Main Square, Lima Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor)
Plaza de Armas, or Plaza Mayor, is the historical center of Lima and the most logical starting point for visitors sightseeing in Central Lima. This is the original city center, founded in 1535, although almost all of the original structures were lost in the earthquake of 1746. The only original structure remaining in Lima's Plaza de Armas is the bronze fountain in the center, built in 1651. This main square was reconstructed following the quake and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The oldest building in the Plaza de Armas is the Cathedral on the eastern side, which was rebuilt shortly after the earthquake. The square is also surrounded by the Archbishop's Palace, the Casa del Oidor, and the Palacio del Gobierno.
The Lima Cathedral dominates the east side of the Plaza de Armas. This is where most people tend to begin their tour of the historic district of Lima and visitors and locals can often be seen sitting on the stairs in front of the Cathedral.Construction of the original Lima Cathedral was begun in 1535 and enlarged in 1564 based on the design of the cathedral in Sevilla. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1687 and almost destroyed by the big quake of 1746. Following this it was quickly rebuilt to its present appearance.Highlights of the interior include the carved choir, a carving of Jesus in the chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the churrigueresque (Spanish Baroque) altars, and the chapel containing the remains of Francisco Pizarro, the founder of Lima.There is also a small Museum of Religious Art in the back of the Cathedral which is included in the cost of admission.
Located on the north side of the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de Gobierno or Government Place, is the residence of the president of Peru. It is easily recognizable by the large wrought iron fence that surrounds the building and lines one side of the Plaza de Armas.The location of the Government Palace is of historical importance for two main reasons. It was house of Taulichusco, the ruler of the Rimac Valley during that time period. This was also the location where Jose San Martín declared the Independence of Peru on July 28, 1821.The first phase of construction on the Government Palace began in 1926 and the second phase was completed between 1937 and 1938. There is always a guard on duty outside the building and the changing of the guard takes place Monday to Friday at noon. Tours of the Palacio de Gobierno can be arranged by booking 24 hours in advance at the Jefatura de Turismo.
Jiron de la Union
Jiron de la Union is a pedestrian only street with modern shops and restaurants lining each side. The architecture here is a mix of old and new buildings. Jiron de la Union leads from Plaza de Armas to Plaza San Martin and is a pleasant place to stroll without all the traffic and street noise found on the other thorough fairs. For those interested in fast foods or western cuisine this is the area. Like the Plaza de Armas, there are street sellers walking the area selling souvenirs and other goods. There are also some historic sites along the street, including the Iglesia de La Merced.
The Iglesia de la Merced, built where the first Mass in Lima was celebrated, has a history of destruction and reconstruction. Originally built in 1534, La Merced was determined to be too small and a larger version was erected. It was then torn down and rebuilt in 1628. In 1687 the church was destroyed by an earthquake and again rebuilt. It was later damaged in the big quake of 1746 and gutted by a fire in 1773.The Church of La Merced which stands today was completed in the late 1700s and has an ornate baroque colonial façade. Followers of Padre Urraca can be seen each day as they come to La Merced to honor this 17th Century priest.