Lima in One Day: A Photo Guide to the Best Things to Do and See
Do you have only one day to explore Lima, the capital city of Peru? Read our travel guide on the best things to do and see in the city center of Lima. Best attractions, useful information, travel tips and photos.
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is one of those places travelers either love or hate. For some, the metropolis is too big (Lima has nearly 9 million inhabitants), too dirty (that's quite disputable, some places are some aren't) or still too dangerous (the situation gets every year better and better).
We must admit we weren't somehow drawn to Lima as well, mainly because of the fact we had spent one week before entirely cut off from the outside world while we were camping in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and also many travelers we met along the way did not enjoy Lima.
But our travelers' hearts did not let us skip Lima, and we decided to give it a try.
Not only because of our desire to see the architecture, but we desperately needed to buy a new phone. Mine was stolen when in Bogota while Martin broke his on Laguna Paron. Obviously traveling is not the best way how to keep our electronics in good shape.
But anyway. Lima is a chaotic city, and we did not want to be caught up in its streets for too long, so instead of staying in fashionable district Miraflores, we spent a night in a center which gave us more time to explore the city.
We felt that one day in Lima would be enough and here we bring our guide with the best things to see and advice on how to spend your time in Peru's capital most effectively.
Our itinerary should give you an idea what you can see in Lima in one day, but you can for sure stay longer and visit some ruins in the city's proximity or enjoy Lima's cuisine.
THINGS TO SEE IN LIMA
The city center in Lima is quite compact, and you won't have any problem to see the most significant attraction in a leisure pace in one day. Always keep an eye on your belongings and try to avoid dark alleys after dark.
Here's our photo list of the most interesting buildings we spotted while wandering streets of Lima.
PLAZA DE ARMAS
Plaza de Armas, also known as Plaza Mayor is the core of the city. The plaza before served as a marketplace, and even as a bull's fighting ring (Spaniard's idea), but nowadays it is a place where tourists wander around, and locals chill and meet with others.
The square is huge, clean, and apart from the fountain in the middle, it is a place where you can see several significant buildings without having to walk much around.
While on the square, you shouldn't miss Municipal Palace of Lima, Club of the Union, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop's Palace of Lima, or the nonstop guarded Government Palace which serves as the residence of Peru's president but is no longer open to visitors.
BASILICA AND CONVENT OF SAN FRANCISCO
The building of the monastery is in the UNESCO since 1991, and aside from the church part, it is also home to a remarkable library and catacombs.
When we came to the monastery, we did not know about catacombs inside, but we spotted an English group leaving for a tour, so we quickly paid S/15 each and went inside. Saint Francis Monastery is peaceful and beautifully restored building, but the most interesting part is catacombs containing thousands of bones as the church and attached buildings served as a cemetery.
Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take pictures here, only from the outside.
BASILICA AND CONVENT OF SAN PEDRO
One of the best-preserved examples of the architecture of baroque-colonial era in Lima. The construction of the church and the position are flawless.
If you have time, do not forget to go inside to see interiors. It is magnificent.
IGLESIA DE SAN AGUSTIN
What will catch your eyes on Iglesia de San Agustin is the color and differently structured facade with many ornaments.
This style is called Churrigueresque and came from Spain in the 18th century. Pretty unique to see in Peru.
PLAZA SAN MARTIN
The San Martin Square is relatively new, built in the 20th century, but nowadays boldly competes with Plaza de Armas.
It doesn't outshine Lima's main square with architecture, but with several restaurants and the relaxed vibe. You will firmly recognize this square thanks to a statue of Jose de San Martin, liberator of Peru. A historical building, Edificio Giacoletti standing on the side of this square was destroyed by fire in October 2018, only a couple of days before our arrival in the city.
JIRON DE LA UNION
The main promenade from Plaza San Martin to Plaza de Armas is a pedestrian zone surrounded by many shops, restaurants, but also interesting colonial buildings. Although we haven't experienced any issues here, it is also known as a place where pickpockets prey on unwary tourists.
Unfortunately, it is also a street where the poverty of Lima struck us the most, especially in comparison with shiny shops and expensive restaurants around.
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HOUSE OF THE PERUVIAN LITERATURE
Only ten years ago, this building was Lima's main train station, but it was transformed into a cultural center and a library.
You still can see the typical clock above the main entrance, very similar to what we can see in European train stations. The facade is impressive, but don't be shy and have a look inside, the interior is amazing.
There is no entrance fee, only keep all the noise at the minimum because it is an open space and local people come here to read or study.
The seat of the Congress of Peru lies a short walking distance from Monasterio de San Franciso.
Similar to other government buildings in Lima, it is impossible to get a bit closer, and you must be satisfied with a view through a high fence.
If you are not feeling like going alone, you can always join a guided tour.
Barranco Ultimate Peruvian Food Tour | In this tour you'll experience Lima in the best way possible, through your belly!
Pachacamac and Barranco Private Tour | You will explore the Pachacamac site, temples, and stop in colonial district Barranco on the way back.
Lima Full-Day Historic Tour | This is a private full day tour where you will visit all top attractions in Lima.
SAFETY IN LIMA
Although the security situation vastly improved in recent years, you still should stay on the gringo's path. The district of Miraflores is safer than the city center after dark, but it is still recommended to use a taxi when coming back after dinner to your hotel. Watch out for pickpockets.
We stayed in Lima's center and even though no incident occurred, some side alleys looked at least suspicious. Also, the ubiquitous smell of urine (and there are almost no dogs on streets) was a bit annoying.
We’ve also created helpful article How To Stay Safe In South America where you will find more information about this topic.
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT
The easiest way how to get from the airport to the center is to take a taxi. The official rate is S/55, but we were able to bargain a bit and rode for S/40.
You can also take an airport bus which goes to Miraflores (but not to the city center) for S/27, but as you can see, unless you are traveling on own, it is more expensive than a taxi.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
WHAT TO PACK
Here are 5 essential things you need for Lima.
Anti-Theft Daypack | A well designed, comfortable, sturdy day pack where you can easily fit your travel things, phone, and valuables.
Sunscreen | Use sunscreen in Lima all the time.
Money Belt | Wearing a money belt will help you avoid many sketchy situations in the city center.
We've also written an in-depth South America packing list where you will find more useful tips and advice on what to pack.
WHERE TO STAY IN LIMA
To make the most of our stay, without having to take a taxi or public transport all the time, we decided to stay in the city center of Lima.
Budget: Hostal La Positiva - one of the cheapest yet still secured options where to stay near the center.
Mid-range: Orchid Hostels - not many hotels in Lima can beat the location and great reviews.
Luxury: Sheraton Hotel Lima & Convention Center - this is the closest and the most luxurious hotel in the city center.
In case you have more days to spend in Lima, or you don't mind to pay for a taxi, you can find accommodation in Miraflores district which offers all facilities tourists need - hotels, shops, and relaxed atmosphere.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!