Before visiting Lima, I read a Lonely Planet description that the city is “one part southern Cali doused with a heavy dose of America Latina.” The short description came to mind as I overlooked the cliffs of Miraflores, rocks that so closely resembled the cliffs of Palos Verdes in L.A., a mere 4,000 miles away. But other than those rock face similarities, it was evident that we were nowhere near the Golden State. As one of the largest cities in South America, Lima’s dedication to the history of ancient cultures is palpable. It is a vibrant city, even when the grayness of the winter months seems to dim its light. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Lima, Peru, here’s a list of what you absolutely cannot miss.
Twelve Best Things to Do in Lima, Peru:
1. Paragliding the Coast
Tandem paragliders with tourists aboard sailing over the cliffs of Miraflores may be the first thing you see upon entering the “Heroic City.” The fifteen-minute flight will take you over the Pacific Ocean and give a timeless bird’s eye view of the Peruvian capital, offering a greater perspective on neighborhoods such as Miraflores, Barranco, and San Isidro.
2. Ceviche at La Mar
The dish of the city! Avoiding ceviche during a trip to Lima would be difficult. There are many different options, ranging from five-star restaurants with internationally recognized chefs to hole in the wall gems like Mercado Numero Uno Surquillo – La Peruanita. I enjoyed my visit to La Mar, a no-reservations joint that is widely popular and often comes with a queue. They have fantastic ceviche variations, but I highly recommend starting with the classic.
3. The MATE Museum
This museum features the art of Mario Testino, a renowned fashion and celebrity photographer. He has worked creatively for well-known brands like Versace, Gucci, and Chanel. The museum is a non-profit foundation that was founded in 2012 to bring a modern flair to Peru’s emphasis on historical art. Celebrities displayed in the exhibit include Princess Diana, Naomi Campbell, Angelina Jolie, and Keanu Reeves.
4. Visit the Parque de la Reserva at Night
The fountain complex at Parque de la Reserva is the host of a nightly fountain show called the Circuito Mágico del Agua (Magic Water Circuit.) The show is made up of lights, lasers, music, historical projections, and of course, water. Make sure to check out the Tunnel of Surprises, the Dream Maze, and the topiaries while you’re there. The first show begins at 7:15 pm. Two more shows follow at 8:15 pm and 9:30 pm.
5. Explore Barranco
The Barranco district is known for its colorful, bohemian vibe, great food, and aesthetically pleasing coffee shops. You’ll find Barranco along the coast, south of Miraflores. A popular site in the small barrio is La Puente de Los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs), a bridge that over time inspired artistic and philosophical contemplation from notable Peruvian writers and poets.
6. Watch the Sunset from the Miraflores Cliffs
Free of charge.
7. Cats at Kennedy Park
Welcome to a cat lover’s paradise. At first glance, Kennedy Park is a beautiful, well-kept plaza. There are beautiful gardens full of freshly bloomed and vibrant flowers. There are ample benches and clear pathways. Upon further inspection, you may notice the water bowls and cat food placed beneath the billowing trees. And then, you’ll see the cats. All kinds of cats are slithering through bushes or a bench underside. Orange cats, black cats, shy cats, and curious cats. If you’re into cats, this is the place you want to be.
8. ULTRA Peru
If you happen to be in Lima at the right time, you may be able to catch the ULTRA Peru electronic music festival. While this year’s festival dates are still TBD, check for updates on their website.
9. Drink an Inca Kola
Inca Kola is a beloved cola brand from Peru. The sweet taste reminds its loyal customers of chewing bubble gum. One of the ingredients comes from lemon verbena, hierba luisa. According to market research, Inca Kola is one of the only soft drinks that has a larger market share in certain countries than Coca-Cola. Sit down at any local vendor in Lima and order up!
10. Learn How to Surf
At the very least, sit on the sidelines and take pretty pictures.
11. Get a Tattoo at Stefano’s Tattoo Parlor
Stefano’s Tattoo Parlor is the perfect place to permanently alter your skin (if you’re into that sort of thing). My friend got his first tattoo at Stefano’s, and we noted the cleanliness and welcoming staff. Most impressive of all was the art gallery displayed along the walls showcasing exhibitions of different artists from the world of tattoo. The studio is open six days a week and is located in the heart of Miraflores.
12. Grab a Coffee at La Postreria
Last but certainly not least, make sure you visit my favorite coffee shop, La Postreria. Located at Calle Enrique Palacios 1008, this quiet and cozy shop will dazzle you with their delicious lunch menu and an out-of-this-world apple pie. They care about the environment (drinks are served with reusable straws), and they offer reliable Wi-Fi (for you remote workers or hardworking estudiantes).