Dubbed City of Kings when it was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Peru’s sprawling capital today presides over some of South America’s best museums and some of the world’s top restaurants. Come July, it also will shine as a sports venue when it hosts more than 6,500 athletes at the prestigious quadrennial Pan American Games.
“Lima never stands still; it is always evolving,” says hotelier Angie Clavijo, who grew up in this city where ancient adobe pyramids share space with Spanish colonial churches. “There is always something to discover, from new cocktail bars to concept boutiques,” especially in the vibrant districts of Barranco and Miraflores. Add in the beaches and seaside promenades (Clavijo suggests the Malecón in Miraflores for its parklike setting and free yoga and tai chi classes), and your Lima itinerary may fill up fast.
In this city, fusion fare is actually cool—and culturally layered
Peru’s cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes—and Lima is its epicentre. Here lunch may be sea-fresh ceviche paired with quinoa and potatoes from the Andes Mountains, followed by a dessert of fruits from the Amazon rainforest. The many cultures that have called Peru home have added to its gastronomic variety, from the indigenous Quechua and Aymara peoples to immigrants from Spain, Japan, and China.
“Peruvian cuisine is like a puzzle of many pieces,” says Lima-born chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, “and Nikkei is one of them.” Tsumura creatively pushes the boundaries of this blend of Japanese and Peruvian elements at his restaurant, Maido, in such plates as Amazon snails served with soy and arrowroot foam.
One of the country’s most popular dishes is lomo saltado, essentially a beef stir-fry that stems from the Cantonese-Peruvian mash-up called chifa; try it at the intimate, wood-beamed José Antonio. Another favourite? Arroz chaufa, or fried rice made with ginger, a winner at the cheerful, white-tablecloth Fiesta Chiclayo Gourmet restaurant.
Tucked into an elegant 1914 mansion, Hotel B’s 17 guest rooms blend period features with playful contemporary furnishings. The clubby bar offers a perfect starting point for an evening out in hip Barranco. hotelb.pe
Perched above the Pacific, this property draws luxury seekers with its 89 grand suites, ocean-view rooftop pool, and spa treatments that use products native to the Peruvian Amazon. belmond.com
Translating as “timeless small hotel,” Hotelito Atemporal feels exquisitely of the moment. Choose from nine guest rooms in the stately 1940s Tudor-style mansion, each decorated with a just-right mix of modernist fixtures, colourful prints, and carefully chosen antiques. When not lingering over the buffet breakfast or sipping an aperitif in the cosy back garden, guests may borrow bicycles to explore the city or use the complimentary car-with-driver to see local sights. atemporal.pe
Sample street food, haute cuisine, and everything in between
Peruvian cuisine has been taking the world by storm thanks to local chefs bringing delectable discoveries to Lima’s tables from Peru’s varied regions. Husband-and-wife team Gastón Acurio and Astrid Gutsche put Lima on the culinary map when they opened Astrid y Gastón in the 1990s. Chefs such as Virgilio Martínez of Central and Pedro Schiaffino of Malabar have been taking it to the next level, incorporating into their dishes heirloom crops from the Andean highlands and the jungles of the Amazon.
A menu staple in many Lima restaurants is ceviche—seafood cured with salt and citrus—whose name comes from a Quechua word for fresh fish. Most cevicherías pair mild sea bass or Pacific sole with a leche de tigre (tiger milk) sauce spiced with yellow chillies. Try a catch-of-the-day version at Restaurant Sonia, owned by a local fisherman and his wife. Or upscale the experience in Miraflores at chef Gastón Acurio’s La Mar Cebichería Peruana, where ceviche “is the door to Peruvian gastronomy.”
Sizzling street foods served on rolling carts are a go-to for Limeños on the move. Options typically are simple, from enormous ears of native choclo corn slathered with cheese and chilli powder to anticuchos, skewers of grilled
meat drizzled with lime juice and salt. Savour some of the best at Tía Grimanesa, a onetime streetside grill turned restaurant, or pop by the Señora Flor food stall, in the ever popular Surquillo Market, for a steaming bowl of its acclaimed chicken soup, noodles and all.
Peru’s signature cocktail, the pisco sour, is a heady concoction of pisco—Andean brandy distilled from grapes—mixed with simple syrup, lemon juice, egg whites, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Top bars pouring this flavourful (and deceptively strong) libation include Picas, a Barranco spot that serves a version made with creamy lucuma fruit, and the nearby Ayahuasca, where the drink comes flavoured with aguaymanto berry, inside a 19th-century mansion with an alterna-pop soundtrack.
Find ancient treasures, hip designs, and heart-pumping adventure
Lima’s history goes back centuries; among its oldest sites is the circa A.D. 500 adobe-clay pyramid of Huaca Pucllana. Pre-Columbian artwork fills the Larco Museum, while colonial culture is on tap at the Plaza de Armas. Arrive by noon for the changing of the guard at the ornate Palacio de Gobierno; then visit Lima Cathedral, which dates to 1535. Nearby, the 17th-century Convento de San Francisco houses a baroque rare-books library and bone-filled catacombs.
Thanks to its location on the rugged yet temperate Pacific coast, Lima offers activities you won’t find in many other major cities. Team Surf Peru provides surfing lessons for all levels and rental equipment at Lima’s own Waikiki Beach. High fliers can take to the skies off the Costa Verde cliffs of Miraflores by paragliding, in tandem with an instructor, at Aeroxtreme. Glides last up to 20 minutes and soar up to 600 feet, yielding tip-top views of the Pacific Ocean.
The beachy neighbourhood of Barranco is one of Lima’s liveliest. Visit the Pedro de Osma Museum for colonial art and lush gardens. Lima-born photographer Mario Testino’s celebrity portraits and images of Peru’s indigenous cultures are on display at his museum, MATE. Tuck into a lunch of Peruvian dishes at Isolina; then stroll under the nearby Puente de los Suspiros (“bridge of sighs”). End the day at an area bar for a pisco sour flavoured with fruits.
The city teems with designers selling their creations. San Isidro’s Avenida los Conquistadores is the place to browse indie clothing boutiques such as El Clóset de Mi Hermana. Find fair-trade woven goods at one of Sol Alpaca’s locations. In Barranco make a beeline to La Zapateria for handmade ready-to-wear and bespoke footwear. The nearby Dédalo Arte y Artesanía, in a colonial mansion, stocks fashions, home goods, and jewellery.