One Day in Lima - History, Landscapes and Ceviche
I’m going to start by saying, one day in Lima, the capital city of Peru, isn’t ideal. One day anywhere isn’t ideal really. But I only had two weeks in Peru and I prioritized The Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca over Lima.
Like most big cities, Lima is packed… with culture, history, award winning cuisine and friendly people. It’s a great way to start your Peruvian travels.
In this guide you’ll get an itinerary for Lima in one day, along with recommendations on places to eat, where to stay and other helpful travel tips. You’ll be able to take in historic sites, the beautiful coastline and most importantly, eat good food.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
Waves | Seafood |Killer Sunsets | Urban Life | Hyped Restaurants
1 Day in Lima Itinerary
Itinerary at a Glance
Morning: Spend the morning in the historic city center
Early Afternoon: Enjoy a ceviche lunch
Late Afternoon: Visit Huaca Pucllana (an adobe and clay pyramid dating back to 200 AD. Since I was stuck in traffic, I missed this).
Evening: Stroll along the coast and witness sunset
Night: Enjoy an award-winning dinner
Expand the legend in the below map for a detailed itinerary.
My Favorite Things to do in Lima
ADmire the Colonial Architecture in the Plaza de Armas
The historic center of Lima is where most travellers go on their first visit to Lima. And it’s for a good reason, in 1988 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see why because it’s filled with historic buildings and monuments, most of which date back to the Spanish conquest.
Most people congregate around the the Plaza de Armas, the main square. There you can find the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, Presidential Palace and the Archbishop's Palace. Decide how much time you have and visit some of these buildings. I only had time for one so I went with the Cathedral.
Note that the Presidential Palace is open to the public but with restricted access. While I didn’t visit I’ve read that you ask the guard at the front to point you in the direction of the public relations office. There you’ll be able to arrange entrance. You’ll need ID for this so make sure to be extra cautious in the area with your valuables. Consider buying a moneybelt for safe keeping.
Safety Tip for the City Center
Traffic in Lima is a mess, so head to this area in the morning. Be especially vigilant, lots of tourists means it’s ripe for pickpocketing. Avoid the area and surrounding streets after dark.
Visit the Basilica Cathedral of Lima
So I’m going to be real with you, Churches and Cathedrals are not my thing. I appreciate the architecture, but beyond that I am clueless when it comes to symbolism of religious art and artifacts.
Here’s what I can tell you:
The church started construction in 1535 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Over a hundred years later it was given its stone facade. In 1746 Lima had a horrible earthquake which completely destroyed the building and it wasn’t renovated until 1778.
Because of these stretched out construction timelines the building is a mixture of gothic, baroque and neoclassical architecture.
Walking in, you’re immediately drawn to the opulent main altar. Surrounding it are intricate wooden carvings on the chairs. The people carved in these chairs are a mixture of religious leaders and saints - so I’m told.
Towards the back of the Cathedral, on the right side, are stairs which descend into the crypts. Within the crypts skulls and remains of bodies. A little morbid but I found it fascinating.
Speaking of skulls, if you’re into this, then head to the Catacombs of the San Francisco Cathedral. There you’ll find the skulls and bones of over 20,000 people.
Have a ceviche lunch
Lunchtime in Lima is the best time for ceviche. Why? Because the fish is caught in the morning so it’s still fresh for lunch.
La Mar, in Miraflores, was recommended to me by a friend so I did everything in my power to get there. What I didn’t anticipate was Lima traffic. It took, I kid you not, 1.5 hours to get there from the historic center - only 10 km away.
With that being said, I wouldn’t have missed this meal for anything. It was delicious!
When we arrived (around 2pm) there was a massive group of people outside the restaurant. At first it seemed impossible to get in but we ordered empanadas and pisco sours while we waited. We also asked the waiters to surprise us with different cocktails. The wait went by quickly.
The plates at La Mar are relatively small, so it’s a great way to try and share different types of ceviche. The acidity was perfect in every dish and the fish melted in my mouth. Just Go!
Reservation Tips and Opening Hours
La Mar is a lunch spot, so don’t plan to have dinner there. They also doesn’t take reservations and recommend arriving before 1pm to avoid the wait.
Walk along the Lima Coast
If you go to La Mar it puts you in the perfect position for an early evening walk along the coast. This was the most enjoyable part of the day because it was filled with killer views of the Pacific Ocean and setting sun.
Head in the Southern direction, towards the neighbourhood of Barranco. Along the way, you’ll pass the Faro La Marina (The lighthouse). You’ll catch people paragliding over the water and if you’re interested in shopping you’ll eventually end up at Larcomar, which is a large commercial and retail area.
Just at sunset we happened to be at the Park of Love. Here you’ll find the kissing statues along with local couples taking in the romantic atmosphere of the evening.
Stop and watch the sun disappear in the horizon.
Fill that Belly
I’ve already talked about La Mar but Lima has other, world-renown restaurants.
I was lucky enough to enjoy two of Lima’s…no, Peru’s… no wait, South America’s... hold up, the world’s, greatest restaurants: Maido (Japanese-Peruvian fusion) and Central (contemporary Peruvian).
They were both completely different, but with little time you may only be able to try one. So that begs the question - which one?
To answer this, I made my personal comparisons between the two. I cover everything from the menu, atmosphere, reservation process and other essential information. I want to make it clear that they’re very different so it’s not about which is better, but more about which experience is right for you.
Where to stay in Lima
Some links below are an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a booking. As always, I only recommend products and services I trust.
Most hotels and bed and breakfasts are located in Miraflores and Barranco. These are the two areas that are most common for tourists and for safety reasons, I recommend staying there.
Barranco is further South of Miraflores and it’s a really charming area. There are bohemian vibes and great nightlife. Plus, it’s home to a lovely bed and breakfast, Second Home Peru.
I really enjoyed my stay at Second Home Peru. The rooms were spacious, and clean. Some of them had views of the water and garden.
There's a large backyard facing the Pacific Ocean with statues and lounge chairs. It's a great place to collect your thoughts and de-stress. The breakfasts were delicious and the host, Lilian, was helpful with regards to planning our day.
I only spent one night at Casa Nuestra but in those 5 hours of sleep it was a great experience. Firstly, you really can't beat the price. I also found the host, Cece, very accomodating. She helped with my logistics and ordered me a driver.
Getting Around Lima
Man oh man, this was a struggle.
From the Airport
Most international flights enter Peru through Lima. If you’re an anxious flyer like me, read my post on answers from a pilot, it helped me get over my fear of flying.
Lima’s airport is located North of the city, and most people have hotels in the Miraflores or Barranco districts. Furthermore many flights from the United States and Canada arrive at night. The area between the airport and these districts isn’t safe, making public transport not an option.
To add to this, taxi scams are common at the airport so I was extra cautious and ordered a driver through my hotel. If you do get a taxi at the airport, look for the official taxi company which is located at the desks directly outside the arrival hall.
A taxi from the airport to Barranco is roughly 60-70 soles ($20). While my prearranged driver cost $50.
Around the City
Lima is a big city, with lacking public transportation infrastructure. Yes, there are buses and a small metro line but the taxis are cheap enough that it doesn’t make sense to use them.
Getting from areas like Miraflores to the historical center costs about 20 soles, which is about $6USD. Split between a few people, it’s an easy choice. Uber is available, I used it once with no problems BUT I’ve read there are many issues with Uber in Lima, including scams and a lack of followup on complaints.
The safest bet is to ask your hotel or restaurant to order you a taxi. This way you’ll get an official driver.
Getting between Miraflores and Barranco can be done by foot. I wouldn’t recommend this for all of Lima for safety reasons, but between those two neighbourhoods you’re mostly walking along the coastline and it’s safe.
Rush hour traffic in Lima
It’s advised to not travel during rush hour, 7.30-10.30 and 16.30-21.30. I can tell you that I travelled from 13.00-14.00 and it was brutal. So expect long travel times during the day.
What to Pack for Lima
My two-week packing guide to Peru has got you covered. It includes everything from hiking clothes, to formal wear and all the in between.
Lima Photography TIPS
Like many big cities there’s a little something for every photographer in Lima. If you’re interested in architecture, then visit the historic center and the Barranco district. Same for street photography, though be cautious about wandering down isolated streets with your camera gear.
If you like landscapes then sunset on the coast is the place for you.
Be careful with your camera gear, as bags can be stolen. If you’re walking around, especially at night, pack away your camera.
Safety In Lima
I had no issues with safety in Lima, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Most recommendations are to stay within Miraflores and Barranco. If you’re visiting places outside of these areas it’s best to take a taxi, especially if it’s in the evening.
Pickpocketing and robbery is unfortunately a common problem. Our host was very clear that our bags should be kept on us at all times. This means, even when you’re sitting down for a nice meal, keep your bag on you and never attached to the back of your chair or under your legs.
Be especially cautious in streets surrounding the Plaza de Armas. Like all touristic areas, it’s a prime location for theft. If you want to venture outside of the main tourist areas, contact your hotel and source a reliable driver or tour company.
Consider a Visit to Ica and Huacachina
Lima is only a few hours away from the sand dunes of Ica. If you’re into a slower pace of life then consider spending a few days down there. You can read all about it in my travel guide to Ica and Huacachina.
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