Dédalo, La Emolientería
Franchises & Fast Food: McDonalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Starbucks, Burger King, Bembos
Disabled facilities: Yes
Public Bathrooms: Available inside the park
Transportation: Parking limited, bus and taxi accessible. Also, Metropolitano is within walking distance.