When it comes to colonial architecture, Lima is a great place to witness the buildings born from Spain’s Viceroyalty era in its South American territories. At the same time, modern buildings have sprung up around this city’s historic core to produce a fully-fledged coastal metropolis.
Boasting beaches, Lima grew in popularity from the early to mid 20th century, attracting tourists, artists, writers, and high society alike, who enjoyed its mild climate, dramatic cliffside beaches, and panoramas of the Pacific. Today, tourists still come to do much the same.
Hidden among its wealthy districts are ancient surprises in the form of millennia-old pre-Incan ruins, meaning you’ll get to explore the indigenous culture of Peru, as well.
Map of the best places to stay in Lima
1. Miraflores · 2. Barranco · 3. San Isidro · 4. Centro Historico · 5. San Miguel · 6. Pueblo Libre
There are plenty of places in the Peruvian capital to enjoy all the benefits of its cosmopolitan heart. Restaurants, bars, and lively nightlife unfold in Miraflores, whilst in cool Barranco, it’s a decidedly leftfield offering.
Hotels come in many shapes and sizes in Lima, from glistening skyscrapers to old colonial buildings, and from the boutique to the unfussy, so there will be something to suit everyone. Come and explore this interesting city!
See also: Lima Hotel Deals
One of Lima’s primary tourist draws, Miraflores offers high-end hotel chains like JW and Marriott, as well stylish, affordable, mid-range hotels. Mainly an exclusive area for Lima’s well-to-do, there are many things to do here in terms of nightlife; plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs can be found in this district.
For a particularly good slice of nightlife, head to Calle de las Pizzas. As you might be able to tell from the name, the specialty down this lively street is pizza (and lots of it), though there’s other food – and drink, of course – to be found here.
There’s a good stretch of beach in Miraflores, too: the Costa Verde, though quite rocky, is popular with beachgoers and surfers alike.
Interestingly, you’ll find Huaca Pucllana here – the ruin of a pre-Inca pyramid, well over a thousand years old and one of the main tourist draws in Miraflores. Elsewhere, the Church of la Virgen Milagrosa and the huge shopping mall of Lacromar – overlooking the sea – are interesting places to visit.
To the south of Miraflores, bohemian Barranco sits along the Pacific Ocean and is a hub of creativity. The seaside district is an enigmatic mix of old and new, with charming architecture leftover from its development in the 19th century blending into a stylish beach resort for the city’s elite.
Colonial-style mansions with colorful facades line the leafy streets and now house stylish boutique shops, interesting art galleries, and amazing coffee shops. This charismatic, colorful barrio also has a reputation for vibrant street art that covers many walls in the old streets; you can also catch a street performance of Peruvian folk music.
As the sun goes down, Barranco’s streets hot up. Make sure you spend an evening or two here around the Bridge of Sighs and the Parque Municipal, where cozy eateries serve up tasty Peruvian dishes while bars and clubs entice late night drinkers.
Accommodation here is centered around fashionable city apartments, but there are some high-end offerings and a handful of hostels, too.
Home to a portion of Lima’s artist community, San Isidro is a decidedly upscale area that also serves as the capital’s financial district. Middle and upper-class families reside here, banks have their headquarters in shiny new skyscrapers, and most foreign embassies are located here.
That’s not to say that this district – just north of Miraflores – has nothing interesting. Far from it! San Isidro is home to its very own ruins in the form of the Huaca Huallamarca – almost 2000 years old.
You’ll find many upscale options in San Isidro. One of these – the Hotel Westin Libertador – is the tallest building in Peru. Another is the Country Club Hotel, set in a historic building. In San Isidro, you can dine at many high-end restaurants, including the award-winning Astrid y Gastón (one of the best restaurants in Latin America).
There are parks to visit in this wealthy district, too; head to Kennedy Square to feed some cats, or stroll around the large Forest El Olivar with its picturesque trees and water features.
The historical center in Lima is the place to stay in the city if you want to be surrounded by the narrow lanes that wind their way around carefully restored, extravagant colonial buildings.
The city’s central historic district is packed full of sites which are gilded in the glory of the Viceroyalty era. Lima’s central square – the Plaza de Armas – was established by the founder of the city himself, Francisco Pizarro, who dates back to the 16th century.
Plaza de Armas is home to the grand Government Palace, where you can watch the daily changing of the guard, as well as the ornate Lima Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. It’s easy to spend a few days in this barrio, surrounded by its historic buildings and visiting the museums.
Staying in this central district means the top sights in the city are on your doorstep. You can stay in historic hotels, such as the El Gran Hotel Bolivar, or opt for a mid-range hotel or apartment.
Set between the center of Lima and Callao, staying in San Miguel means being around a 20 to 30-minute drive to the capital’s airport, which is convenient if you’re planning to fly in or out this way.
Much like Miraflores, which it borders, the district of San Miguel is known for its stretch of coastline (in fact, sharing the same Costa Verde with its neighbor), growing in popularity for that reason between the 1920’s and ’60’s.
Today, it’s a mildly upmarket area but lacks the vibrancy of other districts. It’s chiefly known for its major attraction, Parque de Las Leyendas – ‘Park of Legends’ – which is Lima’s biggest zoo. The zoo itself is located within the boundaries of an important ancient city, so you’ll also find the Archaeological Complex of Maranga to explore at the park.
Translating as ‘Free Town’, Pueblo Libra is an intriguing district with more than its fair share of colonial mansions, historical monuments, and museums. Although still located in Lima’s central area, this district is much quieter than its neighbors and offers a peaceful place to stay, with mid-range hotels and low-cost homestays.
The residential area’s main square, Plaza Bolívar, is where you’ll find two of the best museums in the city: The Archaeological Museum and the History Museum. The barrio also boasts Casa Orbea, an 18th-century hacienda. For even more history, this is the site of pre-Incan ruins that date back over a thousand years, such as the Huaca Julio Tello.
There are also, of course, some fantastic places to enjoy traditional Peruvian food – and a drink or two – such as the Old Manor House which was set up in the early 1700’s. If you’re looking for lunch, make sure to visit the Taverna Quierolo, a 19th-century taverna set up by an Italian immigrant; it serves some of the best sandwiches in the country.