The first destination for the travellers to Peru is Lima, its capital city and center of South America during the colonial times when it was called the City of Kings. Here you will discover its friendly and lively people, rich culture and superb food. Lima is a metropoli of changes, place of contrasts and show case of all Peru. Once called the Garden City, Lima is a city to love or hate, where you will find space and time for doing everything. Being a neversleeping metropoli, its nightlife is full of fun and joy, and as choices are wide, contact with nature is possible at one or two hours of distance!Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535. Near a valley (the river Rímac) formed by beautiful forests and a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, it was an unequal and strategical place in that moment to be the Spanish colony centre. Its location and wealth attracted numerous merchants and pirates that attacked and robbed Lima during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Plaza Mayor (Main Square) was the scenery for the Independence Declaration on July 28, 1821 and it marked the beginning of the end of the Spanish colonial rule in Peru and South America. It is also the landmark and central point of all the area known as "Damero de Pizarro" (Pizarro's Square), which has been classified as a "Cultural Heritage of Humankind" since 1992.
As Lima is located in the central coast of Peru, it begun to suffer an accelerated growing due to its activities concentration (centralism). Migration from highlands and jungle became massive since the 50's. People went down to the Coast in search of living opportunities. Then, a poverty belt was formed around the old city and with the years they became "microcities". Now, the population is more than 7 million.
Compared to other southamerican capital cities, Lima has an stable and humid weather. In summer (Dec-Mar), sun is strong, clear sky and an average temperature of 26°C. The rest of the year, the sky becomes grey, drizzle but never rain and a winter of 12°C in average (Jun-Sep). From September, the weather gets warmer and mild. In summer, limeños escape to the southern beaches (20 to 50km). In autumn and winter, people goes in search of sun to the countrysides of Chosica, Canta and Cieneguilla (in the valleys of rivers Rímac, Chillón and Lurín respectively), 30 to 60 km east of Lima, near the Andes slopes.
Lima is by excelence, a city of museums. With more than 50 museums in the city, the best ones in Peru are located here. From public to private and from general to specialized museums, visiting them can be a good experience to know the different processes in topics like history, archaeology, anthropology, nature, culture, technology, art, religion, costumes, collections and crime. Although it is difficult to visit the majority of them in few days, we recommend you to visit the Museo de la Nación, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historia, Museo de Oro, Museo Larco Herrera and Museo Amano.
As every city in Peru, the Plazas (squares) are the main and central point. Spaniards established in each city a main square (Plaza de Armas) surrounded by a church and the local government buildings. In the case of Lima, the Plaza Mayor (formerly called "Plaza de Armas") was the old heart of Lima and its foundation place. The only original parts of it are the central old bronze fountain built in 1650 and the building (Casa del Oidor) in the corner of the Government Palace and the Archbishop's Palace.
The Plaza Mayor is surrounded at the north by the Government Palace, an impressive house where the President lives. A visit to it is worthwhile. Try to watch the change of guard at 11:45 am everyday. At the east is located the Archbishop's Palace, built in this century with a superb balcony, and we find the Cathedral at the right hand of it. In front of it, there is the Municipal Palace, with an arcade corridor in the ground floor and two "suspicious" canyons in the balcony, recently found in the square. Between the Municipalidad and the Government Palace, there is a big statue of Francisco Pizarro in his horse, a statue claimed to be offensive to the city.
From the Plaza Mayor we take the Jirón de la Unión, a long pedestrian street (full of shops and restaurants) that connects it with the Plaza San Martín, a big square built in the beginning of this century. At the centre, there is an statue of General San Martín, the Argentinian liberator of Peru built for the Indepencence 100th anniversary in 1921. In the surroundings, there are arcaded buildings with shops, night clubs, restaurants and hotels.
Other important squares are: Plaza Italia (Barrios Altos), Plaza Bolívar (in front of Congress), Plaza Grau (near Museo de Arte), Plaza Bolognesi, Plaza Alfonso Ugarte and Plaza 2 de Mayo.
Churches and Religious Buildings
In central Lima there are more than 25 churches with historical value. This is a small reference of the most important ones.
The Cathedral remains in the same place where it was originally built, but have been rebuilt after some earthquakes (latest in 1746). It have interesting works of wood-carving in the choir stalls. The altars are finely covered with silver. In the walls, you can appreciate the original Spanish mosaics with the inscriptions of Pizarro and the coat of arms of Lima. There is a Museo de Arte Religioso at the back. In a chapel (right hand from entrance) lies the coffin and remains of F. Pizarro, the founder of Lima. Entry fee: S/. 5.
Notable for its baroque architecture and catacombs is the church and monastery of San Francisco, in the corner of Jr. Ancash and Jr. Lampa. Built in the 17th century, this church has cloisters with the famous Sevillian tiles, a good an old library with some rarities, José de Rivera's paintings, a "hidden" (not often seen) museum of religious art and the well-visited catacombs (under all the religious complex), which are said to contain the remains of 70,000-90,000 people. Is preferable to take the guided tours available there (also in English). Entry fee.
San Pedro is a Jesuit's church built in the 17th century and represents a good example of the early colonial architecture in Lima. It is the only one church which have three main doors, apart from the Cathedral. This matter generated a problem in the Colony, because the cathedral was the unique church that had to have three entrances and the authorities understood it as a defiance. The altars, wood-carved choir and the glazed tilework are worth seeing. This church was also a burial place for the majority of the Viceroys. There is a small and interesting chapel at the right side. In one of its towers you can see the old bell called "La Abuelita" (the grandma') which rang for the first time in 1590 and was the "official" sound in the Independence's Declaration (1821). San Pedro is located in the corner of Jr. Ucayali and Jr. Azángaro.
Santo Domingo church was built between 1540-99 and remains in the same place where Pizarro granted to Dominican friar Valverde. It is one of the religious jewels of colonial Lima. Inside it we can find the remains of Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martín de Porres (America's first black saint). Nice and peaceful cloisters. Near the altar there is an alabaster statue of St. Rose that was presented by Pope Clemente in 1669. Outside, glance the Angel Gabriel statue at the top of the sole tower, the other was destroyed during a battle held in the past century. First block of Jr. Camaná, one block from the Plaza Mayor. Entry fee.
Two important places for the worshipers are the Santuario de Santa Rosa de Lima and Las Nazarenas church. The Santuario de Sta. Rosa (the first New World's saint) is crowded every 30th of August, her day, by thousands of faithful followers who write letters (in search of a miracle) and throw them in the old well. There is a garden with an hermitage built by her (17th century), where she refuged for praying, self-punishment and meditation. There are also some relics and rooms from what it was her original house, near to the church. First block of Av. Tacna. The church of Las Nazarenas is the starting point of one of the most biggest processions in the world (every October). The image of Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles) framed in gold and silver, is venerated by millions in Peru and other countries. He is also called "The Purple Christ" and his procession is a big feast in Lima, which for a month changes a lot. This painting (Christ Crucified) was originally made by a black slave in 1655 and resisted for centuries to earthquakes and damages. The church is located in the original place were the painting was made. Av. Tacna, 4th block.
In Jirón de la Unión, corner with Jr. Miró Quesada, there is the church where the first mass was said in 1534. La Merced church, has a fine and decorated front and its interior houses stalls of several venerated saints. The cloisters are interesting to give a visit. Virgin of La Merced is declared as the Marshal of the Peruvian Army.
Convento de Los Descalzos is a Franciscan religious complex located at the end of the colonial Alameda de los Descalzos (descalzos=barefeet) in the old and traditional district of Rímac. There is a collection of 300 paintings belonging to the Cusco, Quito and Lima schools. Through a good guided (45min) tour in Spanish is possible to visit the infirmary, the refectory, the farmacy, the friars' cells and the two old chapels. Entrance fee.
Other interesting churches are: San Agustín, with its impressive churrigueresque style facade and the surprising carved sculpture of "The Death" made by Baltázar Gavilán (corner of Jr. Ica and Jr. Camaná); Santo Tomás, in the corner of Jr. Junín and Jr. Andahuaylas, it is said to have the only circular cloister in the world (apart from Vaticano's church); Jesús María, with a two centuries old carved golden altar in the first block of Jr. Moquegua; Iglesita del Puente, it is said to be the smallest church in the world in an area of approx. 6x4m (1 1/2 block after crossing the Puente de Piedra -stone bridge dating from 1610back of Government Palace) and San Marcelo with a priceless pair of colonial doors, forth block of Av. Emancipación.
Colonial Buildings and Houses
The Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) was built in the early years of this century on the same site where it was located Pizarro´s house. The interiors are charming and luxurious with halls and saloons of different styles. Visit is possible, but you have to make an appointment (with documents) one or two days before. Entrance is by the door of Jr. de la Unión. As said lines up, watching the guard's change is a must (not necessary to be inside it). They wear the same uniform of the last independence battle (Ayacucho, 1824) and are called the "Húsares de Junín".
Nowadays used as the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Palacio Torre Tagle is one the best evidences of the colonial mansion's architecture in Lima. Superb carved balconies and a courtyard surrounded by rooms and ironwork are its highlights. There is also a 16th century coach in exhibition. On weekdays, visit is only allowed to the patio (working hours). On Saturday is possible to visit the building, a tip expected if you want to visit all. Jr. Ucayali 363, near San Pedro church.
The Plaza de Acho is the main bull ring of Lima. It was founded in 1776 by the Viceroy Amat and is considered the oldest in South America and one of the most important in the world. In October, they celebrate the "Feria del Señor de los Milagros", an international well-known competition. There is an interesting Museo Taurino on its left side. It is located in Rímac district, just going ahead Av. Abancay and crossing the river Rímac.
The Quinta de Presa is now the Museo Virreynal, a fine mansion of the 18th century which shows colonial furniture, Viceroy belongings, clothing and a old carriage. It is located in Rímac, some blocks near the corner of Av. Prolongación Tacna with Av. Pizarro. Entry fee.
Casa de Aliaga is the only colonial house in America which is still ocuppied by the same original family (Jerónimo de Aliaga was one of Pizarro´s soldiers). It maintains its colonial style and has a ceiling of the early Lima times. Located at Jr. de la Unión 224, beside Government Palace and the Central Post Office.
With five balconies and a lookout site, where Don Martín de Osambela used to watch with a telescope the arrival of galleons to Callao port, the Casa de Oquendo (or Palacio de Osambela) is a nice mansion in which art exhibitions are staged. Jr. Conde de Superunda 298.
By one side of the San Francisco church is located the Casa Pilatos, now the Tribunal Constitucional, a mansion from 16th century with stone pillars and unusual stairs at the entrance. Jr. Ancash 390.
Other colonial houses and mansions worth seeing in this area are: Casa de las Trece Monedas, a 19th century residence which is now a restaurant (Ancash 536); Casa de la Riva, a 18th century building in Jr. Ica 426; Casa de la Rada, a bank office which was a fine building dating from the middle of 1700 (Jr. Ucayali, 3rd block). Casa Negreiros, now a restaurant in Jr. Azángaro 532; Casa Barbieri, Jr. Callao near the corner with Jr. Rufino Torrico; Casa Prado, Jr. Cusco 448; Casa Teatro de la AAA, Jr. Ica 323; Casa de Riva Aguero, Jr. Camaná 459, now a Popular Arts Museum of the Universidad Católica and Casa Museo Berckemeyer, a typical 17th century house in Jr. Lima 341.
Lima has not been aparted from the precolumbian history. Certainly, it has 4,000 years of presence, when nomads and fishermen settled in this area, specially in the valleys of rivers Rímac, Chillón and Lurín. There are more than 30 recognised sites inside the city and another similar quantity in th surroundings. Others, dissapeared under the urban pressure of this century. From the former El Paraíso to the late Inca site Pachacámac, the archaeological testimonies in Lima are wide and not all are studied yet. As a comment, the Plaza Mayor is built over the temple of Taulichusco, the last sovereign before Pizarro´s arrival to Lima.
Inside the city, we can find the excavated Huaca Pucllana (Juliana) in Miraflores. This was a pre-inca ceremonial and administrative centre of the Lima Culture built with millions of mud bricks (adobe). There is a site museum with some ceramics and artifacts. Free entrance and guide available. Located at 8th block of Av. Gral. Borgoño, near Av. Arequipa, 45th block. Near to it, in the suburb of San Isidro, there is the Huaca Huallamarca or Pan de Azúcar, a Maranga Culture adobe temple built by the 200 AD. There is a site museum. Entry fee. Corner of Av.Nicolás de Ribera and Av. El Rosario, near the Swisshotel (Hotel Oro Verde) and Camino Real shopping center.
There is a complex of huacas, ceremonial sites, belonging to the Maranga Culture in the Parque de las Leyendas Zoo (San Miguel and Pueblo Libre). You can visit them by entering this place. In all that residencial area there are more archaeological sites of the same culture, but not as preserved as them.
Outside the metropolitan area you will find the most important archaeological sites of Lima. By the east, in the Central Highway (Carretera Central), is Puruchuco (km7.5, district of Ate). This is a restored site which that housed to the area's chief. There is a site museum and a fee must be paid. By the km 12.5, there is an entrance (to the left) to Cajamarquilla zinc refinery. 5km inside you will reach the Cajamarquilla site, a pre-inca citadel from Wari Culture, built with big adobe walls. It is said to be one of the most important adobe complexes in the coast. There is an interesting group of holes of 3m depth that were used as granaries. The site is worth seeing, although it is a bit difficult to find it. Some kilometres more from the turn-off to Cajamarquilla (km16) are San Juan de Pariache and Huaycán Tambo, two archaeological remains from precolumbian times.
30 km. south of Lima, by the Panamerican Highway, in the left turn-off to Lurín is located the "king" of all the Lima's archaeological sites, Pachacámac. This was a pre-inca and Inca group of temples, plazas and urban zones, which dominated the Lurín valley and then all the area of present Lima. At the entrance there is a site museum which explains you the development of this area. From here you can take a long circular dirt road to visit the different pyramidal buildings ending at the Temple of Sun, in the top place of Pachacámac. You need half a day to visit this major site. Do not forget to visit the Acllawasi or Mamacona (House of the Chosen Women), a house built by the Inca where is notable to see the mixture of mud and stone in the walls, now excavated and rebuilt. A must. Entrance fee. Outside the site, there are buses to/from Lima every minute.
Unless stated, archaeological sites and on-site museums are closed on Mondays.
The nicest suburbs in Lima are Miraflores and San Isidro. Connected with the centre by the Av. Arequipa and the Vía Expresa (expressway), they are a residential, commercial and quiet area. A good quantity of the best hotels, banks, companies and shops are located there. In Miraflores, is common to have a stroll by its Parque Central and Parque Kennedy, specially in the afternoons and evenings. In these parks there are musical shows, paintings' exhibitions and a small and round artisans' market. Near there, you find cafés for watching how life walks, art galleries, bookshops, pubs, discotheques and restaurants (Calle de las Pizzas, very frequented). Up from the Bajada Balta is the Parque del Amor (Park of Love) with a very big and sincere sculpture of a kissing couple laid in a bench. Miraflores is a good place for views of the Pacific Ocean.
San Isidro is more commercial, but the best residences and houses are found here, specially those surrounding the Golf de San Isidro club. A nice, traditional and quiet area is the Olivar de San Isidro, an old olive forest with a delightful environment. In the middle there is an artificial lagoon and the Municipal Library.
Next to Miraflores is Barranco, a traditional and bohemian suburb which was in the first middle of the 20th century the "house" of different recognised writers, poets and painters. Now it maintains its charm and has an active nightlife with an area full of pubs and restaurants with musical shows. By an alley from the Parque Municipal you reach the poetic Puente de los Suspiros (the Sighs' Bridge), a inspiring place for intelectuals and musics.
The unique natural protected area inside the big city of Lima is Pantanos de Villa. This is a group of wetlands located in Chorrillos (next to Barranco), end of Av. Huaylas, near to the Panamericana Sur highway. It is originated by the water filtering of rivers Rímac and Lurín that come from the Andes. In the area is possible to do birdwatching, because this is an important spot in the migration routes of birds from Canada to Tierra del Fuego (Chile). There is a museum, watching towers and guides that can explain you while exploring around about all the kinds of birds available and how they live in the lagoons and the gramadales.
Parque de Las Leyendas is the traditional zoo of Lima. It is located in San Miguel, 24th block of Av. La Marina. There is a good sample of typical animal species of Peru. They are classified in three natural regions (coast, highlands and jungle) where its environments has been physically recreated. There is a section called the "Baby Zoo" for young animals and other "International Zoo" for foreign and known animals like giraffes, bears, elephants, tigers and lions. There is an artificial lake, a carbon mine and a group of archaeological sites from the Maranga culture. Entry fee. crowded at weekends. Outside the zoo, there are some souvenir shops.
The newest zoo and research center (since February 1999) is called Centro Ecológico Recreacional Huachipa, located in the same area and near the river Rímac (Av. Las Torres s/n, Huachipa, Ate). This place was created and is maintained by Sedapal, the drinking water service company of Lima, and although by the moment is not as big as the Parque de las Leyendas, they have special care and equipment for the animals. Entry fee: S/. 5. Open 9am-4pm.
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