If you have to choose only one museum to visit in Lima, the Museo Larco is it. Founded in 1926 and set in a modernized 18th-century colonial building, this museum has the largest private collection of pre-Columbian art in the world. Rafael Larco Hoyle, who named the museum after his father, is considered the godfather of Peruvian archaeology, and his museum leaves very few stones uncovered. The highlights are pieces from the Moche dynasty (A.D. 200–700), which flourished on the north coast of Peru near present-day Trujillo and Chiclayo. The civilization is best known for its art, particularly ceramics, and there are 45,000 pieces from the culture here, with fine textiles, jewelry, and stonework providing incredible insight into many elements of Moche society. Healing practices, architecture, transportation, dance, agriculture, music, and religion are all explored. The most celebrated section is the Sala Erótica, which displays a vast collection of erotic ceramics, featuring a near-endless variety of sexual acts, often in explicit ways. Travelers with young children can avoid awkward questions, as this part of the museum is outside and across a garden from the main space. Plan at least 2 to 3 hr. to see the entire collection.

An excellent and attractive on-site restaurant, Museo Larco Café ★, with an Italian-Peruvian menu and a full bar, makes a great lunch or an early dinner spot, so you might want to plan your visit around dining here.