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Refined, elegant, rich in history, and boasting one of the finest gastronomic scenes in the Americas, Peru's capital city truly deserves to be called the "City of Kings."
For hundreds of years, Lima was the hub of Spain's continent-spanning empire, and its fabulous wealth is apparent when you tour the modern city. The UNESCO-protected historic center is a wonder to behold, with the flower-strewn Plaza Mayor taking center stage.
But there's more to discover in modern Lima. See the cream of Latin American modern art at MAC Lima, dance to soulful criollo beats at live music venues like La Oficina, and dine on healthy ceviche or stir fried saltado-style beef at the city's fabulous restaurants.
A feast for the eyes, the mind, and the taste buds, Lima is a magical destination, just waiting to be discovered.
The center of Lima is simply beautiful. Built during Spain's colonial rule, the UNESCO-listed downtown area includes masterpieces like the Archbishop's Palace, the twin towers of the Cathedral of Lima, and innumerable mansions like the Riva Agüero house or the Casa de Aliaga.
These days, Lima is a must-visit for Latin America's foodies, and the culinary diversity is incredible. Dine on seafood specialties like ceviche at La Mar Cebichería, snack on a Peruvian soup at Siete Sopas, or try the beef stir fry at Pollos Hikari.
The people of Lima are a soulful lot, which is reflected in criollo, the city's local musical creation. Fusing Andean, African, and European music, criollo can get you dancing or make you weep, and there are regular performances at clubs like La Oficina or Ekeko Bar.
Lima is a fantastic shopping destination, particularly in neighborhoods like Miraflores. You can window shop all day, or explore bustling craft markets like the Indian Market, the finest place in Peru to pick up artisan craft souvenirs. The Flower Market is another unmissable experience, where beauty and bargains come together in an irresistible mix.
Peru's capital is a creative center as well as a historic and commercial hub, and you'll never lack for art galleries and theaters to attend. Some of the best galleries in the country are in town, such as MAC Lima (the Museum of Contemporary Art) and MATE, an institution dedicated to world-famous fashion photographer Mario Testino.
Lima's peak season tends to start in December and last until mid-April, when the temperatures hover around 75 degrees and the sunsets are sublime. Peru's winter between June and September may be cooler, but it's still fairly mild, and room prices will dip noticeably. There's hardly a bad time to visit, weather-wise.
Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM) has excellent links to North American cities like New York and Houston and good connections to the center of town. The cheapest transportation option is to catch a local IM-18 bus to Miraflores, which costs S/2, while taxis will cost around S/40. However, car rental companies like Hertz, Budget, and Avis have offices at the airport and offer another practical way into town.
If you do choose to rent a car at the airport, getting into town is fairly straightforward. Turn right along the Avenida Elmer Faucett until you reach the Avenida Argentina, at which point you'll need to turn left. Turn right at the Plaza Ramón Castilla, and you'll be fed into the downtown area. If you are driving from Cuzco, follow highway 3S to Ayacucho, then take highway 24 to Pisco, before heading north to Lima on the coastal highway 1S. You can also follow highway 1 south from Trujillo and Cajamarca.
Buses are a popular way to get around Peru, and there is a massive variety of different routes and companies. Operators like America Express, Cruz del Sur, and Civa run buses from cities like Arequipa, Cuzco, and Trujillo. Drop-off points vary, but are generally clustered around the La Victoria neighborhood, just south of the historic center.
Lima has some superb hotels that offer a 5-star accommodation experience. Some of the best options include the city center Sheraton Lima Hotel and Convention Center, the Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel, in one of Lima's most upmarket areas, and the lavish Country Club Lima Hotel in San Isidro. If you are on a budget, try the 1900 Backpackers Hostel, a centrally located, cut-price gem.
The Historic Center - spreading across the central neighborhoods of Rímac and Cercado de Lima, the old town features an extraordinary collection of historic architecture. Highlights are too numerous to list, but look out for the thousands of picturesque balconies and the facades of buildings like the Archbishop's Palace.
Miraflores - just south of the historic center, Miraflores is where upper-class Peruvians live, dine, shop, and play. Part of the area's attraction lies in its seafront location, but there are also historical sights like the ancient Huaca Pucllana temple and Larcomar, the city's finest shopping mall.
San Isidro - north of Miraflores lies San Isidro, Peru's financial capital. It may be prosperous, but San Isidro is also relaxed, with gorgeous parks and gardens to explore and some of Lima's very best restaurants, like Segundo Muelle.
The major public transportation options in Lima include the Metropolitano bus network and the city's modern urban railway system. To use either you'll need to get hold of a rechargeable travel card. Fares on the trains start at S/1.50, while single bus tickets are S/2. More adventurous travelers can also get around via Lima's micro-buses, which take cash and charge a minimum S/0.50 per journey.
Taxis are a popular way to travel around Lima, but be aware that cabs aren't metered. Instead, you'll need to pre-arrange a fare with your driver. Don't pay more than S/20 for an inner-city journey (most shorter hops should cost around S/10-15).
When you rent a car, you can visit beaches to the south like Punta Negra or day-trip destinations like the historic port of Pisco, so it's an excellent transportation option. You'll find branches of Budget and Avis across town, and rates as low as S/22 per day are common.
If you are after designer labels, the city is studded with modern malls, with locations like Jockey Plaza, Mall del Sur, and Larcomar leading the way. However, if you are hunting for typically Peruvian handicrafts, art, or outfits, head to the densely packed market in Gamarra for clothes, the Piedra Liza market for flowers, or the warren of craft stalls along the Avenida Petit Thouars in Miraflores for craft bargains.
You'll never be far away from a supermarket in Lima, where local companies include Wong, Vivanda, and Metro. Prices tend to be low by North American standards, with 12 eggs coming to around S/5.40 and a gallon of milk costing S/16.
Lima is a gastronome's dream, so expect fine food almost everywhere you look. Picking culinary highlights is almost impossible. However, if you want great ceviche, try Cevicheria Bam Bam or Punto Azul. For other traditional Peruvian dishes, book a table at Central Restaurante, or join chef Gastón Acurio at Astrid y Gastón, where the menu features a 28-course meal - more than enough to keep sightseers going during their trip. The food is fantastic, and the prices are low. Expect to pay around S/80 for entrees at upscale restaurants, and far less elsewhere.