When visiting Peru, most people are going with the sole purpose of visiting Machu Picchu. Since flights generally connect through Lima, why not stop and check out the city on your way to or from Machu Picchu? Lima is a massive city with world-class dining and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s how to spend 2 days in Lima, Peru.
Things to Know About Visiting Lima
Lima can be overwhelming due to its size. With almost 9 million people, it’s South America’s second largest city behind São Paolo. Since it’s south of the equator, winter runs from May to August which is when we were visiting. While still warm, we were shocked to find out the sky is almost always grey throughout the winter in Lima. At first, we thought the grey sky was due to pollution. It also reminded me of the grey sky in Santiago which was due to local forest fires. But alas, the grey sky is caused by the warm inland desert winds meeting the cool air of the Pacific. Apparently Herman Melville described it as “the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe“.
If you want to see the sun and blue skies, try visiting during our winter instead. The other thing to keep in mind is the traffic. This was by far the slowest moving traffic I ever experienced. Much worse than Cairo. We were too lazy to figure out the public transportation to our own detriment. It took us 2.5 hours to drive 7 miles from downtown Lima back to our hotel in Miraflores! Initially, four taxi drivers refused to bring us to Miraflores and now I understand why. We eventually hopped in a taxi and forced him to take us. I felt guilty that it only cost about 15 dollars…
Do yourself a favor and take the express El Metropolitano bus which has its own lane straight through all of the traffic.
When getting from the airport to Miraflores, I highly suggest getting an Uber rather than taking the Airport Express Lima bus. We were trying to be thrifty, but it took us over two hours to get to our hotel due to the traffic and stops at other hotels. Turns out an Uber would have been the same price.
I know that all sounds pretty negative. In all honesty, Lima didn’t leave us with the best first impression. However, by the end of our trip, we learned to appreciate Lima for what it is.
Day 1: Getting Acquainted with Lima
Arriving in Lima
As I mentioned above, we didn’t have the best experience getting from the airport to our hotel, the Hilton Lima Miraflores. Save yourself some time by hopping in an Uber so you can start sightseeing right away!
Explore Downtown Lima
After checking into our hotel, we headed downtown for a walking tour of Lima. We booked our Lima free walking tour with Inka Milky Way after having a good experience on their tour in Cusco. They even have an option where they meet you in Miraflores and show you how to take the bus downtown. We would have greatly benefited from this!
The tour included the following sights:
- La Merced Church
- Jiron del Union Street
- Plaza de Armas
- Santo Domingo Church
- Rimac River
- Old Train Station
- Colonial City Wall of Lima
- San Francisco Church
If you take the afternoon tour, I cannot stress enough how taking a taxi back to Miraflores is the biggest waste of time. Either stick around downtown for dinner or take the bus!
Day 2: Explore Miraflores and Barranco
What to See in Miraflores
Miraflores is one of the best places to stay for tourists since it’s away from the hubbub of downtown and has miles of seaside walkways and parks.
The Malecón (or boardwalk) is the highlight of Miraflores. We spent a few hours wandering up and down the Malecón admiring the art installations and green space.
If you’re in the mood for shopping, built into the cliffside near the Malecón is a shopping center called Larcomar.
After taking in the ocean views, head slightly inland to Kennedy Park. Kennedy Park is also known as Cat Park since it’s teeming with cats (not great for a dog lover like me). While we were in Kennedy Park, we ran into a parade of clowns giving out “free hugs”. Not the favorite thing I’ve experienced but it sure was a sight!
Exploring the Barranco Neighborhood in Lima
During the afternoon, we walked about a mile and half to the neighborhood of Barranco. Barranco is Lima’s bohemian neighborhood and was a highlight of our time in Lima. If you’re into art, check out the MATE Museum founded by Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino.
Make sure to walk across the Bridge of Sighs, a widely photographed spot in Barranco.
One of the main highlights of Barranco is the street art.
We didn’t get a chance to go there, but the bar Ayahuasca looked really nice!
Dinner at Astrid y Gastón
For dinner, we had a reservation at Astrid y Gastón located north of Miraflores in San Isidro. The restaurant is situated in an old manor which makes for a beautiful dining atmosphere with a great outdoor space. The food was amazing as expected for one of the top 100 restaurants in the world. Our meal at Astrid y Gastón was the perfect end to our time in Lima.
While Lima didn’t exactly impress us upon first glance, by the end of our second day, we had fallen for this city. I think it’s important to check out downtown for its historical significance, but if you focus your time in Miraflores and Barranco, you’ll quickly learn to appreciate Lima for its food scene and laid back vibe.