Lima is one of those do-not-dare-to-miss-it places that will offer you a spectacular introduction to culture, history and tradition of Peru. Things to do in Lima include plenty of sightseeing, art shows and clubbing, and you will do all that while eating delicacies you’ve probably never tried before. It’s a bit of a city of contrasts – on one hand you have beautiful beaches and parks, made for sitting and enjoying your time off or doing some adventure sports if that’s more of your thing, and on the other hand you have busy city with vibrant nightlife. You might find it a bit overcrowded and messy at first but, if planned well, you will truly enjoy your visit to the city!

Being the most populated metropolitan area in Peru, Lima is home to almost 10 million people. It’s the largest city in Peru and third largest in Americas (the only two bigger cities are Mexico City and Sao Paulo). Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, it was one of the most important cities in the country, known as the City of Kings (Ciudad de los Rejes). The National University of San Marcos, founded in 1551  and the oldest continuously working higher education institution in Americas is situated in Lima.

If you are planning a short visit to Lima bear in mind that 2 days will be enough to see main attractions of the city, while for seeing a bit more of natural surroundings of the city you will need about 5 days.

I prepared the ultimate list of things you can do in Lima and I’m sure it will be useful to everyone traveling there. Learn about its history, interesting sites, fancy neighbourhoods, wonderful monuments, museums and incredible foods and you are set for an unforgetable experience. This list included has many ideas of some uncommon things to do in Lima during your visit and I really hope you will find it useful :)

In case you are interested in certain topic only, here is the list of things I covered in the text and you can go directly there:

Things To Do in Lima: Sightseeing

1. Historic Centre of Lima

This is one of the most important tourist destinations not just in Lima, but in Peru. Since 1988 it’s protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its originality and many important historic and cultural sites.

Buildings in this part of town have around 1600 balconies with immense importance for the city.  Initially, balconies were made exactly like in Iberia and for the same reason – to give noble women more privacy. As the social norms were changing during the centuries, the balconies have lost their primary function. Still, their unique style captures attention of people and serves as a reminder on how society and its norms change during the time. Balconies definitely add up to originality of this area, giving it a bit more character. Local authorities recognized this and decided to do something in order to preserve them from lack of maintenance. During the what was called Adopt a Balcony program Alberto Andrade, mayor of Lima (1996-2002), invited individuals and companies to support it through ‘adopting a balcony’. The program was success and enough money was raised to restore or rebuild more than 100 balconies.

If you are into photography, one of the interesting things you can do in Lima is actually taking photos of these impressive balconies you’ll see (you certainly won’t lack in material :)).

Each of the buildings here showcases the outstanding beauty created in fusion of local craftsmen and strong influences from the Old World. Majority of these places are important historic monuments today. Since strong earthquakes in 16th, 17th and 18th century have affected many buildings, the ones we can see today date back to 17th or 18th century. They mostly represent the Hispano-American Baroque era, although there are few constructions from the 19th century done in Art Nouveau style adding this area some diversity.

2. Archbishop Palace

Construction of the original place started the same year Pizarro founded Lima, in 1535, and it was used as a home to the Archbishop of Lima. Current building is not the one originally built as it was moved in 1548 across the square. The building was restored and reopened in 1924 after it was demolished in the late 19th century and it is an example of neo-colonial architectural style which was quite used in Lima during the 20th century. Facade is decorated with ornaments in baroque style and it has two large balconies and grand granite sculpture of Saint Turibius of Mongrovejo, the patron protector of the Archdiocese. There are also two flagpoles, one for Peru and another one for flag of the Vatican.

archbishop's palace

Photo by: Fred Murphy

3. House of Oidor

One of the oldest houses in the city was home of The Oidor – the Spanish monarchy that acted as colonial administration. Their main function was to control the government in the colony and they advised viceroys.

4. House of Pilatos

House of Pilatos dates back to 1590 when it was constructed by Ruiz Portillo, a Jesuit priest. Spaniards named the house like this as it reminded them of similar house in Seville.

5. House of Aliaga

House of Aliaga was also constructed in 1535. Its first owner was Jerónimo de Aliaga, close associate to Pizarro, who was an exchequer in the Viceroyalty rule. After Jerónimo’s death, his family continued to live in the house. House of Aliaga is the oldest mansion in Lima located on the lateral street from the Government Palace. With its luxurious decoration it perfectly reflects the housing style of viceroyalty period. House of Aliaga is well preserved during the years and in special occasions cultural events take place here. Despite the fact it is still privately owned, you can go for a tour inside it in a prearranged agreement, tickets cost around $11.

6. Goyeneche House

One of the rare monuments here that remained in the same condition is Goyeneche House. It’s considered to be one of the most breathtaking houses in the historical centre. It’s constructed mid 18th century with strong French influence but with balconies that are done in typical style of colonial Lima.

goyeneche house interior

Photo by: A.Davey

7. Riva Agüero House

This house dates back to the 18th century and it belonged to Riva Agüero family. José de la Riva-Agüero, the last member of the family and recognized intellectual donated the house to Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Currently, the house is used as headquarters of the Riva Institute while the library is being used by local Museum of Popular Art.

8. Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and Convent of Santo Domingo

Construction of church and Convent of Santo Domingo started at the same time as foundation of Lima, but it ended by the end of the 16th century, with more than 5 decades of delay. Inside the church you can see images from the early years of Lima as well as image of Our Lady the Virgin of the Rosary. National University of San Marcos was founded at the convent and it is the first university founded in the Americas. The Temple of Our Lady of the Rosary become basilica in 1930 and inside of it you can see the Altar of the Peruvian Saints, highly respected by believers so each year thousands of people visit it, and there are many local people as well as foreigners.

9. Merced Church

If you have ever wondered how magnificent architecture of the 18th century was, one of the things you should do while in Lima is visiting the Merced Church, constructed in churrigueresco style. Interior of the church is filled with works of art with an amazing altar made in honor to the Virgin of Mercedes, the patron of the Arms of the Nation. Besides this, here you can see a great collection of paintings and some colonial statues of the city.

merced church

Photo by: McKay Savage

10. Sanctuary and Monastery of Las Nazarenas

Most important religious procession of Americas starts from this church each October 18th and 28th. The church is devoted to so called Lord of Miracles or Señor de los Milagros, who is considered to be a Patron of Lima. Sanctuary and Monastery were constructed together at the end of the 18th century after another major earthquake hit Lima in 1746.

11. Torre Tagle Palace

A bit newer in comparison to other mansions in the area, Torre Tagle Palace might be one of the most significant remains from the 18th century architecture of Lima. Its first owner Don Bernardine Jose of Tagle Portocarrero was the last Marquess of Torre Tagle. In the beginning of the 20th century, the palace was acquired by the Peruvian government and now it is used as headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru. Impressive architecture of the place showcases a perfect mixture of diverse backgrounds of Viceroyalty of Peru and its two balconies, extremely well conserved, are known as authentic jewels of City of the Kings. I guess I shouldn’t tell you you should add it to your things to see in Lima list. :)

12. University of San Marcos “Casona” and University Park

Just around the University of San Marcos there’s a beautiful park, offering you a perfect place for relaxation and fun. The park was initially constructed in 1870 and, in occasion of celebration of nations’ independence 100th birthday, German colony paid for construction of 30 meters long Tower of the Clock. Every noon, you can hear notes of the national anthem coming from tower’s bells.

13. Plaza San Martín

In honor of one-century-long independence of Lima, Plaza San Martin was constructed in 1921. Monument dedicated to General José de san Martin is situated in the central part of plaza. There is also the magnificent Hotel Bolivar which was perceived as the most elegant building in Lima until the 21st century. There is also the Club Nacional, a place loved by high society of Lima. All this considered, Plaza San Martin became one of the symbols of Lima.

14. Plaza Dos de Mayo

If you are history-addicted kind of a traveler, and your things to do in Lima list has something like – seeing all the important sights, you should probably know it might not be possible to do (at least not in a couple of days :)). However, if history is your thing it might be interesting for you to go visit Plaza Dos de Mayo which was named (and constructed in the first place) in order to remember famous Battle of Callao that happened on May 2nd 1866. (The plaza was constructed 8 years later.)

15. Court of Santo Oficio

Established in 1569, Court of Santo Oficio was the place where all heresies and other crimes against Catholic faith were sanctioned. There’s an imposing neoclassical porch and an incredible ceiling made of carved wood – considered to be among the best ones in Lima.

16. San Francisco Church

An impressive construction from 17th century includes church, convent and plaza. The church is built in Baroque style with Corinthian columns and it’s made of stone.

Located in the Historic area of the city, it certainly adds up to the story of grand history of Lima. You will probably find interesting to see the catacombs where people were buried during the colonial era. The site features an old library with plenty of heavy decorated old books, you will wish to stay there for much longer. You will definitely remember its impressive architecture combined with rich interior decoration and mystery of catacombs for a long time after you leave. Or, as other travellers said about it – Prepare to be stunned :) The church is also a place where the Museum of Religious Art is situated, as well as Zurbarán room.

Taking photos is not allowed inside the church, so enjoy yourself while in there and plan a bit of time to have some rest at the plaza afterwards, I promise you an interesting people-watching experience. 😉

The church survived several major earthquakes that hit Lima in 17th and 18th century but it suffered huge damages in the one that happened in 1970.

You can visit it every day in morning hours, until 11 am.

lima things to do: visit San Francisco church

Photo by: Ronald Woan

17. Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor)

The atmosphere of popular touristic sight combined with unique Peruvian mentality create quite lively atmosphere of Plaza Mayor. It can get crowded and buzzing throughout the day with lots of street sellers offering you variety of goods. Many street shops are located in immediate proximity to the site.

Located in Historic Centre of Lima, Plaza Mayor used to be the center of the old colonial city of Lima. In the central part there is a grand bronze fountain from the 17th century and around Plaza there are Government Palace, Lima Cathedral and Provincial Municipal Authority of Lima.

Plaza de Armas is not only a lovely place to visit and have some rest among the crowds of everyday life, which is definitely one of the things you should do when in Lima, but also to be reminded of the grand history of this city. Many important historical events occurred here. In 1821, the Act of Independence of Peru was proclaimed right at the Plaza de Armas, for example.

Wooden balconies and yellow facades will brighten up your photos and if you can come here earlier in the morning, around 11am, you will hear the army band playing different selections of classical music.

lima things to do- walk around Plaza de Armas

Photo by: Adam Mizrahi

18. Cathedral of Lima

Between Plaza Mayor and the Street of Jews you will find Cathedral of Lima, one of the most famous monuments of Lima. After its first stone was laid in 1535 by Francisco Pizzaro, the cathedral went through many phases and reconstructions. After his death, Pizzaro was buried here and today you can visit his tomb.

Cathedral itself is built in a mix of different styles that showcase many changes it went through the years.

If, for some unimaginable reason, you didn’t get one of these Peru tours and you are stuck without a knowledgeable guide, make sure to take audioguide at the entrance with you as it explains the art, history and religion contexts of the place. Trust me, you’ll appreciate it so much more.

cathedral of lima

Photo by: Harvey Barrison

19. Presidential Palace

One more impressive building dating back to 1535 is yet another Pizzaro monument. It’s known as House of Pizzaro, as he used it while he was the governor. It is used as a government building today as well and if you are around there in the noon, you will see the change of guards.

Government Palace of Peru or Presidential Palace as it is called as well, was built over Waka, a big Indian burying ground. During centuries it went under major transformations and the style we see today is from its latest change in 1930s, since it needed to be rebuilt after the fire. Courtyards and halls are dedicated to prominent historic figures of Peru so expect to see some outstanding works of art.

government palace

Photo by: Dennis Jarvis

20. Museum of Italian Art

The only European arts museum of Peru is the Museum of Italian Art. Museum offers you an exquisite selection of paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and ceramics of Italian artists from the beginning of the 20th century. There is also a collection of 35 contemporary Italian paintings.

21. Home of Victor Delfin

Being known for its impressive artists, Peru will be interesting to all them art lovers. If you’re one of them, then on top of your things to do in Lima list should certainly be this place. Home of famous Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin today is opened for guests as a guest house and museum/gallery. The space offers impressive insight into artist’s work and life and will definitely leave a lasting impression. This place, also known as Second Home Peru, is located in famous artistic district of Peru – Barranco.

22. Mate Museo Mario Testino

In the same artistic neighborhood of Barranco there is another museum you might enjoy visiting while in Lima. Legendary fashion photographer, Mario Testino, founded this place as a non-profit institution aiming to promote culture and heritage. Being proud of his origins, Mario saw the museum as a perfect opportunity to give back to his country. Here you can see many of Testino’s famous works but they also showcase very interesting exhibitions of Peruvian and international artists as well.

Mario-Testino museum

Photo by: View The Vibe

23. Galeria Lucia de la Puente

If you dig contemporary art, then don’t even think of missing Galeria Lucia de la Puente. Often described as ‘the gallery where every up-and-coming Peruvian artist wants to exhibit’ this gallery certainly delivers when it comes to presenting new styles of contemporary works.

24. Larco Museum

As you will read in our Background: History of Lima chapter of this story, cultures and civilizations inhabited the region for centuries before Spaniards came. Pre-Colombian art ranges from very first findings, almost 4000 years ago to some more recent pieces. This museum is, among other things, well-known for its erotic pottery collection. Chronological galleries of the museum, located in the 18th century viceroyalty building, will take you through each phase of development of the region, step by step and offer you thorough information regarding art and history.

This privately owned museum was founded in the beginning of the 20th century by Rafael Larco Herrera. Herrera’s enthusiasm over collecting art grew up on his son who used all pieces collected during his father’s life and his own collection as well and founded a museum named after his father.

25. Gastronomy House

One thing to do in Lima is – eat out and try their delicious cuisine and this is something you must not miss. Once you start discovering incredible restaurants with more incredible food, you’ll definitely wish you could stay longer. Now, if you are curious about the background of all that lovely food you ate, you should definitely check out the Gastronomy House. 500 years worth of history and ancient wisdom along with impressive fusion of flavors and the other culture’s influences on Peruvian cuisine is what you are up for. You can see the ingredients used in contemporary Peruvian cuisine and understand the evolution of it. Gastronomy House has four rooms: the Permanent Hall, the Temporary Hall, the Multimedia Hall and the Pisco Hall that is dedicated to Peruvian national drink solely. Museum is located in the old Lima’s Post Office, right next to the Government Palace. It’s open every day 9 am to 5 pm except for the Monday. The entrance is free of charge.

Things to do in Lima – Eating :)

You just read about Gastronomy museum and here I’d like to kindly remind you to remember the fact that calories don’t count when you are on vacation. Additional reason: Lima is considered to be a gastronomic capital of South America, if you don’t indulge in different foods here, where will you? Interesting thing about their cuisine is that they don’t just use local flavors but they mix different cuisines and cooking traditions into what is one very tasty experience.

1. Ceviche

Ceviche is a famous seafood dish, mostly eaten in coastal regions of Latin America. It’s made of raw fish prepared with lemon or lime, onion and spices like ají or chili peppers.

2. Cau-cau

Cau cau is a dish in Italo-Peruvian style, it’s basically a stewed mondong (tripe) served with sauteed onions, garlic, yellow aji, a pinch of turmeric, salt and pepper and chunks of boiled potatoes.

3. Causa rellena

Dough made of yellow potato and seasoned with ground chilies and filled with tuna or chicken.

4. Escabeche (pickle)

Usually chicken or fish, marinated in vinegar and slow-cooked in a pot crammed full of onions.

things to do in lima- try all the foods

Photo by:

5. Anticuchos

Beef hearts marinated in vinegar and chilies, roasted on the grill. This is a very typical and popular Peruvian dish.

6. Choros a la chalaca

Mussels with onions and a pinch of chili pepper, seasoned with lemon juice.

7. Tacu-tacu

Tacu tacu is the Peruvian version of refried beans and rice, accompanied with breaded or coated beef and an onion sauce.

tacu tacu

Photo by: LWYang

8. Lomo saltado (Fried loin)

Stir fry that combines marinated strips of beef fried with onion, tomato, chilies and various herbs. It’s served with rice and french fries.

lima things to do- eat lomo saltado

Photo by: Jeffrey Bary

9. Carapulcra

This is a modern adaptation of a traditional Andean dish. Steamed dried potatoes stewed with pork and chicken, ‘Panca’ and ‘Mirasol’ chilies, garlic and other spices. It is usually served with rice or yuca.


Photo by: Pisco Trail

Things To Do in Lima: Get familiar with districts

Just like any other big city, Lima’s lively neighborhoods will show you the impressive diversity of the city and people living in it. From fancy, business districts to artistic ones, Lima has something for everyone. Take your time to explore its bustling streets. :)

1. Lima Centro / Barrio Chino

Lima Centro is the main district for all things sightseeing related. The heart of the city, it represents the old Lima, the one built by Spaniards in a typical colonial style. Centuries of earthquakes, fires and neglect affected it enough to make this a bit dangerous part of the city at one point. However, in the past years, more police is present and it’s now a safe place to be. District has many hotels and hostels with cheap accommodation that suit more to backpackers and travellers on the budget. The area is crowded with impressive historic sights and you will certainly have plenty to see around. Unique energy of the area will captivate your attention and with great range of monuments to see and museums to visit, you won’t be bored even for one second.

Once you got around the Old Historic Centre of Lima, definitely check out the Galería Municipal de Arte Pancho Fierro for incredible contemporary art and photography exhibitions and introduce yourself with works of incredible local artists. Enjoy walking through Lima’s main pedestrian street, Jiron de la Union and then enjoy a Parisian style plaza, Plaza San Martin. While there, definitely drop by to the place where, allegedly, pisco sour was invented, El Bolivarcito (Jiron de la Union Nro. 926).

2. Miraflores

One of the most famous neighborhoods in Lima, Miraflores is very popular with tourists. It’s known for its hip restaurants, hotels and shops. Larcomar is the place to be if you are looking for shopping, movie theaters, bars and restaurants.

One of the things you must try while here are famous Chicharrón sandwiches, made of fried pork shoulder, red onions and slices of sweet potato with a bit of Peruvian salsa on a crispy french roll. Cool places to do so are El Enano or La Lucha Sanguicheria. In the later you can also try sweet chicha morada, a traditional drink in Peru made of blue corn with pineapple, clove, cinnamon and sugar. Monolo’s is is another popular place, known as the place where old men gather to discuss life and politics over coffee. Definitely check out the bookstore, El Virrey, where you can spend an entire afternoon flipping through their book collection.

But put the shopping and eating aside for a second because Miraflores is all about the Pacific Ocean. Plan some time to enjoy walking the cliff banks and experience their unsurpassed beauty. Experience the sunset here and you might start thinking of moving to Lima :)

lima things to do explore miraflores

Photo by: Abner Ballardo

3. Barranco

Bohemian and artist area in Lima, known as once home to world-famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa nowadays is mostly known for its nightlife. It used to be calm, seaside village but nowadays it’s city’s coolest and one of the most relaxed districts. Its key point is the vivid nightlife featuring many restaurants and bars with live music, equally adored by locals as well as travellers. Slowly it becomes a cool place to stay, particularly for the youth despite the fact it only has several small hotels and hostels. People who visited Lima and Barranco are raving about the neighborhood being one of the coolest place not only in Lima but entire South America. Captivating, Mediterranean-like atmosphere will make you want to stay longer than initially planned. :)

Some of not-to-miss spots are Bisettis, lovely coffee shop, El Chinito, another place to have a good Chicharrón sandwich and also a Burrito Bar for a tasty Mexican dinner. If you are willing to spend more money on food and truly indulge in Peruvian cuisine, then go to some more upscale restaurants. Ayahuasca Bar is an incredible place set in former mansion with a labyrinth of lounges and bars, each one being better than the other. This is the favorite spot of rich and fabulous people of Lima. What to order? Go for Ayahusca sours, made of mashed coca leaves mixed with tropical fruits of Amazon.

4. San Isidro

A more upscale district and incredible residential area. Great hotels, restaurants and shops and safe area to walk. District has one of the South America’s oldest golf courses. What to see? Go for a walk around the El Oliver park with its 500 years old Olive trees.

5. Pueblo Libre

Just around Plaza Bolivar, in lively neighborhood with many bars and restaurants you will find Pueblo Libre district. It’s a new favorite place of up and coming middle class and their number 1 destination to live in. One of the interesting places to check out is be Antigua Taberna Queirolo, the bar that just celebrated its 135th birthday and will serve you an amazing pisco sour with ginger ale. Pueblo Libre is a cool place to go out and also to check out some museums like Museo Larco and Museo Nacional de Arqueología, both of them featuring pre-Columbian art and artifacts.

6. La Victoria

If you are looking for some inexpensive ceviche, La Victoria is the place to go. It may seem a bit sketchy at first, but do give it a chance and you are signed for some authentic Lima experience here. Many interesting foods at bargain prices as well as Gamarra, a huge open air market, are something to captivate your attention and get you coming more and more. Have fun but be careful and cautious as this is not the safest district in the city.

Things To Do in Lima: Join the festivities

What is the better way to experience a new culture and be a part of its tradition than taking a part in their festivals and national celebrations? I can’t think of any other way actually and that’s why I gathered for you the list of interesting festivals you should go to when in Lima. If you go, don’t forget to share your impressions with us :)

1. Lima Anniversary

January 18th

Grand celebration guaranteed. :) Expect to enjoy serenades and fireworks in the city, during the day there are many civic and cultural activities happening.

2. Wine Harvest Festival

February 1st to March 31st

This is a great period to be in Lima if you are wine lover. In the Santiago de Surco, traditional district of Lima, there are plenty of activities organized at this time. Some of the interesting ones are election of a Harvest Queen as well as wine-tasting activities in local wineries. It’s totally reasonable expecting to have a great time :)

3. Peruvian Paso Horse National Competition

April 1st to May 31st

All the horse-lovers should definitely plan to attend this festival held each year in Mamacona, just under the Pre-Inca Pachacamac Oracle. The famous Peruvian Paso Horse is considered to be one of the most beautiful and elegant horses in the world. Peruvian Paso is the result of Berber and Spanish breed of races, definitely something to have in mind while there.

4. Saint Rose of Lima

August 30th

Isabel Flores de Oliva was well-known as Saint Rose of Lima, a pious woman for Lima who was very devoted to religion and helped the ill ones. She was named a Patroness of the Americas and the Philippines and today people believe she is miraculous. Each year, August 30th, is the time for celebration of her. In her honour, people usually go to hermitage she built and then leave letters into the well where she threw away the key.

5. Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles)

October 14th to October 31st

Back in the colonial era, a black slave painted this image on the wall. Centuries passed and along with them many earthquakes, wars and some attempts to erase the image but somehow it remained intact. Thousands and thousands of people gather together to pay their respect to the saint. A grand bullfighting event is organized to honours the Black Christ and it gathers the very best bullfighters of Spain and the Americas.

Things to do in lima -join festivities, senor de los milagros

Photo by: andina

6. Creole Song Day

October 31st

In order to remember the importance of Peruvian Creole music and its influence on the cultural identity of Peru, this festival is inaugurated in 1940s. If you come here you will enjoy tributes, concerts and parties held in both, private and public locations. The traditional “peñas” are most frequented locations.

Other things to do in Lima

1. Chorillos District

1 hour and 30 minutes long ride south from centre of the Lima will take you to Chorillos District. This is a perfect spot to see all those incredible mansions from the beginning of the Republic era. Chorillos is mostly known for its beaches and resorts, like Herradura (Horseshoe) – one of the popular places to be during the summer. Morro Solar Hill, the place where important battles happened during the War with Chile, is located here and now it offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the coast and a range of great restaurants.

2. Santiago de Surco District

It’s mostly known for the Harvest Festival that takes place here each year. There is an interesting historic centre, preserving examples of historic and cultural heritage of the place and it’s definitely worth visiting. However, gastronomy and wine-making tradition of the place are its highlight and major reason people come here for. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes from centre of Lima to reach Santiago de Surco.

3. Friendship Park – Parque de la Amistad

Located in Santiago de Surco, this lovely park will certainly make for an interesting day-time chill. Feel free to add riding in carriages of original 1926 steam engine with 3 carriages to your things to do in Lima list. You can also see 29-metre high Moorish arch and a navigable artificial lagoon as well. Park is open from 9 am to 9 pm.

Background: History of Lima

History of Lima doesn’t start with Pizarro and beginning of the 16th century. The region was home to many cultures and empires thousands of years before Spaniards came. If we follow the path of grand civilizations clashing among each other throughout the centuries, we can get better understanding of the story of time and history.

Almost 3 millenniums ago, around 2200 BC, the Lima territory was home of the first big settlement called “El Paraíso” (The Paradise) that had about 1500 to 3000 inhabitants. The Chavín Culture (1200BC-200AD) was the new civilization that appeared here and they actually created a cultural foundation for all the later civilizations in Peru. The Maranga, or Lima Culture (150AD-700AD), brought great progress to the region and established the base for further developments, especially in agriculture and irrigation systems. The first culture that allegedly used military force to conquer other civilizations was The Wari Culture (700AD-1100AD). They used everything left from former civilizations and rebuilt them in a much better organized way, while prohibiting practicing all former traditions and beliefs. Researchers assume the Wari people first created terraced field technology which was their major legacy, later used and expanded by Incas. The Chancay & Ichma Culture (1100AD-1440AD) appeared at the same time in northern and southern parts of the country and started expanding their influence among small settlements that appeared after fall of Wari Kingdom. The Chancays were known for their incredible manufacturing techniques in ceramics and textiles, while The Ichmas focused on spreading their religion influence via many pyramids they built in the region.

The last civilization in the region before Spaniards arrived were The Incas (from the early 13th century), the most well-known pre-Hispanic culture in Peru. Starting out as a small tribe in Cuzco area Incas were slowly conquering neighboring tribes and therefore steadily expanded their influence. They would either completely conquer a tribe or they would make them their allies under the rule of Incan Empire. Along with spreading their political influence they also spread their religious beliefs and cultural norms, however in the Lima area they used a bit different approach and they left them have more of cultural and religious autonomy. The reason was simple – in the millenniums before Incan Empire, people maintained strong traditions and suppressing them was almost impossible so the Incas used another method. The Incan Empire vanished with Spaniards’ arrival.

Lima had quite of a turbulent past, and this doesn’t refer only to several big earthquakes that hit the city throughout the centuries. As said before, the moment when Spaniards came, the area was under Incas. Pizarro founded the city and made it the capital of Viceroyalty of Peru. During the next few centuries Lima dominated the trade and established strong connections to other parts of Americas, Europe and Far East. It was the most powerful city in South America until the big earthquake hit by the end of the 17th century. They had major problems with pirates from the Pacific Ocean, however this didn’t affect Lima’s position and influence. In the beginning of 18th century great recession hit the city and its economic downturn started. Buenos Aires took over the power and importance city of Lima used to have in South America.

50 years after the first earthquake happened another one and now the city needed a massive rebuilding. Playing an important role during the fight for independence, Lima became the capital of Peru in the beginning of the 19th century. Yet, during the war (1821-1824) Lima suffered major losses made by both conflicted sides. After the war, Lima started to prosper again but it didn’t last long as another war, War of Pacific (1879-1883) happened and Chilean troops took over the city. After this war came to an end Lima got into period of major urban renewal and expansion. Local authorities had difficulties in keeping up with the pace of people coming in which led to many issues with functioning of the city as shanty districts started to grow and people just kept on coming.

Another big earthquake happened in 1940 and it’s the main reason majority of Lima we see today is newly built. Aside from historic part of the city that is UNESCO protected and some other monuments you can see around the city, majority of buildings were built after the earthquake. The earthquake destroyed majority of the city that was built from adobe. At the time, around 0,6 million people lived there. The number tripled in next 20 years and by 1980 there were around 4,6 million inhabitants. The main reason for this rapid growth were big migrations from rural parts of Peru that continued as the city grew to become economical center of Peru. People were coming for work and education opportunities which led to creating the city we know today where almost third of entire population of Peru lives here.

lima skyline

Photo by: Serious Cat

I hope you enjoyed this post and found some useful information and ideas regarding things to do in Lima. New York Times made an excellent video of what to do if you are staying in Lima only for 36 hours. You can check it out here:

You can also let the pro people take you to Lima and not worry about a thing. :) If you have anything to add, please do so in comments, I’d love to hear more about your experiences.