Finally Lima! The city that everyone told us it was so ugly that we wouldn't want to stay more than a couple of days. But they were totally wrong... We found a great place to stay for a couple of weeks!
Historical facts and key numbers:
- Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru.
- It is also the second largest city in Latin America, just behind São Paulo and before Mexico City, with a population of almost 10 million.
- The city was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conqueror, and became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Vice-royalty of Peru.
- Lima is the second driest capital of the world (the first one is Cairo in Egypt). Despite being located in the tropics and in a desert, Lima's climate is between warm and mild due the proximity of the Pacific ocean cool waters.
Things not to be missed:
1. Larco Museum - This is one of the best museums we visited in Peru. Located in the district of Pueblo Libre in Lima, the Larco Museum is dedicated to the pre-Columbian art. Its collection comprises more than 5,000 years of Peruvian History, including an impressive collection of jewellery (crowns, earrings, nose ornaments, masks) in gold, silver and precious stones. This museums has also the world's largest collection of erotic ceramics. It is a very organized museum, with a comprehensive view of the cultures that existed in Peru. The museum is housed in a 18th century building and it is beautiful. We had time, so we enjoyed a relaxed (and very tasty!) lunch at the museum restaurant. See the official website here.
2. National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History (MNAAHP) - This is the oldest state museum in Peru and it is housed in an old colonial mansion meaning that it is huge (save at least 3 hours to see it). The collection includes thousands of perfectly preserved pre-Hispanic ceramics, metals, textiles and other objects. Together with the Larco Museum this helps you to understand the Peruvian History. To have an idea of this museum collection, only the Ceramics department contains over 65,000 pieces from the main Peruvian cultures: Chavín, Paracas, Pukara, Nazca, Moche, Lima, Tiwanaku, Wari, Lambayeque, Chincha, Chimú, Chancay and Inca culture.
3. Museo de La Nación - The museum of the nation is considered one of the two major museums of Peruvian History in Lima. Despite this we just found one permanent photographic exposition about the internal conflict in Peru that occurred between 1980 and 2000 and two temporary exhibits about the Peruvian Afro culture and contemporary art. We spent more than 2 hours just to see the first one. It is a very detailed exhibition created by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with tons of information about the terrorism lived in the country for 20 years.
4. Cathedral of Lima - Located in the Plaza de Armas (historical center) it was built in 1535 but it suffered several reconstructions after several earthquakes. Despite of that it still maintains a colonial facade and structure. We visited the cathedral inside and it took us around 1.5 hours discovering ourselves the cathedral and the religious museum inside. The remains of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conqueror who led the expedition that caused the fall of the Inca Empire, can be found in the cathedral too.
5. Monastery and Catacombs of San Francisco - This monastery was completed in 1774 after approximately 100 years of construction. It is a great example of the Spanish Baroque. The catacombs were only discovered in 1943 and it is estimated that more than 25,000 bodies were laid to rest here. The visit is guided (mandatory) and it takes around one hour to see part of the monastery (the other part is still used by the monks) and the catacombs.
6. La Merced Church - The most impressive part of this church is its baroque facade carved in 1591 by Cristóbal Gómez. Inside there's also about 20 magnificent baroque and Renaissance-style altars, some of them in an highly ornate style and in mahogany, very popular during the late Spanish baroque period. It was here that was celebrated the first Latin Mass in Lima in 1534.
7. Huaca Pucllana - A big adobe pyramid located in the middle of the Miraflores district. And this could be the only reason to visit it! But it's not. This place served as an important ceremonial center for the Lima culture between 200AD and 700AD, where the elite clergymen expressed their power and control to the existing society. The tour is guided and takes about one hour. We saw better ruins in Peru but the intriguing part here is to be right in the middle of huge and tall buildings.
8. Parque de la Reserva y Circuito de Agua - This park is located in the city center and it was designed by the french architect Claude Sahut. It is very famous for its Magic Water Tour (inaugurated in 2007). This place is currently the world record holder for the largest fountain complex with 13 distinct fountains, some of them interactive and changing color schemes during the night. We saw the main spectacle at 7:15pm but there were 2 more after that. And we totally recommend it if visiting Lima!
9. Pedro de Osma Museum - Located in the old and traditional Barranco neighborhood is this art museum with pieces dating from the 16th century. It has a collection of paintings, sculptures, old furniture and an incredible silver art gallery. We were not very impressed with this museum but if you have time to visit go for it. The buildings and the garden are beautiful.
10. MATE Mueseum - There was a combined ticket to visit the Pedro de Osma Museum and the MATE so we bought it together (they are located less than 5 minutes away from each other). The museum has a photography exhibition from Mario Testino as a permanent collection where we saw very famous photos from (even more famous!) people like Princess Diana of Wales, Robbie Williams and others.
We also enjoyed walking around the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods with its great coffees, tasty restaurants and trendy shops. Don't miss that too and you'll find most of the locals around!
Why we liked the city?
- Despite it was winter the daily and night average temperatures were around 20ºC!
- We felt relatively safe in Lima, specially in neighborhoods like Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco. Even in the city center we used our camera to take pictures to some buildings (something we didn't do in São Paulo, Brazil, for example)
- The food is probably the best we had in South America! There are restaurants of all kinds and for all wallets, but generally speaking is cheap to eat in Peru even at Top Restaurants