Guide to the best tours in Lima Peru
The capital of Peru is a fascinating mix of colonial Spanish history and trendy modern urbanism. It's a fantastic place to enjoy Peruvian cuisine and base yourself for visits to surrounding archaeological sites and wildlife hotspots. Whatever your interest, we've got a day tour or activity to suit you. Check live availability, book easily online and receive instant confirmation. Get your free guide of the best tours in Lima Peru.
Top 10 things to do in Lima Peru
We have hand picked the top 10 most popular Lima attractions. It is recommended that you do not visit Lima on your own as a tourist. You should always go on a tour with a reputable local guide or agency.
1. Visit Lima's Historic Plaza de ArmasThe Plaza de Armas, also known as the Plaza Mayor, sits at the heart of Lima's historic center, one of the few remaining parts of the city that still gives a sense of the city’s colonial past. Acknowledged for its historical and cultural significance by being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1988, this is the spot where Francisco Pizarro founded the city in 1535. A colonial fountain serves as the square's centerpiece, while some of Lima's most important buildings surround the historic plaza.
2. Explore Lima's colonial buildings and mansionsArm yourself with a camera and take a trip to the Palacio de Gobierno, official home to Peru's President, on the northern side of the square where, at noon, you can watch the changing of the palace guard. To the southeast lies the Catedral de Lima, the final resting place of Pizarro himself and built on the plot of Lima’s first church. Further photo opportunities include the Archbishop's Palace and the Municipal Palace (Lima's City Hall), both of which are adorned with ornately carved, and magnificently preserved, wooden balconies. Many of Lima's once-grand colonial mansions have been lovingly preserved, complete with the furnishings and personal effects of their original owners. Most are open to the public by appointment only or through tour agencies, but history buffs (and interior designers) will find the extra pre-planning worthwhile. Those not to miss include Casa di Aliaga, a block north of the Plaza de Armas, which was the former residence of Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of Pizarro’s conquistadors and now the oldest house in the Americas. One block northwest lies Casa de Oquendo, a 19th-century mansion complete with watchtower, while just south of the plaza, you’ll find Palacio Torre Tagle, an 18th-century mansion with finely carved wooden balconies that’s now home to the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. Marvel at the San Francisco conventLima is home to many fine religious buildings, but the San Francisco convent is one of the best. Providing an oasis of calm in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, its rooms showcase beautifully preserved Baroque architecture, gilded altars, and works of religious art. Don't miss the monastery's library with its massive religious texts and colonial ambiance.
4. Turn red when looking at Pre-Colombian erotic ceramicsEasily containing the most comprehensive array of pre-Colombian ceramics, Museo Larco has, however, become known for one particular part of its collection: the Erotic Gallery. This room has left more than a few tourists blushing due to its display of ceramics depicting unabashedly x-rated scenes. For the more serious historians, the museum has an exceptional range of more family-friendly pottery, spanning cultures as diverse as the Chimú, Nazca, Wari, and Moche, as well as being home to the greatest of museum crowd-pleasers: mummies.
5. Become an ancient Peruvian history buffWhile the grandest and most significant of Peru’s many pre-Colombia monuments are found beyond the limits of the capital, Lima has a host of museums to whet your appetite for learning about the country’s ancient cultures. The oldest of all Peruvian museums is the mammoth-sized Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropología, e Historia del Perú, covering every Peruvian culture you’ve ever heard of (and many you haven’t). You’ll find artifacts here that include the crossed hands stone from Kotosh and the seven-foot-high carved monolith, the Raimondi Stele from Chavín de Huántar.
There are also excellent art museums in Lima, with the most famous being the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), located on the northern edge of the Parque de la Exposición and hosting objects covering 3,000 years of history, including a superb collection of religious paintings from the Cusqueña School. Further south in Barranco, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima (MAC Lima) is a good place to sink your teeth into modern and contemporary art. Look out for evening events where you can sometimes meet the artists. Don’t miss the nearby MATE, Museo Mario Testino, where spacious rooms are filled with the work of the acclaimed photographer, who rose to fame with his portraits of her Royal Highness, Princess Diana.
6. Explore the ancient adobe-brick pyramids of Huaca Pucllana and PachacámacYou don't have to leave Lima to begin your exploration of Peru's historic sites. Built by the Lima culture sometime between 300 and 700 AD and constructed from millions of adobe bricks, the Huaca Pucllana is a giant pyramid located in Miraflores. After taking a tour of the ruins (don’t forget your sunscreen—the sun can be fierce), head to the site's restaurant, Restaurant Huaca Pucllana, for some outstanding (but expensive) regional dishes.
And only 35 kilometers southeast of the city, the Pachacámac site dates back to 200 AD, making it vastly older than Huaca Pucllana and practically ancient compared with Machu Picchu. Most of the buildings around today were built during Inca occupation in the 15th-century, and you’ll need a bit of imagination to return the adobe-brick temples to their former glory, many of which look like they’ve melted a bit in the sun. That said, if you want to get a glimpse of Peru before the Spanish arrived really, it’s an excellent place to start.
7. Visit Peru's trendiest neighborhood of Miraflores and the bohemian district of BarrancoMiraflores is one of Lima's most upscale districts, chock full of fancy bars, stylish restaurants, and trendy discotecas. Parque Kennedy is the central point of the neighborhood and perfect for a spot of people watching – or cat admiring. It's home to a population of convivial cats, most of which were abandoned and now cared for by a local NGO, so don’t be surprised if you make more than a few new friends here.
Heading towards the coastal cliffs is where you’ll find El Malecón, the city's seafront strip with the picturesque Parque del Amor (Love Park) containing modern sculptures, colorful mosaics and amorous couples relaxing on its grassy lawns. Stroll along El Malecón for spectacular sea views or hire a bicycle or a pair of rollerblades to cruise along the coastal cycle paths. Head south along the coast from Miraflores, and you'll end up in the small district of Barranco. This is Lima's bohemian quarter, a place for poets, artists, and the city’s alternative crowd. A daytime stroll will take you past stylish cafes and a wealth of fairs selling handmade, and often fair-trade, food and crafts, most of which are made by local designers or come from around the country. Don't miss El Puente de Los Suspiros (The Bridge of Sighs), a quaint wooden bridge located at the top of the stone steps that wind down to the beaches below Barranco. But it’s at night that Barranco’s true colors can be seen. Pop into the chic Barranco Beer Company, a craft brewery with a gorgeous rooftop terrace or the slightly dingier, but a genuinely Barranco experience, Bodega Piselli, which dates back to 1915.
8. Delight yourself with the most delicious Peruvian gastronomy and its most popular cocktail, the Pisco SourPeru has long been recognized as home to South America’s most exciting fine-dining, with its restaurants consistently appearing on the world’s best lists. Among those not to miss include Central, which, led by chef Virgilio Martínez, has a tasting menu exploring every inch and altitude of Peruvian territory and cuisine. Maido, with its Peruvian-Japanese fusion tasting menus, à la carte and sushi dishes, is another one for a food splurge, while perhaps Lima’s most famous restaurant, Astrid y Gastón, which opened over 20 years ago, continues to lead the way when it comes to top-class, contemporary Peruvian cuisine. Book well ahead and expect to pay for an experience—you might leave with an empty wallet, but it’ll be an evening you won’t forget.
And don't forget to order Peru's most popular cocktail: the Pisco sour. Whipped up from a mixture of pisco, lemon juice, bitters, sugar and egg white and whizzed in a blender over crushed ice, it’s impossible to visit Lima without trying a glass or three. The most famous place for a taste is at the Gran Hotel Bolívar, a bar whose former clientele allegedly includes Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, and whose mammoth-sized drinks are as magnificent as the building itself. If you enjoy sea food, nothing quite says Peruvian cuisine like a plate of practically straight-from-the-sea ceviche, and a visit to one of the capital's top cevicherias should be high on your list of things to do in Lima. A mix of fish, red onions, chili peppers and sweet potato marinated in lemon, you can indulge in this simple yet delicious dish in practically any of the city’s restaurants, but for guaranteed quality, seek out Punto Azul, which is known for its delicate flavors, freshness of its ingredients and accessible price (expect to pay around 32 soles). In a league (and price-bracket) of its own, La Mar, owned by acclaimed chef Gastón Acurio, is pricey but lives up to the hype, with the northern Peruvian delicacy ceviche de conchas negras (black shell ceviche) and even vegetarian ceviches on the menu. For a truly authentic experience, eat lunch at Chez Wong, a restaurant that counted Anthony Bourdain as a fan.