Local Intel: What to do in Lima

Lima, Peru (August, 2012)  Peru’s sprawling mega-capital, is actually a pile of many smaller cities, situated on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean.  Though practically a barren desert, the city is known for its uber-chic seafood restaurants and its trendy, world renowned cuisine. In fact, food is so important to Limans, that the government has established a Boulevard of Gastronomy in the Surquillo district, turning a traditional farmers’ market into a pedestrian mall to showcase the fresh ingredients used in Peruvian cooking.

1)  Though the city itself is monstrous in size, a traveler needs to find only one thing, the ocean.  Manage to navigate your way to El Malecón, in the Miraflores district, and you will not be disappointed with the scene. Situated on the most prominent cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, this is a six mile stretch of restaurants, shops and landscaped pedestrian walks. Though at first sight, it may appear like a tourist trap, with its prominent outdoor mall complete with Starbucks, TGI Fridays and Tommy Bahama, there is plenty of local flavor here. In fact, some of the best seafood restaurants can be found floating in the ocean at the bottom of these cliffs.

El Malecón, Miraflores
El Malecón, Miraflores
2) One of the things that surprised me the most about Lima, were its private collections of art and pottery. Museo Larco was actually a private mansion built on top of a pre-Colombian temple. What is unique about this place, is the fact that visitors may enter the museum’s private storage areas for a behind the scenes view of over 10, 000 perfectly preserved ceramic, pots. My favorite exhibit here is in the back of the museum. I call this the Kama Sutra exhibit, because what you are about to see here will surely make you blush. If you are traveling with children, you might want to leave them outside to play.
Pre-Columbian pottery
Pre-Columbian pottery

3) The Church of San Francisco in downtown Lima, is a 400 year old structure built in the Baroque style. While the interior architecture and its multiple gilded altars are impressive, what draws everyone to this building are the subterranean catacombs you don’t want to miss. Much like its counterparts in Europe, this church houses the skeletal remains of some 75,000 bodies. Unlike the European churches, these remains didn’t belong to those who perished during the plague, but simply chose to be buried here.

Church of San Francisco Catacombs
Church of San Francisco Catacombs

While the city is home to numerous world class museums,churches and monasteries, these are the three things that are truly unique and you don’t want to miss. If you have time, see the National Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, and make some time to stroll through El Parque del Amor, reminiscent of Barcelona’s Parc Guell. On weekends, the city opens numerous outdoor markets and public concerts where you can haggle for trinkets to take home.

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