Since visiting Peru for the first time in 2011, Lima has quickly become one of my favourite cities in the world. I am aware that this point of view is not entirely objective as ‘C’ is Peruvian and grew up in Lima. Hence every time we visit, I am taken to his favourite places and introduced to his favourite people – which makes a huge difference when getting to know a city.
However, I have now been to Lima 3 times, and each time I visit, I feel more and more passionate about this seaside capital, and can increasingly see myself living there (does anyone else notice what a big statement this is coming from me?..!). Now on the flip side, I have only ever been there in the summer when they actually have some sun, however, ‘C’ assures me that this only happens 8 weeks a year – and the rest of the time Lima is shrouded in a thick fog! This could significantly change my mind….
Talking to friends who have visited Peru in the past, the majority have never really spent any time in Lima. For them Lima was purely a jumping-off point to other parts of the country, such as Cusco and Machu Pichu, the Amazon or Lake Titicaca. However I think if you stay for a few days in Lima, you too will also notice the incredible charm that this city has and will also be seduced by it.
So now that I am an ‘honorary’ Limeñian (yes, that is what they call people from Lima) I thought I would share some of these fantastic nuggets of information with you that I have discovered during my visits. So that if you ever visit Lima, you will be armed with a few good places to see and eat. If you have no plans of visiting Lima – hopefully this post will help change your mind :)
Let’s start with the absolute most important aspect of Lima – FOOD!! I have said (ranted) repeatedly throughout the Travelling Chopsticks that Peruvian food is amazing, and I stand by it each and every time. It has become one of my favourite types of cuisine (I’m still very loyal to my Singaporean grub though – so that will always be number one!). Here are some of my favourite restaurants to go to when I am in Lima:
A rather scruffy little eatery in the neighbourhood of Barranco. With it’s very casual atmosphere coupled with its fantastic food, Canta Rana is probably one of my favourite places to go while in Lima. The clientele is predominantly local, speckled with few adventurous tourists, the interior is rather quirky with posters, framed photos and flags covering every inch of wall space – but most importantly the food is good. My favourite dishes are the following: Ceviche Mixto (mixed seafood Ceviche), Chicharon Mixto (Deepfried mixed seafood), Langostinos al Ajo (prawns in a garlic oil, served with bread to mopp it all up with), choros a la chalaka (mussels served with red onions and lime salsa).
Address: Genova 101, Barranco, Lima Peru
The day after our wedding we had our ‘recovery’ brunch here. It’s an open-air restaurant located right on the coast of Lima, overlooking the pacific ocean. In the 1970s and 1980s it was one of THE places to go to in Lima, and although it may be slightly outdated now, I still really enjoy it. I have only ever been there for the Lunch Buffet – which I thought was excellent (doing a quick search in Trip Advisor some people thought quite differently!). Not only is there an exciting variety of Peruvian cuisine represented, but there is an abundance of fresh seafood. Being right by the ocean, it makes for an absolutely delightful afternoon.
Address: Playa Barranquito S/N, Barranco, Lima – Perú
One of the first Gaston Acurio restaurants I went to in Lima, and it left an impression. In fact, Gaston was sitting at the table next to ours when we went, and I did not have the nerve to go and ask for a picture!! This is a far more upmarket place (compared to Canta Rana) to go for lunch. You see a lot of business people on their lunch breaks here, or having a lunch meeting. However, as its Lima, everything is pretty casual – you will not be turned away for wearing shorts and flip flops. The restaurant itself has a large seafood counter where you can see them prepare all the cebiche’s and tiaraditos if you wish. The whole concept of the restaurant feels as though you are at beach, with wooden decking on the floor, lots of bamboo and greenery – a very open air feel. Everything that I have had here has been exceptional – the best drink for me though is Jugo de Maracuya (Passion Fruit Juice) – love!
Address: Avenida La Mar 770, Miraflores, Lima 18
Now the food here may not be the GREATEST food you will eat while in Lima, but they do have an absolutely fantastic location situated in Larcomar (Look at note below). The restaurant has a lovely outside dining area which is perched on a cliff with panoramic views of the coast – the view really can’t get any better! They also serve a buffet on the weekends, but one of the most memorable experiences I had here, was popping in for a cup of coffee sharing a Suspiro Limeño with C and watching the surfers below us and enjoying a lazy afternoon in Lima.
FYI – thier website is the worst and most unhelp website I have come accross. I suggest just making your way there!
Now I have only been here once – but it was quite impressive, so I thought I would include it. This is another Gaston Acurio restaurant, and unlike La Mar which is more of a cevicheria, Panchita focuses on Peru’s criollo cuisine. The restaurant is again quite formal – but they did not seem to mind that we rocked up in our flip flops (are you starting to see a trend here?). The portions are massive however! So keep that in mind when you are ordering. I shared an Aji de Gallina with my mother – and they were very kind to serve it on separate plates, but each plate with a meal in itself!
Suprisingly I could not find their homepage.
Address: Avenida Dos de Mayo 298, Miraflores Lima
This restaurant has almost become an iconic image of Lima and its coast line. Built entirely of wood, the restaurant is situated on a jetty over the sea. It makes for a very dramatic backdrop for dinner. Admittedly the restaurant itself is looking a little tiered, and a lick of paint would do wonders to spruce it up. I went with my parents, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the food and the ambiance. Admittedly I was slightly skeptical at first – I had imagined it would be a bit of a tourist trap, living off its reputation and fabulous location – but I was pleasantly surprised. Their Lomo Saltado was one of the best I have had (apart from C’s of course!).
If you want something more relaxed, there is also a great little bar next door which serves killer pisco sours (although my favourite is Pisco Maracuya!) they also serve very good bar food. One thing you should be prepared for bar food in Peru is not just little nibbles, they are pretty substantial!
Address: Espigon 4 beach circuit, Miraflores, Lima
The last few times I visited Peru with C, we did not really do any sight-seeing as such. In my first visit, I spent the majority of the time being introduced to friends and family. We did a bit of travelling down to Paracas on the coast and up to Huanaco in the north – you can read about those adventures here, and the second time I was in Lima, we spent a very stressful time running from meeting to meeting organising our entire wedding in 10 days.
This time however, we were in Peru for 2 weeks before the wedding – and had ample time to do fun sight-seeing activities with our friends and family who were slowly trickling in from around the world to attend. Here are a few of my favourites:
This probably has to be one of the most exciting and impressive museum that I have been to anywhere in the world, but best of all it is manageable as it’s not too big. I suggest getting a guided tour, which lasts roughly an hour and is well worth it, as you will get a deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture than if you just wandered around on your own. The museum is in a large house, and has a stunning garden with a fantastic restaurant.
They also have a separate location where they store their erotic ceramic artifacts – although I’m slightly confused on this issue. One source says they are genuine artifacts (if so, it’s incredibly impressive), another source said they are reproductions made by Larco himself. Does anyone know the correct answer?Either way, it’s still fun to go see, the ceramic figures are pretty explicit – you may just learn a thing or two ;)
I would highly recommend to first go to the museum for an hour or two, and then have lunch in their restaurant in the garden, which is delightful. The food was also very good serving traditional Peruvian dishes, however the service was slightly sloppy when we were there – but it wouldn’t put me off to go again!
Address: Avenida Bolivar 1515, Pueblo Libre. Lima 21, Peru
There are a couple of tour buses that cruise around the city – I am sure that they are all equally good, but this is the only one I went on and thought they were pretty decent. We did the City Tour Express which lasts around 4 hours. You are picked up and dropped off at Larcomar (see note below), you visit Barranco the bohemian neighbourhood where C grew up (not that, that is a tourist attraction!) then you go down town to visit the Convent of San Francisco and get a tour of the catacombs and watch the changing of the guards.
It is a very easy way of seeing Lima. Your tour guide will be pointing out things of interest over the speakers, although I must admit, it was quite hard to understand her English so that is an area they could improve on. But during the actual tour she was a wealth of knowledge.
There are a number of different types of tours you can take depending on your time limit and interest
However a word of advise – bring a sun cream and a hat – there is not an inch of shade on the top deck, and the Peruvian summer sun can be pretty brutal.
Convent of San Francisco & Catacombs
If you decide that the Turibus is not for you – make sure you do not miss going to the Convent of San Francisco and it’s Catacombs. It offers a really interesting peek into history and what Peru was like in the past. I would recommend getting a guide, as they will point out things that you will completely miss otherwise. If you time your sightseeing well – try to see the changing of the guard at noon in front of the government palace (which is just round the corner). It was quite a show and not what I expected!
Although I have never been, however ‘C’ says you should pop into Hotel Bolivar which is also down town, as this apparently is the birth place of the famous Pisco Sours!
Larcomar is a quite impressive mall, that scales the cliff face of Miraflores in Lima, all facing outwards with a fantastic view of the ocean. There is abundance of restaurants, shops, movie theaters, arcades and night clubs to choose between. Even if you are not a big ‘shopper’ so to speak, it’s a great place to come for a coffee and watch the world go by and watch the surfers more often than not, battle with the waves. It also serves as a great meeting point if you are new in town as everyone knows where it is.
We actually got married here – so I definitely have a soft spot for the hacienda :)
However, when they are not doing big weddings, they are in fact a working hacienda which breeds Paso horses a breed local to Peru. Like the Icelandic horse, the Paso horse has very unique tilt that makes them look like they are dancing.
During the week private tour groups go out to Hacienda Mamacona, where you can watch a Paso horse show, be served sumptuous Peruvian food and enjoy their beautiful garden! Although I have not done it personally – I could spend hours in that garden and I know first hand that they put on quality events!
Address: Alameda Mamacona s/n Lurin · Lima · Peru
As you can see from my above list – my sightseeing experience may be slightly limited, but just walking around Lima is so exciting I am sure you will have no problems entertaining yourselves!
So there you have it – The Travelling Chopsticks favourite restaurants and places in Lima! I hope that you find it useful – and if you do ever go to any of the above I would love to hear your opinion!