It was my first arrival point back into Latin America after almost a decade and I’ve got to say, Lima didn’t disappoint.
In fact, it far exceeded my expectations because, I have to admit, I was expecting a crime-ridden, dirty, dangerous place!
And I’m sure while Lima still has it sketchy parts, the vast majority of this city (at least the parts you’ll travel as a tourist) have seriously cleaned up their act.
This means visiting the capital is definitely one of the best things to do in Peru.
Yup, making the perfect entrance back to the land of Latin America, the Peruvian capital was the perfect landing spot and here I share 19 super things to do in Lima you can enjoy when you visit too.
My stay in Lima was kindly sponsored by La Unsha Hostel but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
To help you navigate this list of the best things to do in Lima, I’ve decided to split it into 3 geographical sections – namely Barranco, Miraflores and the UNESCO-listed historic centre.
These are the 3 suburbs I’d advise spending most / all your time in during your stay in the Peruvian capital and by grouping my list in this way, hopefully it will help you get around to see as much of this city as possible.
It’s also worth knowing that you can take free walking tours around all these districts with the great company Lima Walking Tour. Leaving daily from the Tourist Office on Avenida Jose Larco in Miraflores, their tours are conducted in both English and Spanish.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN LIMA
I’d recommend a stay of at least 2 days in Lima, which will give you enough time to explore all 3 districts of Miraflores, Barranco and the historic centre.
If you’re arriving from overseas into Lima, particularly from Europe as many travellers do, you may want to allow yourself an extra day (or more) to get over the jetlag and into the Latin way of life!
And if you’re wondering how long to spend in Peru in general, then check out my perfect Peru itinerary which will get you seeing all this country’s best bits easily.
Top Things to Do in Barranco, Lima
First up on this list of super things to do in Lima, I concentrate on the Barranco district, primarily because this is the best district in my opinion and where I spent most of my time when I was in the capital.
Bohemian-infused, with lots of lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and colonial buildings, wandering the safe streets to discover street art and galleries in this coastal district is the perfect way to ease yourself into Lima life.
#1 Discover the Street Art and Galleries
So yes, if you weren’t already in the know, or hadn’t guessed from my introduction, Barranco is the hip and trendy part of Lima, one of the most expensive districts and the part loved by artists and baristas alike!
Get straight into the swing of it all therefore by wandering the streets of this neighbourhood to discover the mass of street art and hidden galleries that line its lanes.
Many are centred around Bajada de Banos, with my favourite spots including El Gato Tulipan (which doubles as a bar and café space) and Jade Riveria Gallery (the flagship space of the famous Peruvian artist).
There’s also plenty of beautiful colonial architecture to check out around here too, so don’t forget to take your camera along!
#2 Eat and Drink
And sticking with the hipster trend, there’s no question one of the best things to do in Lima, especially in Barranco, is to eat and drink.
There’s almost too many great places in this district to list here, but the iconic watering hole of Ayahuasca, or the chilled social spot of La Noche are classics.
For lunch, or to buy some of the best bread ever, head to La Panetteria, or for a delicious dinner, trendy local favourite La Isolina is a great option.
Otherwise, the Barranco Beer Company will keep you well-watered during the weekend.
#3 Wander the Love Bridge
And it’s true that no trip to Barranco would be complete without a stroll on the Love Bridge aka Puente De Los Suspiros, which is definitely one of the best things to do in Lima.
Check out the church on the other side, as well as the view all the way to the beach from below, as you learn the romantic story behind this bridge’s construction.
#4 Try Paragliding
And while we’re on the subject of the beach, did you know that the coast here in Lima is famous for 2 different sports?
The first, which is most popular from Barranco, is paragliding and there’s a school here, who operate daily from a public green space perched on a cliff above the beach.
You can join them for tandem dives if you’re new or go it alone if you’re more experienced!
#5 Hit the Weekend Market
And finally, last on my list of the best things to do in Lima if you swing by Barranco at the weekend, is to check out the market.
Known as La Feria, this funky weekend version is like an urban street market with artisan food stalls and visual arty outlets. It’s a really fun place to grab a coffee and wander around.
WHERE TO STAY IN LIMA
There’s no question in my mind, that Barranco is the definitely the best district to stay at in Lima.
And the best place to stay in Barranco is La Unsha Hostel!
Centrally-located, immaculately clean and with one of the best free hostel breakfasts I’ve ever seen, this is a great spot to meet other travellers and chill in one of the many communal spaces.
And best of all, they have super hot water and good wifi!
Book your spot in either a private room or a dorm at the highly recommended La Unsha HERE!
Top Things to Do in Miraflores, Lima
Miraflores is one of the commercial hubs of Lima and is a great place to go for all the practical things you might need in this city.
With lots of accommodation options, including hostels, as well as restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs, this is the party capital of Lima and the traditional backpacker hangout spot.
Located on the coast, Miraflores is upmarket and safe, but lacks a little of the soul I found in Barranco.
If you’re staying in Barranco, but want to get to Miraflores, then it’s easy to just catch the Chama bus, which will shuffle you between the 2 districts in around half an hour (with the traffic) for 1 Sol.
#6 Wander Kennedy Park
Despite the busy commercial vibes, one of the things I did like a lot about Miraflores was the wealth of green spaces, and checking some of them out is definitely one of the best things to do in Lima.
Kennedy Park near the centre of town is the obvious one, but all along the coast here there’s public green spaces.
Kennedy Park is a great spot to people watch, grab a snack or check out Miraflores main cathedral.
You can also find lots of stray cats around here, which act like city pets and will always swing by for a cuddle and a stroke if you sit on any of the benches!
And it’s not just cats in this park, there’s bulls as well!
Yes the large sculptures you see around Kennedy Park of traditionally decorated bulls have now come to symbolise good luck in Peru and many people place smaller versions around their homes.
However traditionally, they were placed above the door of Peruvian houses – and the colours used to decorate the bulls were an indication of whether the females in the household were single and eligible or not!
#7 Watch Sunset from Love Park
And while we’re on the subject of public spaces, another great one in Miraflores is Love Park, or Parque Del Amor, so-called because of the huge erotic sculpture that lies at its heart!
Perched on the cliff above Playa Waikiki, this is a great spot for the evening, where you can watch the colours of the day slowly fade over the Pacific Ocean along with lots of locals.
#8 Snap Paddington Bear
And just down the road from the Love Park, in the gardens above Larcomar Mall, is a very famous ex-Peru resident and all-round loveable bear, Paddington.
If you’ve seen the statue of Paddington at the train station of the same name in London, then spotting and snapping this iconic character, who of course came from Peru with his marmalade sandwiches, is a great idea when it comes to things to do in Lima.
And if you’re not British, or have no idea what I’m talking about, then check out the Paddington Bear books to learn more!
THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR PERU
I wouldn’t dream of travelling to a country like Peru without coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve ever used during my time in the country and across the world.
World Nomads are actually one of the few companies that will insure you for hiking and camping at altitudes above 3000m – essential for a country like Peru where many destinations, including Machu Picchu, are situated above this height.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for travel insurance with Covid-19 cover, then look no further than Safetywing’s great Nomad Insurance policies.
These guys will cover you at some seriously great prices, including if you have to quarantine!
#9 Hit the Beach
And while we’re perched above the Pacific Ocean, we may as well talk about the second watersport Lima is well-known for after paragliding and that is, of course, surfing.
Just hanging at Love Park and looking into the water below is bound to have you spotting some crazy souls, who brave the freezing Pacific waters in a bid to catch the best waves.
Join them if you’re mad enough, otherwise, just enjoy the view!
In the summer months, many locals flock to the beach at Miraflores too, so if you’re visiting this city when it’s warm, unlike me, this is certainly one of the best things to do in Lima.
Miraflores almost certainly has the best shopping in Lima and whether you need something for your travels in Peru or want to pick up some souvenirs for those at home, this is the place to come!
From the (poorly named) Indian market famed for its souvenirs to the Surquillo Market amazing for its fresh fruit and veg, whatever you need in Lima you can pretty much get it here.
There’s also good souvenir shops along Avenida Petit Thouars, which are cheaper than Cusco FYI, and then there’s the amazing Chocolate Museum (Choco Museo) in Miraflores too, which is perfect for picking up (and tasting) a treat!
#11 Visit a Gallery
Like Barranco, Miraflores has its own set of galleries too, although these are a bit more of an official nature.
Top of the list is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is definitely one of the best things to do in Lima, but the smaller and more lowkey Miraflores Gallery, which acts as a bit of an arts and cultural centre, is also worth checking out.
The Amano Museum in Miraflores, which is dedicated to traditional textiles, is apparently also worth a look too, although sadly I ran out of time to do so myself.
And also like Barranco, one of the best things to do in Lima if you’re around Miraflores is eat!
Although I’m a vegetarian, I’m told that the seafood is the thing to go for here – what with the coast being so close and all!
And the order of the day is the Peruvian special, ceviche.
If you feel like pushing the boat out, then Maido restaurant provides top dining in this city – in fact, it’s been voted in the world’s top 50 – but must be booked in advance.
Otherwise, the Raw Café on Avenida Angamos Oeste is a go-to spot for us healthies, or next door there’s the famous La Brownieseria (Brownie café) for those with a bit of a sweeter tooth!
#13 Check out the Ruins
Did you know Miraflores was home to its own set of ruins?
Dating back to 600AD, these ruins are a good mini-intro to the Incan history of this country and are called Huaca Pucllana.
Sadly you can’t visit them without paying, because they’ve been sold to a Chilean company who did start demolishing them before they were thankfully stopped, but you can peer in from the outside to get the idea.
And if it’s more a modern style you’re after, then the Miraflores City Hall is a beautiful piece of architecture that is wonderfully lit up at night. Seeing this view is one of the best things to do in Lima as you head out for dinner.
#14 People Watch
We’ve already covered the Kennedy Park and the Love Park, but all along the Malecon, which is the seafront cliff and large public space in Miraflores, people-watching is optimum!
Also in the main streets in Miraflores you can enjoy watching locals, with my favourite spot being the chess player huddles you’ll find around Calle Martir Jose Olaya.
5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR PERU
#1 Good Camera – I would never even think of travelling to Peru without a camera good enough to capture the amazing landscape and people of this country. Both my Sony A6000and GoPro Hero 7 have been perfect for the job!
#2 Waterproof / Windproof Jackets – With so much of this country situated high in the Andes, taking a waterproof and windproof jacket is essential if you’re going to be hiking or sightseeing in the mountains. I highly recommend the North Face Venture 2 for the job.
#3 Hiking Boots – You can’t come to Peru and not do some trekking, so make sure you come prepared with some good, supportive hiking boots… I’ve never worn mine so much in my life! These Keen Targhee II’s are a great solution.
#4 Day Pack – Also for the hiking and sightseeing, a good daypack to carry water, snacks, camera, hat, gloves and other clothing layers is key in Peru! This one from Osprey is my pick.
#5 Travel Scarf – And finally, I’ve just discovered the amazing travel wraps from Sholdit and am so happy I took mine to Peru. Acting both as a scarf to keep you warm and a place to store your valuables while you’re out and about, this great invention is perfect for travel in South America.
Top Things to Do in Lima’s Historic Centre
And finally, we move onto the third section in this article about the best things to do in Lima and its historic centre.
Jump onto Metro Line C to ride into historic Lima from Miraflores, and explore this UNESCO-listed destination for yourself.
Despite being busy and quite touristy, the centre actually felt quite safe to me, just do watch your bags and pockets!
Otherwise, if you prefer to take a small group tour of the city centre with a local guide, check out this top-rated half day option.
#15 Tour the Catacombs
Situated below the Monastery of San Francisco, the Catacombs of Lima are where wealthy residents thought they were paying to have their own graves, but actually just got heaped in on top of each other!
This is now wildly clear from the amount of bones you can spot here, which number more than 25,000 people!
You can view these human remains, now arranged in geometric patterns, through the floor of the Church for an entrance fee of 10 Soles
#16 Marvel at the Plazas
There are a couple of main squares in the capital that have significant history and stepping into them is certainly one of the best things to do in Lima.
Technically the centre of Lima, the Plaza Mayor is home to the main Cathedral of the city as well as the Presidential Palace.
This a lively place, especially at the weekend, where lots of locals come to hang out.
The other main square you should visit is Plaza San Martin, which has some beautiful surrounding buildings and is usually the centre of action for any protests in the capital.
#17 Watch the Changing of the Guard
Deserving its own mention on this list of the best things to do in Lima, but technically taking place in the Plaza Mayor, trying to time your visit to this central square to coincide with the changing of the guard is a great idea.
Taking place 7 days a week, I recommend getting to the palace gates at around 11:45am to see this spectacle as there will be a crowd.
Expect a lot of shouting, a lot of music and some nifty gun twirling!
#18 Check Out the Museums
The historic centre is home to some of the best museums in the capital, and checking out the following is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Lima.
Your choices are the Museo Pisco, the San Francisco Church Museum, the Chocolate Museum, the Museum of Art in Lima and the San Inquisicion Museum.
Mario Testino Museum in Barranco is also a must if you have time.
#19 Wander into the Churches
And last but not least, we are in a devoutly Catholic country after all, so any list of the best things to do in Lima must include wandering into a Church or 2 if you really want to understand some of the culture here.
Unsurprisingly the historic centre is full of the city’s most impressive religious edifices and on your hit list should be the Monastery of San Francisco, the Cathedral of Lima, La Inglesia de la Merced and the Central Basilica.
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And so there it is, my list of the 19 super things to do in Lima that will have you well-acquainted with this city in no time!
Are you planning a trip to Peru?
Will you visit Lima?
Let me know any questions you have in the comments box below…