The bustling capital city of Peru is a blend of cultures, coastal vibes and metropolitan cityscape. We’ve visited a couple of times and put together this list of exciting things to do in Lima Peru to help you plan your trip.
Located smack in the middle of Peru’s coastline, Lima is a bustling capital city with a blend of cultures, vibes and landscapes.
Lima is a city where you can dine on a budget in cozy locales and enjoy traditional fare without frills one day, then indulge in fresh ceviche prepared by a world-class chef the next.
Wander cobblestone streets in historic downtown, then make your way to the manicured streets of Miraflores where you’ll have ocean views dotted with palms.
Learn about the country’s history, then brush shoulders with young locals as you experience the city’s nightlife scene.
We’ve been to Lima a couple of times, and can say from experience that this city truly has a little something for everyone – history, culture, food, nightlife, adventure, and relaxation.
While you may be tempted to breeze right through Lima on your way to visit Machu Picchu, we’re here to convince you otherwise. We’re going to share some fun things to do in Lima so that you can experience the best that Peru’s capital city has to offer.
Planning a Trip to Peru? Find out the best time to visit Peru based on regional weather patterns and your personal travel style.
Things to do in Lima Peru
This capital city is packed full of culture, history and adventure. There are so many things to do in Lima, you could easily spend months exploring the city’s offerings. No matter how much time you have to spend, here is a list of our top recommendations.
1. Take a free walking tour
The best part about taking a walking tour – you get to discover the city through the eyes of a local. Join the Lima Walking Tour on one of their daily tours of the historic downtown area of Lima. They meet every morning at 9:50 a.m. outside the Tourist Information Center in the Miraflores neighborhood. You’ll recognize your guide right away by their bright yellow polo with the Lima Talking Tour logo.
The tour will take around 3 hours and cover all of the major historical sites in historic downtown Lima. Tours are entirely free and tip-based so remember to bring a little extra cash for tipping once you’re done. They also have tours of Miraflores that leave from the same location at 3:00 pm daily.
Psst! If you’ll be traveling more throughout the country, be sure to check out our bucket list of can’t-miss things to do in Peru!
2. Marvel at the Huaca Pucllana ruins
This ancient pyramid sits right in the middle of the city, in the Miraflores neighborhood to be exact. Built from clay and adobe, the seven staggered platforms make up the pyramid that was a ceremonial and administrative center in Lima from the years 200 – 700 AD.
Today, the ruins have been preserved as a major tourist attraction. There is even a restaurant built inside the pyramid serving up traditional Peruvian cuisine. You can have lunch or dinner there while marveling at the ruins which are lit up at night.
Entrance fee: 15 PEN during the day and 17 PEN after dark (about $5 USD)
3. Search for street art in Barranco
Barranco is the bohemian neighborhood of Lima, with lots of restaurants and themed bars, colonial architecture and plenty of green space. There is also a lot of street art making it one of the best neighborhoods for exploring.
Start at the iconic Puente de Los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) and see if you can hold your breath as you walk all the way across. Legend has it, if you can hold your breath the whole way, your wish will come true. This is a great vantage point to take in some of the nearby art.
Be sure to stop at the MATE Museum – a contemporary art and photography exhibit located in a restored 19th-century mansion. And Bodega Piselli, an unassuming general store and watering hole with an extensive pisco list at affordable local prices.
If you’re feeling fancy head to Mérito to taste exquisite dishes by the former chef of Peru’s most acclaimed restaurant Central (just down the street). And if visiting on a Friday or Saturday, check out the Nuestro Mercado street market from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
4. Walk the malecon in Miraflores
Known locally as the Malecon, this walkway stretches 8 km along the coast in Miraflores and is one of the quintessential things to do in Lima. It makes the perfect place to take a stroll at sunset and watch as the sun ducks below the horizon out at sea. That is, of course, if you are lucky enough to be visiting Lima on a clear day (Lima is notorious for its misty gray weather).
Start at the Faro de la Marina lighthouse. As you make your way down the boardwalk, you’ll run into Larcomar shopping center, a giant shopping mall in Miraflores, right on the coast. The mall has a few restaurants with terraces overlooking the beaches below.
A bit further down you’ll find the Parque del Amor, or “Park of Love” in English, aptly named for the giant kissing statue in the center of it. The mosaic walls here remind us a bit of the famous Park Güell in Barcelona.
5. People watch in the Plaza Mayor
Formerly the Plaza de Armas until it was renamed in the 1990s, this is the oldest public square in Lima. It is still used as a ceremonial center for religious and governmental procession today. Grab a coffee and watch as people go about their day.
If you want to do some exploring yourself, visit the Cathedral of Lima, the Government Palace and the Municipal Palace, all bordering the square.
Are you heading to Cusco next? There are several options for transportation between the two cities, and we have a detailed guide on how to travel from Lima to Cusco which outlines all of your options.
6. Stroll the grounds and climb the belltower at Convento Santo Domingo
Located in the historic center of Lima, Santo Domingo was built in the 1530s under the patronage of Our Lady of the Rosary. Housing some important relics, this was also the site of the first Peruvian university and the oldest university in the Americas in the 16th century.
Today you can enter the basilica for free , and the compound for just 10 soles per person. It’s worth it to peek inside the beautiful courtyard and climb the 135 steps to the top of the belltower for panoramic 360-degree views of the city.
Entrance fee: 10 PEN per person
7. Tour the Casa de Aliaga
Another historical building dating back to the 16th century Casa de Aliaga has a unique and interesting history.
Basically, after the founding of the city of Lima in 1535, Captain Aliaga received a colonial house near (what is today) the Government Palace in the Plaza Mayor. The Aliaga family and their descendants have inhabited the home, making it the oldest dwelling in the Americas that has stayed in a single family for 17 generations.
It survived the earthquake of 1746 and was restored in the 19th century. Today you can tour the home, with an elegant display of Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Neoclassical styles. The entrance will set you back just 30 soles (~8 USD) plus the cost of your guide, which is required for entrance.
Entrance fee: 30 PEN per person (+ the cost of a guide, which is essential for entry)
8. Witness the Circuito Mágico del Agua in Parque de la Reserva
During the daytime, the Parque de la Reserva is a nice place for a stroll to get some fresh air and enjoy the fountains. But at night the place turns into a magical mixed media light show, fun for the whole family.
The show includes thirteen cybernetic fountains, where music, water, sound and laser lights mix to create a unique experience. You can catch this light show nightly at 6:50, 7:30, 8:10, and 8:50 p.m. Admission is just 5 soles (and children under 5 are admitted free).
Entrance fee: 5 PEN per person (children under 5 are free)
9. Hunt for the best ceviche in the city
While Peruvian food is a major part of the culture and draw for tourism in Lima, ceviche is a cornerstone of the cuisine and considered the national dish.
Given its location on the coast, Lima is a great place for freshly caught seafood. You cannot come to Lima without trying the famous dish, traditionally made with raw white fish “cooked” in citrus and a combination of spices.
You can find cevicherias all along the coast in Lima, but if you’re looking for the best, here are a few that come highly recommended:
- Canta Rana in Barranco
- Punto Azul in Miraflores
- La Mar Cevichería Peruana in San Isidro
- Chez Wong in La Victoria
- El Muelle in Barranco
10. Take a cooking class or food tour
One of the best things about Lima is its world-class gastronomic scene. From traditional Peruvian classics to modern fusion, Lima has made a name for itself as a “foodie” city. Eating our way around this city was one of our favorite things to do in Lima and it might just be the highlight of your time spent here as well.
Embark on a food tour of Lima to get the local’s take on the best food, or try your hand at cooking a Peruvian dish or two in a cooking class.
Psst! Check out our guide to Peruvian food to find out all the delicious dishes you must try!
11. Experience world-class dining and indulge in a tasting menu
Speaking of world-class gastronomics, Lima is home to some of the best restaurants in the world! If you don’t want to take our word for it, just ask the Taste Hunters at The World’s 50 Best.
In 2022, Lima had 3 restaurants on the top 50 list, including the #2 spot with Central. (That’s more than the U.S. which only had 2 make the cut!)
You’ll be hard pressed to get a reservation at Central without some seriously advanced planning, but some of the others, including Maido in the #11 spot, and Mayta at #32, will take reservations with just a few days’ or weeks’ notice.
It’ll be a bit of a splurge to indulge in a tasting menu, but the experience is totally worth it if you enjoy fine dining and unique flavors. Plus, you’ll spend less in Lima than if you were to check out similar restaurants in big cities like New York or Paris.
12. Check out the vendors at Mercado 28
If you’re not up for the splurge of fine dining, head to Mercado 28 in Miraflores, where you can find plenty of street food-style eats with flavors from Peru and around the world.
The first food hall is Peru, Mercado 28 bills themself as a gastronomic experience. With 14 specially curated permanent food stalls and a full bar, you can experience classic Peruvian dishes as well as international favorites in a unique environment.
13. Create your own pisco pub crawl
You’ve probably heard of a pisco sour at some point on your travels throughout South America. Pisco is the Peruvian spirit used to make this traditional cocktail and it can be found all over Lima (and Peru in general!).
You can’t come to Peru without trying one of these famous pisco drinks, but not all cocktails are created equal. Make your way around Lima to find some of the best pisco sours in the city and you be the judge of which is your favorite!
- Antigua Taberna Queirolo: The Queirolo family has one of the most recognized pisco and wine labels in Peru, so naturally you will find one of the best authentic pisco sours at this local joint.
- Gran Bolívar Hotel: It is said that Hemingway spent a lot of time at the bar here and even managed to down 8 of their signature Cathedral cocktails (basically a double pisco sour) in one sitting.
- Bar Inglés at Country Club Lima: A luxurious bar in San Isidro, you’ll love the timeless decor, just as much as you love the pisco.
- Cafe Museo Larco: A noteworthy museum in Lima that also happens to serve one of the best (and more Insta-worthy!) pisco sours in the city at their cafe.
- Museo del Pisco: Don’t be fooled by the name, this is no museum. It’s a craft cocktail bar offering weekly pisco tasting events and cocktail classes.
- La Bodega Piselli: This local favorite is located in Barranco and offers an extensive pisco list at affordable local prices.
14. Shop for textiles and handicrafts at the artisan market
Peru is known for many things, among them it’s textile production. You’ll find beautiful handwoven (and lots of machine woven too) blankets, scarves, hats, and other goods made from alpaca wool. The best place to shop for such goods is at the Mercado Artesanal in Lima.
This street is lined with markets and galleries of all of the Peruvian souvenirs and goods you could possibly want! Just be sure your bargaining skills are up for the task! It’s common to negotiate prices in open marketplaces like this.
15. Go paragliding over the sea
If you think the views of Lima’s coast from the boardwalk are impressive, imagine what the coast looks like from the sky!
Parapuerto is a premier paragliding company offering scenic flights over the iconic Lima landscaping. Stop by their office in Miraflores on the day you hope to take flight. They operate 7 days a week, but because the wind is unpredictable, you are unable to book ahead of time. You just have to show up and hope the wind will cooperate for you.
The recommended time for flying is between 2-3pm every afternoon. The 10-minute flight will cost you 260 Soles ($85 USD), and includes in-flight photos!
16. Catch a wave in the South Pacific
Being a coastal city, of course there will be plenty of surfers in the area. The Circuito de Playas is the beach circuit that runs up and down the Costa Verde. The best beaches in Lima for surfing are Los Delfines, Orrantia, Punta Rocas, and Playa Ravine.
Keep in mind the water temperatures are rarely above 60 °F (16 °C), so a full wetsuit is definitely recommended!
If you’re new to the spot and want to give it a try, you can always hire a local teacher and take a surf lesson.
17. Spend a day at the beach
If you’re traveling to Lima during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere (November – March), you’ll likely get some decent hot and humid weather there. Head to the Circuito de Playas on the Costa Verde (basically the beach road beneath the cliffs of Miraflores) for some good ol’ fashioned beach lounging.
Bring a towel and a book or a few cold beverages, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
18. Glimpse a (rare) but beautiful sunset
Being situated on the west coast, Lima bears witness to some pretty epic sunsets…that is when La Garua (the gloomy coastal fog that hangs around all winter) isn’t in the way.
On those rare clear evenings, head to the malecon in Miraflores to glimpse a picture perfect view.
19. Experience the nightlife in Lima
Most big cities have a prominent nightlife culture and Lima is no exception. The Barranco neighborhood turns into Lima’s party district once the sun goes down. However, there are fun bars to check out all over the city. Here are a few notable mentions:
- Lúpulo Draft Bar: A great place in Miraflores to try some local craft brews.
- Dada Restobar: Another Barranco hot spot, this place promotes open mindedness and free self-expression.
- Sargento Pimienta: Popular with locals in Barranco, this bar is always playing rock music and sometimes even has live shows.
- Ayahuasca Resto Bar: A well-known bar in Miraflores that is set up inside a converted 19th-century mansion.
- Lima Bar: Located within the Larcomar Center, this is an upscale nightlife spot (just be sure to mind the dress code).
- Corodrilo Verde: This lounge and nightclub in Miraflores hosts weekly live music performances.
20. Swim with sea lions
The Palomino Islands are a small cluster of islands off the coast of Peru’s sprawling capital city. Home to large colonies of sea lions and sea birds, a trip here is a great way to get out of the city and into some nature.
Sail from Lima to the islands on this 6-hour tour where you will be able to swim in a protected area of the Pacific Ocean alongside sea lions in their natural habitat. You can also observe Guano birds and Humboldt penguins up close while your English speaking guide explains the delicate ecosystem.
21. Sip a cocktail in a butterfly sanctuary
La MAR-iposario is a multi-story garden themed bar, restaurant and butterfly sanctuary. Quite the combination, am I right?
Make a reservation to dine during one of their famous acrobatics shows, or head up to their rooftop for a craft cocktail in an atmosphere that’ll have you feeling like you’ve left the city and entered the jungle.
22. Visit the Larco Museum and have a pisco sour in their garden cafe
The 18th century mansion-turned-museum is worth a visit to discover over 5,000 years of Peruvian history. Notable exhibits include pre-Columbian artifacts and even an Erotica Gallery filled with art offering a different perspective on sexuality.
However, the real draw to this neck of the woods is the cozy garden cafe/restaurant with a homemade menu and outstanding pisco cocktails.
Entrance fee: 35 PEN per person for general admission
23. Discover the Pachacamac Ruins
Covering about 600 hectares (1,482 acres) of land 40 km (25 miles) south of Lima is the unique archeological site of Pachacamac. Named after the creator god, Pacha Kamaq, the site was first settled around A.D. 200 and flourished for about 1,300 years until the Spanish invaded in the 1500’s.
Containing more than 50 temples and 16 pyramids, there is evidence in Pachacamac of 4 distinct cultures; the Lima, Wari, Ichma, and Inca people.
Today you can enter the archeological site and the adjoining museum and take guided tours of the ruins. The whole thing will take you about 2 hours should you choose to do the guided tour, and about 6 km (nearly 4 miles) of walking.
Entrance fee: 15 PEN for adults, 30 PEN for a guided tour
Bonus: Things to do nearby
There are plenty of things to do in Lima without leaving the city center, but while you’re in the area, there are a handful of other amazing stops you can make on day trips from the city.
24. Try sandboarding in Huacachina
Huacachina is a desert oasis just 1.5 hours by car from Lima. You may recognize the famous landmark from photos all over Instagram of the Huacachina Lagoon rimmed by palm trees seamingly sitting smack dab in the middle of a giant sandbox.
Aside from heading there just for the photo op, there are tons of fun activities and adventurous things to do in Huacachina. One of the most popular activities is renting a dune buggy and going sand boarding. Picture yourself strapped into what looks a lot like a snowboard, except you’re sliding down sand dunes instead of mountain peaks.
We tried sandboarding on our first trip to Huacachina together and let me tell you, it was an absolute blast!!
How to do it yourself: If you want to take a day trip from Lima, you have a couple options. You can rent a car and make the journey yourself, or take a bus from Lima to Huacachina. If you choose the latter, you’ll be tied to the bus schedule and may not have as much time as you’d like to explore the desert, so we’d recommend staying at least one night there.
Perhaps the easiest and most stress-free way to see Huacachina from Lima in a day is to book a tour which includes transportation dune buggy and sandboard rentals and even a bonus boat trip to the Ballestas Islands to see the sea lions.
25. Take a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands
Coined as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” or the “Galapagos of Peru,” the Ballestas as a small group of islands off the coast of Paracas, Peru. Though small, this collection of islands make up an extremely diverse ecosystem on the Peruvian coast.
The islands, that seem little more than giant rock formations sprouting from the ocean, are home to an impressive array of species including sea lions, Humboldt penguins (yes, there are penguins this far north!), guanays, cormorant, Peruvian boobies, pelicans and more!
Unlike the Galapagos Islands, the Ballestas can be reached on an affordable day trip. There are many local companies that sell speedboat tours to the islands, just head to the pier and seek them out. The average cost will be about 60 soles (~$15 USD).
26. Visit the coastal town of Paracas
If you’re heading to the Ballestas, you’ll likely be departing for your boat tour from Paracas. This sleepy coastal town is situated on a beautiful stretch of Peruvian coast line 245 km (152 miles) south of Lima.
Its a great place to relax on the beach, plus Paracas makes a great hub for doing a lot of the cool adventures in the area (including the day trips on this list) if you prefer to stay somewhere close.
27. Take a scenic flight over the Nazca lines
If you’ve never heard of the Nazca lines, you might want to give it a quick Google image search. In short, these “lines” are actually a bunch of pre-Columbian era geoglyphs that are etched into the desert landscaping, covering over 350 square miles.
The site, which is rumored to have been made by aliens, has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lines, which represent different animals and plants, have different theories as to their significance, but most scholars agree there is a religious significance.
Because of the scale of these other-worldly designs, they are best seen from above. There is a small viewing tower next to the main road from Nazca to Ica, but you can only see a couple of the lines. You can also venture to nearby hilltops to catch a better glimpse, but the best way to see the Nazca lines in their entirety is from the air.
How to see it yourself: You can book a tour from Lima which includes transportation to Nazca and an option for a 30, 40 or 60-minute scenic flight over the lines. Take photos from the panoramic windows in the plane and learn more about the significance of the lines and how they came to be.
Transportation in Lima
Certain neighborhoods in Lima are very walkable, but the city itself is huge and sprawling.
The easiest way to get around Lima is by Uber. It takes away the need for cash exchanging hands, and the tricky language barrier that sometimes gets in the way when trying to give directions to your destination. The ride service also adds an extra layer of protection that we appreciate as travelers.
Taxis are also plentiful in Lima if you are in a hurry and or don’t have data to catch an Uber. Be sure your driver sets the meter during your ride so you pay a fair price.
This spot in the Miraflores neighborhood allows you to rent a bicycle for 3 hours ($9 USD) or a full day ($15 USD). It’s a great way to see more of the city and get some exercise!
How to get from Lima Airport to the city
Airport Express Bus: This is the official airport shuttle system in Lima and it’s a convenient and cheap way to get from the Lima Airport to your accommodation in the city center, or vise versa. Check their website to see how it works, check timetables and find the nearest stop to you.
From the airport, you can find the Airport Express Bus Stand in the arrivals hall of both the domestic and international terminals. You can pay for your ticket at the stall. A ticket to the Miraflores neighborhood will only cost you about $8 USD. If you are catching the bus to the airport, you must have exact change to pay on board.
Where to Stay in Lima
With nice beds, free breakfast and walking distance to the heart of Miraflores, this was one of our favorite stays in Peru. They also have a killer bar with fun theme nights, like Lipstick Night: anyone wearing lipstick gets a free drink! And after a little coercing I was able to even get Ben to wear some!
You may recognize the Selina name as they have hundreds of hostels throughout Central and South America. Comfortable common areas, high-speed internet and lots of private rooms make it feel a bit more like a boutique hotel than a hostel.
If you are beyond the days of staying in hostels, but don’t want to splurge for a fancy hotel stay, we recommend using Booking.com or Airbnb to find an apartment in the Miraflores or Barranco neighborhoods. These areas are both centrally located, walkable and have plenty of things to do including cafes, restaurants and bars.
Tip: Find out exactly how we set our filters to find the best Airbnb for our stays in this detailed Airbnb guide, complete with a coupon code for $40 off your first Stay and $15 off your first Experience.
This gorgeous 4-star boutique hotel comes at a steal for your budget! With spacious suites, free wifi and an onsite restaurant, what more could you ask for?
A gorgeous guesthouse with private rooms overlooking Playa Barranco Beach in the hip bohemian arts district.
The stunning Hotel B, a Relais & Châteaux property, is just one block from Barranco Beach set in an elegant Belle Epoqué-style mansion. The luxury boutique hotel offers a beautiful outdoor terrace, well-decorated rooms and an onsite restaurant and bar.
Are you planning a trip to Peru?
We have lots of resources on travel in Peru and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Complete Peru Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.
- How to Get from Lima to Cusco
- Adventurous Things to Do in Cusco
- Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- Adventurous Things to Do in Huacachina Peru
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