Lima, the capital of Peru, sits right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Though its colonial center is well preserved, today Lima is a bustling metropolis that is one of the biggest cities in South America. Lima is known for its vibrant food scene, encompassing specialties from ceviche and traditional coastal cooking to refined global fare. We chatted with Lima local, Paul, about his favorite places in the city.
THE LIMA LOCAL: Paul
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HIM: Originally from St. Louis, Paul is an avid traveler who lived in Miraflores, Lima from August 2014 until May 2015. He’s also lived in San José and Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica and in Chennai, India. Throughout the back and forth of this interview, Paul was hanging out in Kathmandu, Nepal, climbing mountains. Let’s just say, his travels make us want to get off the couch!
1. Best ceviche? Best pisco?
Best ceviche? Too many to just name! You really can’t go wrong with ceviche just about anywhere in Miraflores or Barranco. Best pisco? Ayahuasca in Barranco- and I say that more for the ambiance of the bar; its a great place to begin any evening! To sip on the famous “first pisco” check out Hotel Bolivar in Plaza San Martin- which is also, in my opinion, Lima’s most beautiful plaza!
2. Favorite street or district to explore?
Barranco. It’s often described as bohemian, as there are tons of cool artsy attractions and architecture, plus great bars and restaurants to try. Condé Nast Traveler agrees; “Renowned galleries, stylish eateries, and killer bars have opened among the gorgeous mansions that were once home to wealthy Peruvians. Throw in Lima’s first boutique hotel, a ringside seat for spectacular summer sunsets, and a chocolate museum, and the question becomes: why did it take you so long to visit Barranco?”
3. Best way to see the city?
Around Miraflores and Barranco, it’s easy to walk everywhere. There are walking, running and biking paths in both districts. To experience the city in its entirety, buy tickets for the rooftop city bus tours- I’ve heard they’re pretty cool.
4. Your recommended sunny day agenda?
- 7:00 am – Surf in Miraflores or Barranco (the waves and crowds are better in the morning)
- 9:30 am – Grab a good breakfast at one of the many places in Barranco/Miraflores (try Las Vecinas, Pasteleria San Antonio or Gianfranco).
- 11:00 am – 4:00 pm – Head to the Plaza de Armas (main square, also known as Plaza Mayor) downtown and just wander around that area, taking in the architecture etc. Also grab lunch.
- 5:00 – 6:00 – Head to the Miraflores boardwalk to watch the surfers, paragliders and most importantly, the sunset!
- 8:00 – Dinner at one of the top-end restaurants in Lima; food that’s as good as anywhere in the world! Lima has many five star restaurants- Central, Astrid y Gaston, Maido to name a few- and you can walk away with an amazing meal for around $40 to $50.
5. Essential Lima tip?
Take advantage of the award winning food and Lima’s spectacular sunsets!
Also, if you’re visiting Lima during their summer (December through April), it’s actually less crowded, because all of the locals and visitors with cars head to the beach towns for the weekend. There are many beach towns within driving distance- some 45 minutes away, others around two hours south of Lima. It’s definitely worth your time to check out those beach towns in the summer, if you have the time. I spent many days in Punta Hermosa, a residential beach resort. El Silencio and Caballeros are great for laying out, surfing and fun. Some of the best beach bars I’ve been to are in Peru!
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE LIMA ATTRACTIONS
1. Museo Larco– Thumbs Up! A privately owned museum that houses pre-Columbian art. The art is displayed chronologically, telling the story of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. The museum also has a famous collection of erotic pottery… definitely something to check out! If you’re more interested in modern art, check out the MAC Lima in Barranco- the Museum of Contemporary Art.
2. Parque de la Reserva– Thumbs Up. At night, you can watch the water light show at El Circuito Mágico del Agua (The Magic Water Tour). It’s the world record holder for the largest fountain complex in the world, consisting of 13 distinct fountains, many of which are interactive.
3. Miraflores– Thumbs Up. See above.
4. Miraflores Boardwalk– Thumbs Up. You can spend several hours walking or biking along El Malecón, a six-mile stretch of parks situated along the cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean. Lots of parks and benches are situated along the boardwalk for a rest, and the sculptures and mosaics at El Parque de Amor are definitely worth a stop.
5. Barranco– Thumbs Up. See above.
- Tanta– Not too expensive, but Lima/Peruvian food through and through. Several locations, including one at Larcomar, an outdoor shopping mall in Miraflores.
- áMaz– Great Amazonian food, however a bit pricey. Amazonian food uses ingredients from the Peruvian Amazon, the country’s largest and least populated region. Try the palm heart salad, the sacha chaufa (Amazonian fried rice) and the patarashcas (dishes cooked inside a bijao leaf).
- La Lucha– Cheap, EXCELLENT sandwich shop across from Park Kennedy in Miraflores. Try the Pavo!
- El Enano– Another cheap, excellent sandwich shop in Miraflores
- Anticuchos de Tia Grimanesa– Excellent anticuchos (grilled skewered meat, usually beaf heart) – which are very Limeña and definitely worth trying! The chef, Tia Grimanessa, sold from an anticucho cart for over 30 years before opening the restaurant, which is now run by her sons.
- El Mercado– Revered chef Rafael Osterling’s newest concept in Miraflores. Don’t miss the causa or the Ceviche de Lenguado! From the restaurant’s website: “A courtyard full of vegetation and an open kitchen reflect a jovial, creative, and free-flowing cuisine, always guided by the principles of Peruvian cooking and based on its traditional ingredients. This is an unpretentious restaurant.” To prep your tastebuds, here’s what you can expect for lunch: Limeñísima salad to start (fresh lettuce, sprouts, thinly sliced carrots, radishes, avocado, and cilantro), followed by seared sea scallops in a butter sauce and then the best tuna sashimi you’ve ever had. For dessert, carrot cake with mascarpone, topped with a Carmel sauce. Oh, and a refreshing glass of white wine. Muchas gracias.
Best Places to Go Out
- Calle Berlin in Miraflores for more laid back bars
- Calle de las Pizzas for a bunch of tourist stuff / pot / prostitutes (not that I indulged of course!!)
- Barranco for more laid back / funky bars
- Barranco/Miraflores for clubs
Overall, Lima is great not only because you can experience South American culture, but you can also access the luxuries of home (wifi, coffee shops, high-end restaurants). A huge bonus? A world-class surfing beaches and South American (read: cheap) prices!
Are you a Lima local? Did we miss any can’t-miss spots? If so, comment below!