5 Top Things to do In Lima Peru In Two Days

Fun Facts About Lima Peru

Visiting Peru for the first time? Chances are you’re bound for Machu Picchu or the Amazon and will stay in Lima a very short time. But, perhaps you should rethink that.

(Find your Guide to Machu Picchu, Cusco, and The Sacred Valley here

Get more information about the Peruvian Amazon here)

We’ll start with some Getaway Maven fun facts:

Lima, Peru’s capital city, has a population of 8.5 million.

Tourism is the third largest industry in Peru after Mining (gold, silver, copper) and Fishing.

Guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru and “always presented with potatoes.”

Peru grows between 3,000 and 5,000 species of potatoes, depending on who you ask. In any case, it’s a considerable number.

It never rains in Lima – a desert city on the Pacific Ocean.

Peru was a colony of Spain from 1532 – 1821.  The country celebrates its Independence Day on July 28.

Parts of the Miraflores District (a high-end neighborhood in Lima) could be confused with commercial centers in any European or American city: you’ll find Starbucks, Apple (called I-Store) and even Pinkberry here.

Though most visitors to Peru fly in and out of Lima, usually to get to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, this desert city is worth exploring for at least a few days.  Here are the best ways to do that:

Best Things to Do In Lima Peru

Lima City Plaza

TOUR: 4 Hour Hop on Hop Off Bus

This half day Hop on Hop off bus tour is the most efficient way to see the city of Lima Day One of your visit. 

The route begins at the fancy Larcomar Shopping Center, with stops at:

Huaca Pucllana – a 4th century pre-Incan holy temple made of clay and adobe bricks. It’s quite anachronistic – appearing like an ancient anthill in the middle of a wealthy modern neighborhood.

Walk around the city’s historic center  – the Plaza de Armas (aka Plaza Mayor) – with its striking goldenrod colonial architecture and surrounded by the imposing Government Palace.

Enter the hushed Monastery of San Francisco to descend into the catacombs, once the city cemetery and still thick with the bones of the dead.

Tours include entrance to the Lima Cathedral and Santo Domingo Convent on weekends.

EAT/TOUR: The Lima Gourmet Company

Want an overview of Peruvian cuisine, and in the process score a table in some of the toughest-reservation restaurants in the city? Book a five hour evening food and city tour with Lima Gourmet Co. and the city is your oyster…or, um, Pisco Sour.

This culinary exploration of Lima will no doubt be a highlight of your time here. Though the daytime tour is more popular, I took and will recommend the 5-hour Night-Time tour.

$135 per person includes many, many drinks, transportation, a guide and bust-your-gut tastings, with stops and nibbles in some of the toughest-reservation restaurants in the city. (See below for restaurants under Best Restaurants in Lima).

Lucas Montes de Oca Lima Gourmet Owner
Lucas Montes de Oca Lima Gourmet Owner

Lima Gourmet owner, Lucas Montes de Oca, loves people, food, the social scene and the growing prominence of Lima in the culinary world. His exuberance is downright infectious

Married to Samantha Lewis, a gal from Kansas City, MO, Lucas spent time in the United States. Not only is his English impeccable, but he has a unique perspective on restaurant culture in both countries.

Top Notch Ride and Food

Lucas, or one of his equally passionate guides, will pick you up at your hotel in a 9-person, leather seat luxury van. You’ll stop for either food, drink or both at four hot restaurants.

Barranco district Lima Peru
Barranco district Lima Peru

The last stop is a casual spot in the Bohemian Barranco district for fried pumpkin donuts and a stroll over the Bridge of Signs – Lima version.

Along the way, Lucas or your guide will point out the places that make Lima so special.  “Here’s something you won’t find in America,” he said as we rounded a corner.  “It’s the Cuban Embassy.”

Larco Museum Entrance Lima Peru
Larco Museum Entrance Lima Peru

VISIT: Larco Museum

Let’s set aside the ceramic porn exhibit for a moment. 

The world-class Larco Museum encompasses the private collection of a wealthy man obsessed with Inca and pre-Inca pottery, gold and silver headdresses and masks, and other artifacts from archeological sites in Peru.

Exhibit Larco Museum Lima Peru
Larco Museum Lima Peru

The museum building itself is a wonder – whitewashed and blanketed with Bougainvillea vines in every color.

Storage Gallery glass cases are crammed with 45,000 ceremonial pitchers in human, animal and food shapes.  And each subsequent gallery showcases ceramic and precious metal jewelry throughout 4,000 years of pre-Columbian history.

Larco Museum "Erotic Pottery" Lima, Peru

The Museum’s biggest draw, as you might expect, is its graphic and stimulating “Erotic” pottery exhibit. Visitors love seeing ceramic figures in every conceivable sexual position dating to 2nd Century ACE.

According to one guest: “It’s the Latin Kama Sutra.” Plan to stay for a while, and perhaps have lunch at one of the best restaurants in Lima, right on site.

Magic Water Circuit, Parque De La Reserva, Lima Peru

SEE: Magic Water Circuit at Parque De La Reserva

Take Central Park, add about a dozen computerized water fountains, charge a couple of bucks to see a 20 minute synchronized fountain sound and light extravaganza, and you’ve got this not-to-be-missed event that runs every night from Wed – Sat. 

Spouts of water jump, furl, sway and shoot heavenward while videos light up the spray.

Magic Water Circuit, Parque De La Reserva, Lima Peru

The show in and of itself is beautiful to behold, but even better is the people-watching.  You’ll see young and old lovers, families and groups of friends having a wholesome, fun, sometimes wet, time. 

Images silhouetted in front of illuminated fountain Parque De La Reserva Lima Peru

Reserve Park is about 30 minutes drive from Miraflores. So either arrange for transport, or, if you’ve got a midnight flight out of the country, stop here for the 7:15 show on your way to the airport – a 45 minute ride from the park.

SHOP: Larcomar Shopping Center

Carved into the side of a cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this is one of the most stunning open-air malls in the world. Right across the street from the JW Marriott Hotel (see below), this park/shopping plaza also features a first-run movie theater and a couple of hot nightclubs.

Best Restaurants in Lima Peru

Pouring Pisco Sours at Cala - in Lima Peru

DO: Food Tour With Lima Gourmet Company (See Above)

The following restaurants are tough to get into. You can try on your own (or, through a hotel concierge service) or take the 5 hour evening food tour with Lima Gourmet Co. for a taste at each and every one.

Evening view of the sea from Cala Restaurant Lima Peru

EAT: Cala

Take your Pisco Sour onto a deck overlooking the water. Cala – a beach-set restaurant offering contemporary seafood dishes – has been a staple of Lima for over a decade.

EAT: Limaná 

According to fans, Limaná is fantastic and just won a prestigious culinary award for best sustainable restaurant in Lima.

Huaca Pucllana Restaurant at the ruins in Lima Peru

EAT: Huaca Pucllana 

From your outdoor table at this hotspot restaurant, you can almost touch the the pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana. It’s a perfect example of private enterprise supporting national historic sites, as restaurant owners promised to restore and manage these adobe ruins in exchange for placing a top restaurant there. A win-win situation at no cost to the government.

EAT: Astrid y Gaston (Not on Food Tour)

Astrid y Gaston, situated in a San Isidro mansion, is considered one of the best restaurants in Latin America. The chef incorporates foods from a variety of cultures, representing the diverse communities in Lima.

Best Hotels In Lima Peru

Hotel-Antigua-Miraflores Lima Peru

STAY/BUDGET: Hotel Antigua Miraflores 

In the tony, tourist-safe Miraflores section of Lima, this charming Spanish style Hotel Antiqua Miraflores is more a “boutique inn.” Rooms are not the height of luxury, but more comfortable than most. 

What makes it special? Vibrantly colored walls, arched doorways, splashy contemporary art, eclectic furniture, and crystal chandelier in the public areas.

The bar in the lobby features Pisco Sours infused with a variety of bottled fruits. 

STAY/SPLURGE: JW Marriott, Miraflores, Lima

The JW Marriott Lima is luxurious, with sumptuous sheets, dreamy beds, large marble rain showers. Situated right on a Pacific Ocean bluff across from Locamar, it’s the perfect place to regroup after roughing it in the Amazon and other parts of Peru.


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.