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Lima’s historic center is home to beautiful preserved colonial buildings with stunning architecture and visiting here is a must! You can spend the day wandering around plazas, charming streets, chaotic streets, markets, and more. Here is how to spend a day in Lima’s centro historico.
Start in Plaza San Martin
Plaza San Martin is a great starting point because it’s kind of on the edge of the historic district. Getting here using the Metropolitano is one of the quickest ways to arrive and you’ll want to get off at Estacion Colmena or you can use Uber if you don’t want to bother with the public transit. In Plaza San Martin you’ll see the iconic Gran Hotel Bolivar as well as government employees and locals just going about their daily lives.
Walk down Jiron de la Union for pedestrian-friendly shopping
Lima has a bustling pedestrian-only street called Jiron de la Union which links Plaza San Martin and the Plaza de Armas. It’s one of the most entertaining streets you can walk down and you never know what type of street performance you are going to see. I wouldn’t say that the actual shops are that interesting, but they are filled with some of the creepiest mannequins I’ve ever seen.
Visit the Plaza de Armas
Lima’s Plaza de Armas was founded in 1535 and is one of the most iconic points in the city. You’ll see the grand government palace, the Lima cathedral, and the cities oldest balconies at Casa del Oidor.
Learn how to make chocolate
Learn about every step of the chocolate making process during a 2-hour workshop at Lima’s ChocoMuseo location in the historic center (they also have a location in Miraflores). You’ll learn how to roast the beans, remove the husk, grind the nibs and refine the paste into a ‘melangeur.’ This chocolate-making workshop includes all the necessary ingredients, a chocolate drink tasting, and a chocolate souvenir handmade by you.
Tap into the local craft beer scene
If you’re into craft beer, Mi Tercer Lugar in the historic district has over 24 Peruvian beers on tap! It’s a cozy spot to take a break from walking around the Lima’s charming streets.
Visit the Mercado Central
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit a public market in the city. The Mercado Central in Lima is full of fruits, vegetables, hanging meat, and seafood that is interesting to see or buy to take home and cook. There are also lots of food stalls where you can a local meal prepared for around 10 Soles ($3 USD).
Lima has a strong Asian influence and you can find “chifas” all around the city with delicious Peruvian-Chinese food. However, Barrio Chino is where Lima’s Asian culture comes together and it’s an interesting place to visit for authentic dim sum and other Chinese food, small shops filled with Chinese trinkets, and tons of people walking around. It’s located near the Mercado Publico that I mentioned before so you can easily visit both.
Go on a free walking tour
If you’re interested in learning about the history of the historic district, a free walking tour is a great way to see the city! There are a couple to choose from but Lima by Walking has great reviews. You can either meet them at Pariwana Hostel at 10:30 am and ride the public bus to the historic center with the group or meet directly at the fountain in the Plaza de Armas at 11:30 am. The tour lasts around 2-hours and includes a free Pisco tasting. The tour is tip based so at the end you can pay what you want.
Have dinner at Casa de Aliaga
Casa de Aliaga is the oldest continuously occupied family home in South America with 16 generations of family living there. The historical mansion has 50 rooms with stunning antique furnishings where you can admire the old world beauty. Most people just book a tour to see the home, but what’s really unique is taking part in the dining experience they host on Thursdays, where you’ll be seated in the home’s grand dining room with a 7-course tasting menu prepared by family chef Jeronimo de Aliaga. Reservations must be made in advance via their website.
See preserved bones in the Catacombs of San Francisco
While in the historic center be sure to visit the San Francisco Convent to see the catacombs. I originally went to see it as a quirky tourist attraction, but the building itself is what blew me away. You have to sign up for a guided tour for 10 Soles ($3), and you’ll be happy to learn the quick facts along the way (they don’t let you take pictures but I snuck a few). You’ll be guided through grand rooms where meetings between the church were held, an old library that looks like it has been frozen in time, and then ends in the catacombs where bones from an estimated 25,000 bodies are creepily on display.
Experience the street food
Learn about Lima’s most historical sites by eating on the Historic Center Street Food Night Tour. You’ll discover the architectural landmarks of Peru’s capital like the main square (Plaza de Armas), the Government Palace, the Cathedral of Lima, Plaza San Martin and more while sampling 14 types of foods and drinks. There are also a few optional food stops during the tour based on availability and if you choose to do them.
Artisan Gallery San Francisco
If you’re looking to buy cheap alpaca sweaters or typical Peruvian items to bring back home, the Artisan Gallery San Francisco in the historic center is one of the best spots to visit a classic market. It’s located near the San Francisco Catacombs, which are a must-see in Lima as well. Address: Jirón Lampa 216, Historic Center
Go on a Pisco Pub Crawl
Learn about the Peruvian culture with an encounter with its national drink, Pisco! On the Pisco Pub Crawl, you’ll enjoy an evening out in Lima, beginning with a short walking tour of the center. Then visit three local bars to try cocktails made with the drink and sample local pub foods.
Museo del Pisco
If you aren’t able to make it to the pub crawl, you can stop anytime by Museo del Pisco to do a Pisco tasting for 37 Soles ($12 USD). During the tasting, you will be explained how Pisco, the tasting notes, and sample several different varieties.
*Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español