3 Days in Lima, Peru: Urban Archaeology, World-Class Meals and Much MoreBy Karen Catchpole
A cultural and culinary epicenter, Lima, Peru, offers pops of archaeology and adventure in unexpected places. The city’s clifftop location above the Pacific Ocean lends natural allure, while skyscrapers and street art add urban appeal.
This sprawling metropolis — best experienced via its distinct neighborhoods where hipsters, politicians and travelers rub shoulders — offers a taste of the best of Peru. So dive in with both feet and you’ll be rewarded with a rich and revealing Peruvian experience.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Friday: Walk, Eat and Sail Your Way Through Miraflores
Your trip begins in Miraflores, a chic neighborhood near the city’s best place to stroll. For your first meal, head to La Postrería Café for egg dishes or an açaí bowl and house-made juice. Your best bet is to find a spot on the tiny patio, which is surrounded by plants and provides a quiet spot to start your day. After your meal, wander through nearby manicured and art-filled parks along the oceanfront walkway, El Malecón de Miraflores.
Peru is famous for handcrafted textiles, and some of the rarest and most beautiful examples can be seen at the well-curated Amano Pre-Columbian Textile Museum. Spend an early afternoon getting lost in the exhibits that span global textiles and Peruvian history, in addition to offering a deep dive into the Indigenous communities that formed this region.
For lunch, head to La Mar Cebichería Peruana, where Peru’s original celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio, has created a loyal following with sustainably caught, elegantly presented fish and seafood — including some of the best Peruvian ceviches in the city.
From there, tour the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site, incongruously nestled in a residential section of Miraflores, to see adobe structures built by the pre-Incan Indigenous coastal civilization in A.D. 600.
Once you’re ready to pull yourself back to the present day, head back to the waterfront and get ready for a blast of adrenaline: You’re off on a tandem parasailing or paragliding adventure over the Pacific. For an adventure like this, Aeroxtreme Parapente is a top-rated tour operator.
Come down from your bird’s-eye view for dinner. Dip a toe into neighboring San Isidro (which used to be part of Miraflores) for a meal at Osso Carnicería y Salumería, where Peruvian butcher and chef Renzo Garibaldi celebrates all things beef, including dry-aged cuts and a stellar burger. For equally creative cocktails, head to Carnaval Bar, where bartenders live and breathe mixology — there’s even an ice chef who carves up special ice cubes and sculptures.
Saturday: Immerse Yourself in Art and Cuisine in Barranco
South of Miraflores lies Barranco. Established as a fishing village, and later becoming a summer retreat for the city’s wealthy residents, this mansion-studded area evolved into a hip haven for artists and Limeños looking for a bohemian vibe. Start with breakfast at La Bodega Verde, an indoor-outdoor café that’s a local favorite. Then walk 10 minutes down the road to find some hyper-local gifts and souvenirs — from jewelry to textiles to handicrafts — at nearby shops Dédalo and Puna before sauntering west to the Pacific Ocean for a walk along a scenic cliff-top promenade, El Malecón.
Once you’ve gotten your dose of fresh air, cut back into the city streets and enjoy Barranco’s famous street art — there are paintings on nearly every building, created by Peruvian and international artists alike — on your way to Isolina Taberna Peruana for lunch. Its menu is dotted with traditional favorites like causa (a layered mashed-potato terrine), anticuchos (grilled strips of marinated skewered beef heart), lomo saltado (Peruvian beef stir-fry) and sancocho (a vegetable and meat stew).
After you’ve had your fill, walk to the nearby 19th-century Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) where, legend has it, anyone looking for love will find it if they manage to hold their breath during the entire walk across the bridge. (No running!) Then visit the petite but powerful MATE museum to see the work of celebrated Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer Mario Testino.
One of the most celebrated restaurants in South America is Central Restaurante in Barranco, where you can indulge in a multicourse tasting menu inspired by Peruvian regions and ingredients. It’s as much a beautiful education as it is a delicious dinner. If you can’t get reservations at Central, which earned the number-one spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, or if the price tag is out of your budget, make a reservation at nearby Merito, where two former Central cooks work their magic.
Cap your Barranco exploration off with a cold Chilcano (Peruvian pisco and ginger ale over ice) at Juanito de Barranco (“Juanito’s” to locals). This no-frills bar has been in business since 1937 and continues to attract a lively mix of artists, politicians, locals and travelers.
Sunday: Take a Trip Through Time in the Historic Center
Grab a coffee and a ham sandwich for breakfast like the locals do at Restaurant Cordano. Opened in 1905, this neighborhood classic is just a few steps from the Plaza de Armas de Lima, where you’ll find the Lima Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built between 1602 and 1797 on the site of an Incan shrine, underscoring the site’s significance. The carved stone façade gives way to a lavish interior where Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro is buried.
Nearby is the yellow San Francisco church and convent, which expanded over time into a sprawling structure known as the Monumental Complex. It’s home to a vast library and catacombs — some of the oldest and largest on the continent — with bones from more than 70,000 bodies, including those of many famous people. Take a break in the plaza and admire the Renaissance fountain, which dates back to 1651, and the uniformed guards in front of the neo-Baroque Government Palace, home of the Peruvian president.
Located in the Palace of Expositions building, the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) presents a bit of everything in one architecturally important space, including pre-Columbian ceramics, work from modern Peruvian artists and much more. Refuel with lunch in the inviting museum café, and then head for Casa de Aliaga, an opulent colonial mansion that has remained inhabited by members of the Aliaga family for more than 17 generations. Reservations and a guide are a must, so plan ahead.
For dinner, head to the Museo del Pisco. Located just off the Plaza de Armas de Lima, this is not a museum at all but rather a bar and restaurant known for inventive pisco cocktails using ingredients like infused pisco, coffee and tropical fruit to show off the potential of this beloved Peruvian distillate. Choose from a short but sweet menu of Peruvian favorites and well-made bar food.
Then head to Pancho Fierro Café Bar, an all-day cafe that kicks up the energy with cocktails at night. The cozy atmosphere is a great way to wrap up your weekend in Lima.