Once South America's richest city, Lima was hailed the City of Kings by Spanish conquistadors. If you look beyond the urban sprawl, you'll be rewarded with the National Museum's pre-Columbian treasures and Plaza Mayor's colonial splendor. But ask Limeños what makes their city tick and they'll most probably wax lyrical about ceviche (lime-marinated seafood) with pisco sours by the Pacific and Barranco's pulsating Afro-Peruvian peñas (folk nights). A mix of colonial heritage and Latin passion, grime and glamour -- Lima is a tantalizing appetizer of what Peru has to offer.
Things to Do
The ornate Archbishop's Palace and baroque cathedral soar above the Plaza Mayor, the crowning glory of Lima's colonial center, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mystery of Peru's ancient civilizations will captivate you at the cavernous National Museum; and the Larco Museum, housed in an 18th-century mansion, displays pre-Columbian art from Inca jewelry to erotic Moche ceramics. Locals craving an escape from the city flock to Pacific beaches and flowery gardens in the relaxed Barranco neighborhood.
Miraflores' arty markets and galleries are relaxed places to pick up Peruvian crafts such as fleecy alpaca sweaters, Nasca ceramics and chunky silver jewelry. Hide your valuables to haggle for fresh produce and knick knacks under the ornate arches of the crowded Central Market, bordering Chinatown. Designer boutiques and department stores make Jockey Plaza mall a favorite weekend hangout of wealthy Limeños.
Nightlife and Entertainment
When you hear folk songs and the rhythmic pounding of the cajón (box drum), you know you've stumbled across a party in a peña, one of Lima's Afro-Peruvian music clubs. The hottest peñas, cocktail bars, and nightclubs huddle on the clifftops in the distinctly bohemian Barranco district. In seafront Miraflores, the nightlife scene skips from lively Irish pubs to sultry bars where young Limeños gyrate to salsa beats and sip pisco sours.
Restaurants and Dining
Celebrity chefs such as Gastón Acurio Jaramillo have put Lima on the culinary map. Arrive early for lunch at one of Avenida la Mar's popular cebicherías to tuck into ceviche, seafood marinated in lime juice, served with onions, aji pepper and sweet potato. Michelin-starred chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino puts an imaginative spin on Amazonian food at chic Malabar. Eat noodles and wontons fresh from the wok in Chinatown's lively chifa restaurants, and crisp wood-fired pizza in Miraflores' inviting Italian bistros.