What to see in Lima, from the well-known district of Miraflores to the ever-growing outskirts

It was time to leave again.

I would like to be able to say that in times of waning pandemic (it was Sep. 2021) traveling was difficult, complicated, full of bureaucratic traps, shots to do, and sheets to print, but in reality, it was not. It was not complicated on the outward journey nor even on the return journey. Yes, a few more things have to be done, but nothing that cannot be managed (including the Italian quarantine upon return).

In any case, before diving into Lima what to see, let’s start with a small list:

  • what you have to do to go to Peru
  • Is Lima dangerous?
  • Lima, first impressions
  • Miraflores
  • The beaches of Barranco and Miraflores
  • Bars and restaurants in Miraflores and Barranco
  • The Huaca Pucllana and Huallamarca
  • The historic center
  • Worthy museums in Lima
  • How to move around
  • The airport plus Callao
Lima, plaza San Martin
Lima what to see, one of the two central squares of the city, Plaza San Martin with the statue of, well, San Martin

Lima what to see, but first what you need to do to go to Peru

At the time of writing, June, 2022, Perù appears to have managed to keep the possible third, fourth and fifth waves of coronavirus under control. Daily infections are under a thousand and most of the restrictions on internal travel have been eliminated. As of this moment to enter Perù you need to have the certificate of a complete vaccination and sign a declaration at this address  https://djsaludviajero.minsa.gob.pe/dj-salud/.

A curfew remains in place in some regions but not in Callao and Lima.

The face mask is mandatory in closed and open spaces with the exception of Lima, Callao, and a few other regions.

Furthermore, for all trips on public buses (and if you move a little you will take a lot of buses) you will have to wear a sort of face shield that can be bought for a few Soles (the Peruvian currency, the exchange rate is 1 euro 4.9 soles, so let’s say pure 5) and every time you enter a shop, bar or restaurant, your hands will be disinfected with alcohol and your temperature will be taken.

maschera facciale Perù
Double facial mask and face shield on public transport in Perù

These measures are constantly changing so ask around and have a look on the internet at gob.pe or regional government site. In my experience, only in the most remote parts of the countryside the COVID-related orders are followed with a certain elasticity (in Peru the coronavirus death toll was among the highest in the world).

A curious fact. While boarding the return flight from Lima to Amsterdam, a man, a foreigner, made a scene because he didn’t want to put on a mask, going so far as to stage a scuffle with another passenger, even putting himself on guard like a boxer and throwing a few jabs. A decent show I must say, then the police came and the agitated one was turned away. And he hasn’t even boarded the flight.

What to see in Lima. Is it a dangerous city?

After the details on what you need to do to enter Perù, let’s get down to business. As in Bogota and Quito, I decided to move around Lima mainly on foot, starting from the southern part of the city, the Barranco district, to reach the historic center of Lima.

periferia di Lima
Lima what to see. Here you can see a mural that praises one of the candidates for the political elections of 2021. These murals are everywhere (except, of course, in the affluent neighborhoods). In this photo, you see the name of the winner of the elections, the actual President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, who won the elections with a very narrow margin over Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator Alberto Fujimori, now detained in Callao for corruption. Castillo is a leftist but very conservative politician and few Peruvians have really appreciated being able to choose between a dictator’s daughter and Castillo. I would add that Peruvian politics, if possible, is even more complicated than the Italian one. I may be wrong but I believe that all the last 7 Peruvian presidents have been accused of corruption and sentenced or at least are still on trial. Alejandro Toledo is the most famous case: when the police knocked at the door with an arrest warrant, he shot himself with a gun.

I talked in detail about the alleged danger of Lima in a specific article. For now, I can only say that passing through the districts of Barranco, Miraflores, Surquillo, San Isidro, Lince, Jesus Maria, and Lima downtown (central Lima), I have not noticed any worrying situations, they are all rather quiet, at least during the day.

The matter obviously changes at night (at night I only had the opportunity to walk in Miraflores and Barranco, usually safe neighborhoods, especially if you are sober) when you must always, maintain a certain degree of attention, especially if you take selfies left and right.

Lima what to see. Let’s start with the basics, first impressions

The first impact with Lima, especially if you go there in our summer (which is their winter), can be quite unexpected and slightly depressing. The climate is in fact similar to Italian November, with low clouds, fog and a lot of humidity, only occasionally in the morning the sun peeps out from behind the blanket of clouds. It is no coincidence that Lima is also called “la gris“, the gray one.

Even the coast, with a rather high cliff, doesn’t look very … tropical, welcoming, or inviting unless you surf with a wetsuit. Those who follow me on Instagram will have seen some of the shots that I show yopu below.

Parco Meliton Porras Miraflores Lima
Lima what to see. This is the Meliton Porras park in Miraflores
Lima miraflores visto dal mare
Lima what to see. Miraflores, seen from the sea towards the interior in one of the rare moments of sunshine

Lima what to see, a classic, Miraflores

Miraflores is the neighborhood that will almost certainly be your home. You will learn to know it, to trust it, and to accept the idea that maybe it is not that bad (for example it is not El Poblado, the gringo neighborhood of Medellin). In fact, Miraflores looks a bit like the set of The Truman Show, with clean streets, green trees, grass curated like in an English stadium, and police and private security pacing the streets at every corner.

What to see in Lima, murales in Miraflores
What to see in Lima, murals in Miraflores

Miraflores, however, is also substance, understood both as quantity and, obviously, as wealth. It is in fact the neighborhood par excellence, the neighborhood where all limeños would like to go to live. South of Mira, Barranco is also not bad, with his artistic/creative-but-a-little-commercial side, and San Isidro and Surquillo also have a certain air of a plump know-it-all bourgeoisie (most of the embassies are located in San Isidro, including the Italian one).

Lima what to see, Huaca Pucllana. In the background Miraflores district
Lima what to see, Huaca Pucllana. In the background Miraflores district
Lima what to see. Larcomar shopping mall in Miraflores
Lima what to see. Larcomar shopping mall in Miraflores

The beaches

Yes, Lima has a long coastline and several beaches. A coast that is not easy to access but nonetheless a beautiful coast. The beach has fine sand or pebbles and in two or three spots you will see a lot of surfers: Playa Makaha and Waikiki, names not chosen at random, are in fact great for some good old surfing.

I want to clarify it. We are not talking about a Cancun beach or a tropical beach. The Pacific Ocean is there, in front of you in all its strength and power, the waters are cold and for most of the year the climate is gloomy, at least in winter and in the first part of spring. Nevertheless, the spectacle and the landscape are to be admired.

Both in Miraflores and Barranco you can find a pedestrian crossing to reach the beaches.

Lima spiaggia Miraflores
Lima, two more shots of the beaches of Miraflores and …
Lima spiaggia Barranco
… Barranco
Lima, spiaggia di Barranco
Lima, the beach of Barranco with the pedestrian bridge

Miraflores and Barranco, cafes and bars

I would wrong many by saying the “best bars and restaurants in Miraflores and Barranco”, so I’ll just say the ones I liked because I really don’t know if they are the best.

Among the bars or restaurants, which at certain times, pandemic permitting, can also become half-discos, I would say I appreciated Ayahuasca and Dada, both in Barranco.

If you like wine and want to try something really good and South American, I recommend La Esquina bar de Vinos, in Miraflores.

As for the restaurants, keep in mind that I will make a special article on the experience of Central, by chef Virgilio Martinez (which you can also find in the Netflix series Chef Table). Having said that I would say that La 73 and Mama Olla are quality restaurants, tasty and with prices a bit cheaper than European restaurants. Obviously, you can find a lot of very local, tasty and cheap places, especially at lunch. Look or ask for “un menù ejecutivo” or similar. I’ve seen a small menu starting at 3-4 euros.

Lima what to see, Miraflores. This is a bit complex to explain. Who understands it is good. Referring to the Brazilian investigation ava jato … and I said it all

There is a lot of talk about Peruvian cuisine and Peruvians are rightly proud of it. I have not always seen, and above all eaten, the exceptional things people are talking about and the quantity of meat that is eaten seems excessive to me.

Of course, if we make a comparison with the classic Colombian or Ecuadorian cuisine we are at another level, so, in my case, it could be a problem of excessive expectations. In any case, even, for this reason, I will not say anything about the dishes except that the classic ceviche (raw fish usually marinated with lime) and the lomo saltado (beef with onions, tomatoes, and various spices) were my favorites.

Huaca Puccllana in Miraflores e Huaca Huallamarca in San Isidro

If Miraflores has its Huaca, San Isidro is no exception. Huacas are spiritual places, temples, pyramids or other ancient structures, that you will find all over Perù and Lima is no exception. You will see these sacred/ceremonial places, these pyramids, literally pop out of the gardens of houses. Both Lima Huacas testify to the past of the city, which was inhabited long before the Incas or the arrival of the conquistadors.

Lima what to see, another view of the Huaca Pucllana
Lima what to see, another view of the Huaca Pucllana
Huaca Huallamarca
Huaca Huallamarca in San Isidro

Lima what to see: the historic center

In addition to the generally beautiful squares (Plaza San Martin and Plaza Mayor above all) I would say that the convent of San Francesco, with its catacombs, could be interesting to visit, as well as the Museum of Art of Lima.

Immediately behind this historic part of the city is the Rimac River with a small riverfront renovated and suitable for the strolling of children and families. From here on, towards the north, the infinite outskirts of the city extend around the viewpoint of Cerro San Cristobal. Weather permitting, impressive views of the city can be enjoyed from this viewpoint, but rumors on the street say to avoid walking there.

Lima Plaza da Armas
Lima, Plaza de Armas

Too bad because I would have liked to see San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the most popular neighborhoods in Lima. It would have been interesting to see the effort that the Peruvian state is making to integrate these citizens.

What to see in Lima: museums and erotic art

Among the other things that can be seen I would say that the Museo de la Nacion is absolutely worthy, if only it were open. The pandemic here has claimed an excellent victim. It will certainly reopen, but when I don’t know.

The Larco Museum is another absolute must-see. A collection of exceptional ceramics, a gallery dedicated to erotic art, an important restaurant and a beautifully renovated colonial casona style. The Larco could be reached with a combi that runs along Av. La Marina, if you feel like diving into the intricate limeño public transport system, or by taxi.

The advertised Circuito Magico de Agua seems to me something that if you don’t have children up to 4 years old you can easily skip.

The Lugar della Memoria, on the seafront of Miraflores but at the very end, almost in the district of San Miguel, is a place dedicated to the memory of the period of the “civil war” that shook Peru between 1980 and the mid 90’s, but with very recent aftermaths (history note, the leader and founder of Sendero Luminoso, the movement that was behind much of the guerrilla/terrorist phenomenon, died in prison in Callao while I was there, the 11th September 2021).

How to get around Lima

From Miraflores or Barranco towards the historic center, if you are good walkers and leave in the morning, you could go on foot. It is 9-10 km not particularly beautiful (done on the busy Av. Arequipa or Salaverry), but this way you will have a bit of the pulse of the city, crossing popular and chic neighborhoods, crossing cycle paths and dodgy bars.

Lima what to see. In general, tourists like myself see it only from the windows of the bus: the immense outskirts of Lima.
Lima what to see. In general, tourists like myself see this only from the windows of the bus: the immense outskirts of Lima.

For all the destinations that you don’t feel like walking to you will have two roads: the not really user friendly, at least for a tourist, public transport system, (which has little of public, given that the combis that whiz by on the street are private buses and only some buses and the north-south “metropolitan” transport system on via expresa are really public) or a taxi.

Taxis do not have a meter and some are not really taxis (which is why many recommend using an app like Uber or Cabify, but I have not been very happy with the apps). In any case, the prices are very low, 3-4 euros for a normal ride and a few hundred in the event of a quick kidnapping with two armed friends of the taxi driver jumping in the back with you.

I’m joking.

Looking at it from the outside, it is clear that Lima lacks some of the infrastructure needed by a city of 10 million inhabitants. The problems of transport, left in the hands of a jungle of private individuals who can thus earn their bread, is just one example. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to talk about it later, but Peruvian airports would also need heavy interventions.

Lima, Jorge Chavez International Airport.

At the time of my arrival the only public service (a bus) that connects the airport of Lima, which is located in Callao, to Mira/Barranco, is not working. This means that the only reliable way to get from the airport to reach your Airbnb/hotel is by taxi. Which seems incredible to me. In any case, the system works well and costs 60 soles (about 12 euros), to get to Miraflores.

periferia di Lima

Undoubtedly there is the possibility of taking a combi or two, but after an intercontinental trip, I challenge you to navigate the transport system of a city you do not know, considering that walking around in Callao, the city – port that rises next to Lima and is naturally connected to the capital as if they are the same city, is not always recommended.

Finally, let’s talk about the Callao district

I mentioned Callao in the paragraph above. Callao is the port district of Lima, an indication that could make you realize that this is not the safest place in the city. There are many busy streets, above all Av. Guardia Chalaca and the Nestor Gambetta, but there is also an interesting tourist area near the Fortaleza del Real Felipe and the Naval Museum of Peru.

The blocks between Av. Manco Capac and Constitucion are another point of interest for the tourists, with several art galleries, exhibition spaces, bars, and some cafes. As some locals summarize, in this area Callao has made an effort to switch from knife to brush. Excluding the fortress area and these art spaces, the rest of Callao is not exactly tourist-friendly, especially for a lone tourist at night.

For this reason, if you want to walk around Callo, always ask very well how things are at the moment and consider carefully the areas and times in which you will find yourself in.

Lima what to see, conclusions

Well, I would say that the article on Lima what to see is finished. My opinion of Lima is extremely favorable and positive, at least as a tourist. The city is lively, has interesting historical areas, a super lively nightlife (pandemic permitting), and is certainly the beating heart of Peru. Peru is actually divided into Regions, but in reality everything is decided and passes through here.

Of course, the differences between the capital, especially some of its neighborhoods, and the rest of Peru, will immediately catch your eye. Even the differences between the various areas of the capital might seem excessive, but after all, Peru is a country that has emerged from a civil war, a growing country that has been able to rescue almost 20% of the population from poverty in the last 20 years. The direction is the right one, but the road is still bumpy.

I would say that at this point I am waiting for your opinion and, if necessary, your questions.

And if you still want to read I suggest:

Is Bangkok really dangerous?

Things to do on the magical Symi island

Copper and spirituality of the Debed gorge

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