Lima Tourist Attractions
For many travellers, their first glimpse of Peru is the sprawling metropolis of Lima. It is usually a stark contrast to the images presented in travel magazines, of Andean villagers wearing bright colors, farmers herding sheep and llamas, and mountain peaks surrounding green valleys.
Lima is a bustling city on the dry coastal plain, where the dominant colors in the landscape are brown and gray, and locals dress the same as those in cities across North America or Europe.Despite this image, Lima has it's own attraction, and those willing to take the time to explore will find it is a vibrant city with much to offer. In addition to having some of the countries best museums, restaurants, and nightlife, Lima also features beautiful Spanish architecture, spacious green parks, and quaint ocean side suburbs. Home to 9 million people, almost one third of the country's population, Lima is a large part of what the Peru of today is all about and it should not be overlooked.HistoryFounded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, the city was referred to by the Spanish as the "the King of Cities". Its location on the coast was seen as a strategic advantage for trade and as a result Lima was once the most important and richest city in the Americas. It was home to the first university on the continent and served as the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition.In 1746 a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city and killed over 4,000 people, sending the city into a rapid state of decline. Lima gradually rebuilt creating much of the layout and architecture that can still be seen today, with spacious plazas throughout the city. In the late 1800s the boundary of the Lima was expanded to include the suburbs and the city began to rebound. Unfortunately in the last half of the 20th Century political and economic problems led to poverty and Peruvians from rural areas flocked to the cities in great numbers. This can be seen in the "pueblos jovenes" on the outskirts of the city, where many people live without electricity, water and proper sanitation.In recent years the city has been once again rebounding, with more restoration projects in the historic city center and a greater priority placed on education and employment.SuburbsThe Greater Lima Area is comprised of several suburbs. Central Lima (Lima Centro) is the main historic district with many of the most important tourist attractions. Visitors looking to do a walking tour will usually start in Lima Centro from the Plaza de Armas. Miraflores and Barranco are considered to be the more upscale neighborhoods where many visitors will choose to find accommodation. These areas are also known for their fine dining and hillside parks.
Lima's main square, the Plaza Mayor, is located in the heart of central Lima. On the east side of the square is the Cathedral.
San Francisco Monastery and Church
The San Francisco Monastery and Church (Iglesia de San Francisco) is most famous for its catacombs, containing the bones of tens of thousands of bodies. This was Lima's first cemetery. Narrow hallways beneath the Church of San Francisco are lined on each side with bones. In one area, a large round hole in the ground is filled with bones and skulls arranged in a geometrical form, like a piece of art. If mass is taking place upstairs the sound reverberating through the catacombs is very eerie.The library, on the upper level, has thousands of historical and antique books and documents. The San Francisco Monastery also has an impressive collection of religious art. It is probably best known for a mural of the last supper depicting the apostles dining on guinea pig and a devil standing next to Judas.The San Francisco Monastery and Church was consecrated in 1673 and is one of the best preserved colonial churches in Lima. It withstood the earthquakes of 1687 and 1746 but did suffer extensive damage in a quake in 1970.Visiting the catacombs may be a problem for those who are claustrophobic. The ceiling is very low and the doorways from one chamber to the next are very small, requiring people to duck down to enter. It's also like a maze, with poorly lit hallways leading in different directions. However, the catacombs are visited at the end of the tour and visitors can decide to wait out the underground portion at the top of the stairs near the open courtyard.
As the name suggests the Museo de Oro houses a huge collection of gold with thousands of pieces of gold, silver, and copper. The museum suffered a major set back in 2001 and was closed for a period of time when some pieces on display were found to be fakes. Just how many pieces is a matter of some debate. A scandal ensued and now only authentic gold pieces are on display. Despite this, the museum still has credibility problems and sees fewer visitors than it once did.On display are funerary masks, jewelry, ceremonial knives, figurines, and other pieces acquired from a variety of archeological sites throughout Peru. There are pieces from Chavín, Vicus, Moche, Chimú, Inca, Chancay, Paracas, Nazca and Tihuanaco cultures. In addition to the metal works, the Museo do Oro also contains a collection of textiles, stone carvings and ceramics.Upstairs is the Arms Museum, displaying weapons from around the world , representing a variety of time periods.`The Museo de Oro is entirely privately owned, with pieces being acquired primarily by buying from tomb robbers.
National Archaeology, Anthropology, and History Museum
The National Archaeology, Anthropology, and History Museum (Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología, e Historia) explores the history of Peru from prehistoric times to the colonial era. Although it is not as large as the Museo de la Nacion, the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología, e Historia museum does an excellent job of laying out the displays in an organized manner. Visitors are not overwhelmed by the amount of material, making it easier to understand.On display are ceramics, stone carvings of figures and obelisks, wrapped mummies and burial tombs, jewelry, tapestries, gold and metal work, and scale models of many archeological sites. The ceramic collection features pieces which date from 2800 BC, as well as a selection of erotic figures. The stone carved obelisks include the granite Tello Obelisk and the famous Estela Raimondi.The National Archaeology, Anthropology, and History Museum also offers visitors the opportunity to walk through the adjacent home, once occupied by both Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar.
Church of Las Nazarenas
Inglesia de Las Nazarenas (Church of the Nazarenas) has a unique history. This area was once inhabited by freed black slaves and was little more than a shanty town. An ex-slave painted a mural of the crucifixion of Christ on the side of a wall, known as El Señor de los Milagros. In 1655 an earthquake leveled most of this area but left the wall in tact. It was regarded as a miracle and Inglesia de Las Nazarenas was built around the wall which contained the image.An oil replica is now mounted on this wall which stands behind the altar. Each year on October 18, during the El Señor de los Milagros festival, the painting is paraded through the streets with a procession that numbers in the thousands.The Las Nazarenas is located in Central Lima, several blocks east of the Plaza de Armas.
The Museo de la Nacion (National Museum) is the largest museum in Lima and the best place to begin exploring Peru's ancient history and gain an understanding of Peruvian culture. The museum covers the entire archeological history of Peru from the first inhabitants to the Inca Empire. Exhibits are laid out in chronological order, showing the advances from one culture to the next. On display are impressive collections of ceramics and textiles, as well as illustrations and models. Archeological sites, including Machu Picchu and Nazca lines are recreated with scale models. Most impressive is the replica of the grave of the Lord Sipan.In addition to the permanent collection Museo de la Nacion also has changing exhibits. Most displays are in Spanish and English.
Address: Av. Javier Preado Este 2465, San Borja, Peru
Opening hours: 9am-6pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Maundy (Holy) Thursday - Christian, Good Friday - Christian
Located south of central Lima in Pueblo Libre is the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, more commonly referred to as just the Larco Museum. It is housed in an 18th Century viceroy mansion built on the site of a 7th Century pre-Colombian pyramid. The Larco Museum contains a huge collection of ceramics with more than 40,000 pieces, although many are in storage and not on displayl. A large portion of the collection is from the Moche and Chimú cultures. They also have a collection erotic pottery, which is off limits to children.In addition to the ceramics the Larco Museum also has an excellent gold collection and some textiles, stone carvings, and metalwork.
Museum of the Inquisition and Congress
The Museum of the Inquisition and Congress (Museo de la Inquisición y del Congreso) is housed in a restored mansion that was used by the Spanish Inquisition from 1570 to 1820 and eventually became the Senate building. Exhibits explain the history and impact of the Inquisition. Visitors can tour underground rooms once used as torture chambers for those accused of heresy. Some of the instruments used to torture victims are on display. The basement of the Museum of the Inquisition is also home to a wax exhibit with life like figures being tortured by various methods. Upstairs is the university library, noted for its carved wooden ceiling.The Museum of the Inquisition and Congress is located on the Plaza Bolivar in central Lima.
Santa Rosa of Lima Sanctuary
Santa Rosa, whose birth name was Isabel Flores de Oliva, was born in Lima. The Sanctuario de Santa Rosa de Lima (Church and Sanctuary of Santa Rosa) was built at the location of her birth place. Santa Rosa devoted her life to caring for the ill and was canonized by Pope Clemente X, in 1671. Many still pray to her for miracles related to health and illness. She is the patron saint of the Americas, the Indies, and the Philippines, as well as the Peruvian National Police Force.In the garden of the Sanctuario de Santa Rosa de Lima is the hermitage built by Santa Rosa and her brother, and the well where parishioners come to throw written requests for miracles.
Santo Domingo Church and Monastery
Built in 1540 on land given to the Dominican Friar Vincente Valverde by Francisco Pizarro, the church of Santo Domingo (Inglesia y convento de Santo Domingo) is one of the oldest and most historic in Lima. Santo Domingo is home to the remains of Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Martin de Porres, who was the first black saint in the Americas, and San Jaun Masias. There is a statue of Saint Rose on display which was given to Santo Domingo by Pope Clement X.In the monastery are tile mosaics which depict the life of Santo Domingo de Guzman, who founded the Dominican order. There is also a pleasant central garden.The Church of Santo Domingo is located a short walk northwest of Plaza de Armas in central Lima.
Zoo: Parque de las Leyendas
The Lima Zoo, officially known as "Parque de las Leyendas" displays a wide variety of native Peruvian animals and birds, as well as animals from around the world. The enclosures are large but allow for some close encounters between humans and wildlife. The resident giraffe will often stretch his neck out over the fence to lick he hands of children and wait to be petted. The water buffalos also seem comfortable standing in areas where visitors are free to touch them. In addition to the animals there is also a display on mining and a petroleum exhibit.The Lima Zoo is only a short cab ride from the airport and a good place to spend a few hours if you have a layover in Lima.
Aliaga's House, or Casa de Aliaga, is one of the oldest, best preserved, and most historic colonial mansions in Lima. It dates back to the early years of the city. Built on the ruins of an old temple or huaca, the Aliaga's house has been occupied by the Aliaga family since 1535, when the land was given to Jerónimo de Aliaga. It has been handed down through seventeen generations, making it the oldest single family-owned and occupied home in South America. The house is furnished in colonial style with pieces from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Aliaga's House can be visited by guided tour only, through Lima Tours.
Banco Central de Reserva del Peru Museum
Just a short walk south of the Plaza de Armas in central Lima is the Museo del Banco Central de Reserva, at the corner of Ucayal and Lampa. The museum is divided into three sections; numismatist, archeology, and art. On display are coins and notes from around the world, pre-Colombian ceramics and textiles, and Peruvian art from the 19th and 20th Centuries. Of particular interest is the extensive ceramic collection from the pre-Inca Vicus culture. The art collection at the Museo del Banco Central de Reserva is also quite impressive with works by such artists as Pancho Fierro, Enrique Polanco, and Jose Sabogal.
Southeast of the Plaza de Armas, near the Central Market, is the start of China Town, or Barrio Chino as it is called. It is easily recognizable by the Chinese Arch over the entrance. Lima's China Town is primarily known for its Chinese-Peruvian cuisine, which is famed for being the best in Lima. The area also has a few temples and interesting stores if you have some extra time. For visitors spending the day sightseeing in central Lima, this is a great area to stop for lunch, but probably doesn't warrant a great deal of time for touring around. The main street in China Town is Capón.
Miraflores is a suburb of Lima, located just south of Central Lima. Situated on the cliffs above the ocean, Miraflores is home to modern office buildings and high rises, with a few colonial style homes and hotels mixed in. It also has some beautiful green spaces along the cliff tops overlooking the water. Locals use the cliffs for hang gliding and the beaches below are frequented by surfers. Miraflores is one of the more affluent suburbs and generally considered to be a safer area of the city. Travelers often choose to stay in this area because of the great restaurants, hotels, and shopping, as well as the safety issue.Prices in this area are generally higher than in Central Lima for everything, including dining, shopping, and accommodation.
Located in Miraflores, Museo Amano (Amano Museum) houses the private collection of Mr. Yoshitaro Amano, who the museum is named after. On display are ceramics and textiles, organized chronologically to illustrate the differences and advances from one culture to the next. Although there are a range of Pre-Columbian cultures represented, including Chimu and Nazca, the Museo Amano is best known for its remarkable collection of textiles from the Chancay culture. This is a lesser known culture from the northern coast and consequently not seen as much in other museums.Guided tours of Museo Amano are available to small groups only and last about one hour. Tours must be booked in advance.