In this Lima travel guide we give you the best hotels, neighborhoods, restaurants, bars and things to do in the storied gateway to Peru.
Lima Travel Guide: Best Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Things to Do
Last updated: April 2023
With nearly all international flights to Peru making their initial descent into Lima, you’re bound to spend some time in the country’s bustling, history-riddled capital. Given its status as the literal gateway to the rest of the country – including such bucket list destinations as Cusco and Machu Picchu – it could be easy to write Lima off as nothing more than a stopover locale. This however, would be a mistake. Counting dramatic coastal views, a world-renowned culinary scene, exceptional hotel stays and rooted history stretching back to pre-Inca times, this storied South American city is deserving of your full attention – and then some.
In this travel guide we give you our edit of Lima’s best hotels, restaurants, bars and things to do, elevating your Limeño experience whether you’ve got two days or two weeks to spend in Peru’s historic Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings).
Related: Best Things to Do in & Around Cusco, Gateway to the Ancient Incas
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But first – travel insurance:
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Where to Stay in Lima: Best Hotels and Neighborhoods
First things first. You’re going to need to get settled in. The hotel landscape in Lima is vast, with options threaded throughout the city from its Historic Center to the upscale residential neighborhood of San Isidro, chic Miraflores to bohemian Barranco. In this guide we’re going to focus on the latter two, where you’ll find the highest concentration of Lima’s best restaurants, bars, museums, shops and beautifully manicured parks, plus: the dramatic cliffside malecón (boardwalk).
Lima’s Best Hotels: Miraflores
In Miraflores, Hilton loyalists and novices alike have an easy decision in heading straight for the global hospitality brand’s namesake outpost: Hilton Lima Miraflores. Here, the contemporary high-rise hotel delivers everywhere it counts – points-earning privileges included. Spacious rooms and suites feature sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows, Hilton Serenity beds by Serta, marble bathrooms with rain showers, plush robes and slippers, premium bath amenities, dedicated work space and hints of Peruvian colonial architecture like an exquisite lattice board placed over every bed.
Suites and Executive Floor rooms further boast such perks as premium wifi, late checkout up to 4pm, waived room service delivery fees and access to the hotel’s rooftop Executive Lounge – where you won’t want to miss catching a stunning Lima sunset on the outdoor terrace during daily happy hour. (Hilton Honors Diamond Elite members and those with upgraded Gold status enjoy Executive Lounge access no matter the room type.)
Did we mention the rooftop infinity pool and heated jacuzzi tubs, complete with panoramic city views? Or the excellent, optional breakfast? Easily worth the add for a morning bounty of freshly prepared, a la carte dishes ranging from savory to sweet. Plus: an on-site coffee shop for all day pick-me-ups, freshly shaken pisco sours from the lively cocktail bar and a central location just steps from the best of Miraflores.
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Other top check-ins in the stylish neighborhood include Tierra Viva Miraflores Centro, a quiet and unfussy stay located just steps from café-lined Kennedy Park, romantic turn of the century manor-turned-antique appointed Hotel Antigua Miraflores, and for those looking to splurge: Belmond Miraflores Park, an exceptional 5-star stay from the world-renowned Belmond portfolio. Think glamorous suites, a spectacular rooftop terrace (complete with pool and sundeck), polished hotel bar and magnificent ocean views from the property’s privileged malecón locale.
Lima’s Best Hotels: Barranco
In trendy Barranco, boutique hotel and art aficionados will no doubt want to book at room at Hotel B. The Peruvian capital’s only Relais & Châteaux property, the hotel takes residence in a restored Belle Époque mansion first built in 1914 as a summer home for a wealthy Limeño family. Today, the palatial space exudes opulence from the beautifully columned facade to a gallery of more than 300 original works of art to twenty elegantly appointed guest rooms. Think beamed ceilings, vintage armoires, stand-alone bathtubs, separate sitting areas and private terraces, among other nostalgic accents.
Six dining and drinking spaces range from the intimate Library – where guests can enjoy daily breakfast as well as afternoon tea, both included in the room rate – to the hip Rooftop, where craft cocktails and “tiraditos” (small plates) pair with dazzling ocean views. Barranco’s top galleries, museums, eateries and cocktail bars are all mere steps away, which you can explore on foot or via the hotel’s free bikes.
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Those looking to stay in Lima’s buzzing bohemian district can also check into Casa Republica Barranco, a beautiful boutique hotel residing in a converted 1920s mansion, or reserve one of eight rooms at Second Home: former Tudor-style residence of Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin, now a luxe guesthouse boasting ocean views.
What to See and Do in Lima: Best Activities, Sights and Strolls
Best Things to Do in Lima: Free Walking Tours and Culinary Excursions
In our opinion, the best way to kick off any arrival into a new city is by getting your lay of the land crash course. In the sprawling metropolis of Lima, this can be achieved by joining a Free Walking Tour, hopping on this comprehensive Panoramic City Bus Tour or our top pick: embarking on an immersive cultural, historical and culinary excursion with Lima Gourmet Company.
The boutique-style tour outfit offers a 5 hour Daytime Experience or Evening Experience, each maxing out at 10 participants as you eat (and drink) your way through Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. Depending on which whirlwind journey you select, you’ll visit a traditional produce market to learn about endemic superfoods, wander through artsy Barranco (and across its romantic Bridge of Sighs), soak in coastal views from a swanky seaside eatery and even stop at an ancient archaeological site located right in the middle of the city – all while enjoying the best of Peruvian cuisine and cocktails.
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Best Things to Do in Lima: Historic Center and Plaza Mayor
Now that you’ve got your bearings, it’s time for an in-depth look at Lima’s Plaza Mayor (main square), also known as the Plaza de Armas. This sprawling plaza is considered the birthplace of Lima, as established by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro upon the city’s founding in 1535. Throughout the years this historic square has seen everything from Viceroyalty-era proclamations and public executions to Peru’s 19th-century independence to current-day political happenings, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (together with Lima’s Historic Center) in 1991.
A number of significant buildings line the storied plaza, including the baroque-style Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lima and Archbishop’s Palace (the former houses Francisco Pizarro’s tomb), the bright yellow Palacio Municipal (City Hall) with its heritage wooden box balconies and grand Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) – Peru’s presidential residence featuring elaborate Changing of the Guard ceremonies on weekdays. Not one original building remains in Lima’s Playa Mayor due to centuries of earthquakes, though its impressive bronze fountain centerpiece dates to 1650.
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Best Things to Do in Lima: Convents and Catacombs
One block off Plaza Mayor you can visit the 16th-century Santo Domingo Church and Convent, home to ornate religious paintings, colorful Spanish tiles and the tombs (plus further relics) of three important Peruvian saints: San Juan Macías, Santa Rosa de Lima and the continent’s first black saint, San Martín de Porres.
Two blocks to the other side of the plaza you can take a guided tour of San Francisco Convent Museum and Catacombs. This 16th century Roman Catholic church and monastery features a baroque facade, soaring mudéjar-influenced dome, library of more than 25,000 antique volumes and mysterious underground catacombs – that are believed to be part of a vast network of secret passages winding below the Cathedral of Lima to the Convent of Santo Domingo to the nearby Church of Santa Ana.
For those who prefer to explore with a dose of historical and modern day context from a local guide, this small group walking excursion through Lima’s Historic Center offers expert insight at Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas), nearby Plaza San Martín and San Francisco Convent Museum and Catacombs. Plus, the ease of hotel pickup and dropoff.
Best Things to Do in Lima: Historic Homes and a Legendary Hotel
Steps from Lima’s Playa Mayor you can also tour Casa de Aliaga: the elaborate 16th century home of Spanish Captain Jéronimo de Aliaga, as built on land gifted by Francisco Pizarro. The Aliaga family and their descendants have lived in the home ever since – including to this day – giving the property claim as the oldest, continually occupied dwelling by the same family in Peru, possibly all of the Americas. The only way to visit the art and antique-adorned manor is with a prior-reserved tour guide, and we recommend this one that happens to include a stop for pisco sours at a legendary Lima hotel.
Rounding out your visit to Peru’s Historic Center? A stroll through beautifully manicured Plaza San Martín, a stately square flanked by baroque and neo-colonial facades, restaurants, shops and the aforementioned legendary hotel: Gran Hotel Bolivar. Built in 1924 by Peruvian architect Rafael Marquina, this grand Lima locale has attracted such notable guests as Orson Welles, Ava Gardner and John Wayne and is considered the birthplace of Peru’s iconic pisco sour cocktail – best sipped on the hotel’s open-air terrace with plaza views.
Best Things to Do in Lima: Wooden Box Balconies
While plaza hopping, don’t miss spotting any of the Historic Center’s beautifully preserved wooden box balconies. You’ll see these intricately carved enclosures – many mudéjar-influenced while others neo-colonial – incorporated into the facades of Viceroyalty-era buildings. Also called miradores (from the Spanish word mirar, meaning “to look”) these ornamental balconies were used by families of nobility to surveil while remaining discreetly hidden, plus express social status to passersby.
Best Things to Do in Lima: Barranco
Once you’ve had your fill of Lima’s Historic Center, head to bohemian Barranco for a taste of modern day Limeño life celebrating the city’s storied roots. Known for its colorful colonial mansions – some restored, others in wistful disrepair – vibrant street murals, relaxed art galleries, chic boutique hotels and a buzzing dining and drinking scene, this revivalist neighborhood is best explored on foot.
Stroll across the iconic “Bridge of Sighs” – a romantic footbridge dating to 1876 – wander the picturesque pedestrian alley of Bajada de Baños, stop at a cliffside mirador (observation deck) and linger in the tree-lined Barranco Municipal Park, featuring rotating artist sculptures, street vendors and weekend artisan markets.
Explore at your own pace or if you prefer a guide-led experience, this Free Barranco Walking Tour has you covered with all of the neighborhood’s top spots. Better yet – this (aforementioned) Lima culinary experience combines a walking tour of the artsy enclave with a stop for organic Peruvian coffee at a colonial manor-turned-café, a visit to a neighborhood mercado to learn about endemic superfoods and so much more – in, and out, of Barranco.
Best Things to Do in Lima: Museums
Art and culture cravers can rest assured that Lima is a city replete with world-class museums. Our top picks? MAC Lima (Lima Museum of Contemporary Art), housing pieces from the 1950s to the present in a glass cubed facade heralding the entrance to arts district Barranco; Museo Pedro de Osma, offering docent-led tours of its private collection of viceregal art and antiques in a 1906 beaux-arts manor-turned musuem; Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), showcasing a permanent collection of 18,000 pieces spanning pre-columbian, colonial and modern eras; and Larco Museum: founded in 1926 by Peruvian archaeology pioneer Rafael Larco. Residing in a converted 18th century mansion, the site is home to a sprawling collection of pre-Colombian artifacts – though is best known for its scintillating collection of ancient erotic pottery.
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Best Things to Do in Lima: The Malecón, Larcomar and Sea Lions
No trip to Lima is complete without at least one stroll along its famed Malecón de Miraflores: a two-mile strip of manicured parks, colorful gardens and green spaces nestled along the city’s breathtaking cliffside. Don’t miss Miraflores Chinese Park with its pagoda and koi ponds, Parque Del Amor for its famed kissing sculpture, or marveling at Lima’s functional, 72-foot lighthouse.
Coastal strolls along the picturesque stretch will also lead you to Larcomar Shopping Mall. Not just any mall, this outdoor shopping complex is built directly into the sea cliff and easily worth a visit for the views alone – perhaps best enjoyed over sunset bites and pisco sours at any of the site’s ocean-facing eateries (keep reading for our top picks).
Further off the coast, you can even swim with sea lions in the Pacific Ocean on this unforgettable boat excursion to Peru’s protected Palomino Islands.
Best Things to Do in Lima: Magic Water Circuit
Back on land, you can head to Parque de la Reserva at night to experience Lima’s famed Magic Water Circuit: a spectacular 30-minute show featuring a series of illuminated fountains paired with changing color schemes, holographic laser effects and sound. The show has generated so much buzz it’s even landed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest complex of fountains in the world in a public park.”
Shows take place three times per night (daily) and you can purchase tickets from the official website here. Or, elevate your experience with historical and modern day context from a private, insightful guide (plus hotel pickup and dropoff). This private after dark adventure further pairs the Magic Water Circuit with a visit to the 16th-century San Francisco Convent Museum and Catacombs, plus an illuminated Plaza Mayor, beforehand.
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Where to Eat and Drink in Lima: Best Restaurants and Bars
An exciting revival of indigenous cooking techniques, rooted flavors and resurrected superfoods isn’t just putting Peruvian cuisine on the map, it’s effectively solidified the country as a world-class dining destination – led by Lima as the undisputed culinary star. One only needs to look at 2022’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, featuring three of the city’s most celebrated epicurean experiences, or the dedicated Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, where a whopping eight Lima hot spots land top billing, to eliminate any doubt that Peru’s food scene is having a major moment.
Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Fine Dining
Those looking to experience the height of Lima’s gastronomy should book a table at Central – and well ahead of your trip. The internationally lauded locale is famed for its investigatory chef’s tasting experiences, taking diners on a whirlwind culinary journey through twelve (or more) of the country’s diverse ecosystems and altitudes. Helmed by renowned Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz, Central happened to land at #2 on the aforementioned World’s Best list and currently reigns supreme as Latin America’s #1 best restaurant.
Other top tasting menus to try include the 12-course Nikkei Experience at Peruvian-Japanese fusion kitchen Maido, the artful Yachay menu at Mayta – with a focus on sustainable and recovered Peruvian ingredients – and the 15-course tasting experience from Astrid y Gastón. The OG of Lima fine dining, this culinary pioneer from Limeño chef Gastón Acurio is widely accredited with putting Peruvian cuisine on the world map upon its opening in 1994.
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Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Contemporary Dining with a Side of History
On the crux of Miraflores and San Isidro, epicureans and archaeology buffs alike will no doubt want to book a table-with-a-view at Restaurant Huaca Pucllana. Here, contemporary takes on local dishes – plus frothy pisco sours and housemade chicha morada (a nonalcoholic beverage made from dried Peruvian purple corn) – pair with captivating views of Huaca Pucllana: a pre-Incan clay and adobe stepped pyramid dating to 200 AD.
Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Neighborhood Hot Spots
For a more relaxed take on traditional Peruvian plates, in-the-know travelers are reserving a spot at neighborhood haunt Isolina: purveyor of nostalgic, family-style comfort cuisine in a converted Barranco manor. Follow the barrio’s picturesque Bajada de Baños alley to seaside Restaurante Javier, or in Miraflores, head upstairs to the lively al fresco terrace at Saha Peruvian Kitchen.
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Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Seafood
Seafood lovers won’t want to miss out on Lima’s famed ceviche, served to perfection at La Red cevichería in San Isidro since 1981. Nearby, minimalist Limaná offers superfood-led takes on biodiverse pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus excellent cocktails and wine by the glass. In Miraflores, locals flock to La Preferida for lunch: a traditional barra (seafood bar) serving tapas-style bites and hearty plates – like a creamy risotto with shrimp – in a kitschy setting.
Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Chifa Cuisine
Looking for something a little different? Head to old school Gran Chifa Chung Yion in Barranco or Gastón Acurio-helmed Madam Tusan in Miraflores (there are two locations: here and here) to try traditional chifa cuisine: a unique marriage of Chinese and Peruvian flavors rooted in the 19th century arrival of East Asian immigrants to Peru. Arrive hungry, as portions are typically served family style and come notoriously heaping.
Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Sanguches and Cerveza
If you’re looking for a quick grab & go meal, Lima’s famed sánguches (sandwiches) are easily your best bet. Try them at either of La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla’s popular outposts in Miraflores – by Kennedy Park or closer to the malecón – where you can order traditional fillings like chicharrón (fried pork), jamón del país (Peruvian ham) or pavo (turkey).
Have time to linger? Head to Barranco to pair your sanguche with a pisco sour or cerveza de barril (draft beer) at Juanito Barranco: an authentic Peruvian taberna (tavern) charming locals and visitors alike since 1937.
Lima’s Best Restaurants and Bars: Sunset Cocktails and Nightcaps
Sundowners are best served anywhere on the malecón for dramatic ocean views, like the outdoor terraces at Mangos or Tanta de Larcomar, both located within the cliffside Larcomar shopping complex. See and be seen on the fashionable rooftop of Hotel B for a pre-dinner apéritif, or head to creative cocktail dens Barra55 or El Infusionista for late night libations – and your final nightcap.
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