What to see and do in Lima, Peru

As the capital city of Peru, and the largest, Lima is a metropolis of paradox.  It is a city that has found a unique blend between its cultural heritage, which holds some of the richest and most fascinating (and well preserved) history in South America, and modernity.  The first thing that a traveller will notice when they arrive are the flourishing skyscrapers and urban architecture interspersed between ancient brick buildings that says something about the breadth of generations that exists in Lima.

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It also has one of the vaster mercados, or markets, where vendors hawk everything from fresh cut meats and various local produce, to pirated DVDs and trinkets, and everything in between.  Part of the tradition of the markets is haggling, so having a basic grasp of Spanish always goes a long way in terms of bartering – for the most part, it’s a process that’s almost expected, but at the same time most stall-owners are just trying to get by, so relenting a little in the transactions is always a good idea.

Lima also have a number of art galleries and museums, many whose exhibits change monthly or yearly, and often include archaeological artifacts from some of Peru’s extinct cultures, including the Moche and the Incas.  The Lima Art Museum located downtown, surrounded by an immaculate garden and some eccentric sculptures, is also a treasure – its ancient Spanish-inspired architecture often makes it feel like you’re walking into a mansion a continent away.  Again, blending the new with the old, it has an audio-tour of some of Peru’s foremost painters, from the 1700’s all the way to current day surrealists.

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For the more refined traveler, Lima is also a prime location for shoppers and those seeking a calm respite from the troubles of the world – most of Lima is perched above the Pacific Ocean, and architects have taken advantage of the unusual cliff formation that hedges it to construct sometimes dizzying cafes and plazas that overlooks the water.  With fully stocked bookstores, shopping centers, cafes, and gourmet restaurants, it’s easy to fall in love with the city that once saw the likes of great writers like Cesar Vallejo, and at times it can feel like you’re walking foot-in-foot with those who saw the splendour of their country and whose words are still preserved.

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Besides being a major center of commerce, Lima also offers some of the widest selections in accommodation.  Like other Peruvian cities, many of the hostels are based out of people’s homes or in homes that have been renovated, so there is always a sort of domestic charm to them – in many cases, the family will be living in the second floor.  However, for those with the pockets, it also has some of the choicest luxury resorts and hotels, including the Thunderbirds Fiesta, the Marriot (which is attached to the Atlantic Casino), and the Delphines Hotel.  Most of these are located in the central Miraflores area, or are easily accessible from downtown via the public transit system or any of the colorful cabs that grace the causeways of Lima.  Many of these upper class hotels (like the Marriot) feature their own internal or attached casino, where players can easily navigate from the comfort and quiet of their hotel room to the bustle and excitement of the game floor where classic games like Poker and Blackjack draw tourists from across the globe.

Author Jordan Mounteer is a globe-trotter and freelance writer based out of Vancouver, Canada, and is always on the lookout for new adventures, whether they be learning how to make knives from an elderly couple on New Zealand’s coast, working on a road crew in the middle of the Ecuadorian jungle, or exploring the rich and colorful culture of Japan as an English Teacher.