Most travellers have to spend at least one night in Lima as it’s the main arrival point into Peru and onwards to other key destinations like Cusco and Machu Picchu. Get the most out of your visit with our what to see in Lima in two days itinerary which highlights all our favourite things to see and do if you have just two days in this vibrant, colourful capital.
Bear in mind that two days is definitely not enough to see everything but these are some of the top attractions so you can get a good feel for the city.
Day 1: Barranco & Miraflores
Arriving in Lima can be somewhat of a culture shock if it’s your first time in a South American country. We recommend you start your first day in the Miraflores and Barranco districts of the city to get a feel for modern Lima.
Avenida Saenz Peña
Start on Avenida Saenz Peña which is one of the nicest streets in this neighbourhood. Colonial mansions which were once the holiday homes of wealthy ‘Limeños’ sit on either side of the park running through the middle.
On the same street the beautifully restored Lucia de la Puente Museum houses one of Peru’s best selections of contemporary art and exhibits work by Peruvian artists like Alberto Borea, Aldo Chaparro and Sandra Gamarra.
Head diagonally across the street to Dedalo. An Aladdin’s cave of contemporary Peruvian art, handcrafts and jewellery sourced from all over Peru. They have a nice little café in the courtyard out the back. Their carefully curated selection gives you a lovely feel for the quality and variety of Peruvian art.
Bridge of Sighs & La Ermita Chapel
Head down Avenida San Martín to the famous Bridge of Sighs, one of Barranco’s main tourist attractions. The bridge is a favourite with couples and rumour has it that if you cross the bridge while holding your breath your wish will come true…
The rundown yellow adobe La Ermita chapel is just above the ‘Bajada de Baños’ pedestrian walkway down to the ocean. Head past la Ermita Chapel to the viewpoint for great views of the coastline.
Barranco Main Square
Barranco’s Main Square is a colourful hub of local life. Grab a bench and do some people watching or visit the Municipal Library which also houses the tourist office. A great spot to get a feel for local life in this vibrant Lima suburb.
Avenida Pedro de Osma
Did you know that the world famous photographer Mario Testino was Peruvian? The MATE Museum on Avenida Pedro de Osma is a homage to his work and is housed in a beautifully restored 19th century townhouse on Avenida Pedro de Osma. You will find collections of his most iconic work including portraits of princess Diana and Kate Moss as well as the a stunning ‘Alta Moda’ collection – high fashion shots of traditional Peruvian dress.
Just next door to the MATE Gallery, the Pedro de Osma Museum is situated in a beautiful beaux-arts mansion surrounded by manicured gardens. The museum exhibits the private collection of Pedro de Osma who was a collector of art from the 15th to the 18th century. You can find paintings by masters including Bernardo Bitti and Luis de Riano as well as examples from the 18th century Cusco School.
The walls of Barranco’s streets are alive with murals, so keep your eyes peeled when you are exploring to spot colourful scenes from Lima’s vibrant street art scene. Some of the best places to spot street art are on Avenida Pedro de Osma, Jiron 2 de mayo and Cajamarca Street.
Las Pallas Native Folk Art
Las Pallas is a treasure trove of native Peruvian folk art founded by Scottish born Mari Solari who has been based in Peru for more than fifty years. She hand-collects all items in her collection which features high quality weavings, carvings, paintings and antiques from all over Peru.
MAC Museum of Contemporary Art
MAC Lima exhibits the work of contemporary Latin American and European artists from the 1950s to the present. They have a permanent collection as well as two temporary collection spaces which feature different artists throughout the year.
The collection includes abstract expressionism, geometric art, constructivism, conceptual art, optical art, surrealism and pop art pieces and pieces by contemporary Peruvian artists. Ask for a guided tour when you buy your entrance ticket if you want to learn more about contemporary Peruvian art.
Miraflores is the main tourist district of Lima and with parks, beaches, restaurants and shops is a great start for your Lima adventure.
Miraflores Boardwalk or Malecón
From Barranco head to the Miraflores ‘malecón’ or boardwalk which is one of Miraflores’ most emblematic attractions. This six mile cliff-top walk with stunning views of the Pacific Coast starts at Malecón de la Marina in the north, then becomes Malecón Cisneros, and ends as Malecón de la Reserva in the south.
Start at the Antonio Raimondi Park to find Lima’s premier paragliding spot. Watch the pros take running jumps off the cliffs and soar into the skies high above the Pacific. Tandem paraglides are available if you feel like an adrenaline filled activity…
Continue along the board walk and you will find a series of parks along the way including the famous Parque del Amor or Love Park which is a favourite spot for lovers to meet. It houses the famous ‘El Beso’ statue of lovers embracing by Peruvian artist Victor Delfín.
Bring a picnic if you want to take some time out in one of the many green areas along the boardwalk or rent a bike or jog if you feel like something a little more energetic.
Larcomar Shopping Centre
Larcomar is a stunning feat of architecture located on the boardwalk in front of the JW Marriott Hotel. You can’t see this multi-level food, entertainment and shopping complex from street level as it is tucked away in the cliff face boasting stunning views of the Pacific Coast.
Larcomar definitely has a western feel but it is a good place to enjoy sunset cocktails with an unparalleled view or a coffee. It also has a cinema and bowling alley.
Another key attraction in Miraflores is the busy ‘Parque Kennedy’ which is right in the heart of Miraflores. The park is now famous for its population of over 100 stray cats which are protected by the Municipality of Miraflores and even have their own not-for-profit organization that feeds and looks after their well-being!
There is a small market area most evenings selling souvenirs and snacks and it’s a nice place to people watch.
Located on Avenue Petit Thouars the Indian Market or ‘mercado indio’ is the place to come if you want to pick up typical Peruvian handcrafts and souvenirs. You will find similar items at the markets throughout Peru including alpaca scarves and sweaters, engraved pumpkins, woven bags and wallets and silver jewellery. It is handy however, if you want to stop off here before flying home and not carry souvenirs around Peru with you.
The Huaca Pucllana is an adobe and clay pyramid built on a series of seven platforms and was an important administrative and ceremonial structure for the Lima Culture which existed between 200A.D. and 700 A.D. This is one of the few archaeological remains open to the public in Lima.
Eco – Feria de Miraflores
The small Farmers Market in Miraflores takes place every Saturday from 08.00 to 16.00 next to the ‘Parque Reducto’. You can buy fresh organic fruit and vegetables as well as superfoods, snacks, olive oil, coffee and herbal tinctures and teas.
Day 2: Lima’s old Town
Now that you’ve got a feel for modern Lima head to Lima’s historic centre that runs from the Plaza de Armas to Plaza San Martin and discover Peru’s complex and fascinating past.
Church & Convent of San Francisco
This is one of Lima’s main tourist attractions and is a great example of colonial architecture in Peru. Visits are by guided tour only and the main attraction is the eerie catacombs where over 30,000 people are buried.
Plaza Bolivar houses the Peruvian Parliament and was also home to the Tribunal of the Inquisition between 1570 and 1820. Plaza Bolivar is named after Simon Bolivar, the revered statesman who freed Peru from Spanish colonial rule.
Balconies of Lima
The intricately carved wooden balconies built in the 17th and 18th centuries are part of Lima’s cultural heritage. Spot the best examples on Betyia and Ucayali streets and at the Osambela Palace on Jiron Conde de Superunda street and the Torre Tagle palace on Jiron Ucayali street.
San Pedro Church
The San Pedro church built by the Jesuits in 1638 is a good example of the baroque style with typical Spanish glazed tiles and Moorish-style carvings. It is also not on the main tourist trail so tends to be quieter and the gold altars and decorations are worth a visit!
Plaza de Armas
Lima’s Main Square was the citys’ first public square and it was here that Peru was declared a Republic in 1821. Watch the locals relaxing and stroll around the Square to see the colonial buildings.
The Presidential Palace is located on the north side of the main square and is home to Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Get there at 11.45am to see the changing of the guard every day.
The imposing baroque cathedral on the east side of the square is well worth a visit to understand the grandeur and vision of the colonial period in Peru. There are 14 side chapels dedicated to the most important saints and apostles and you can also visit the tomb of Francisco Pizarro.
Church & Convent of Santo Domingo
Head down Jirón Junin to visit this beautifully preserved religious site. Built in the 16th century, this pink church has the only church steeple in Lima. It is also famous for housing the remains of Santa Rosa, Lima’s patron saint and San Martín de Porres, South America’s first black saint. It’s an oasis of calm in the chaos of Lima and is a lovely place to spend an hour.
Take Jiron de la Unión, a pedestrian street with shops, cafes and restaurants down to Plaza San Martín to see scenes from contemporary Lima life.
Stop at the original church of La Merced which was built before Lima was founded. The first mass in Lima was held here in 1534.
The Plaza San Martín was built in 1921 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Peru’s independence and is named after Peru’s liberator José de San Martín. It is one of the most beautiful squares in Lima and is another great spot for people watching.
Head across to the iconic Hotel Bolívar, once Lima’s most famous hotel frequented by movie stars and presidents. It’s now a decrepit, old-fashioned place with often unfriendly wait staff but their pisco sour is undeniably one of Lima’s greats.
To finish off your day, head to the Parque de la Reserva to see the Magic Water Circuit. This fun light and water show takes place every evening after sunset. 13 interactive fountains use water, music and light to take you on a magical journey which is perfect for the kid in us all!