Things to see in Lima

Tourist information

Iperú Lima
Jorge Basadre 610, San Isidro
Tel: (01) 421 1627.
www.peru.info
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800.

The South American Explorers Club, Calle Piura 135, Miraflores (tel: (01) 445 3306; www.saexplorers.org) provides invaluable trip-planning advice and use of clubhouses to its members.

Monasterio de San Francisco

This grand yellow beauty is one of Lima’s absolute treasures. Its library is a feat in itself, with 25,000 ancient texts, some going back even before colonial times. Take a guided tour for only 7 Soles (this includes entry) and be taken around the maze-like chambers. The catacombs of this Franciscan monastery and church are believed to harbour the remains of up to 70,000 people, as this was the city’s very first burial place. In the refectory, browse 13 paintings of the biblical figures Jacob and his sons, and admire the carved cedar cupola over the staircase by the library. 

Opening Times: Daily 0930-1745 .
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Telephone: (01) 426 7377.
Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor (Main Square)

With its gardens, old street lamps and bronze fountain, Lima's impressive central square is a picture of colonial elegance and testimony to the money lavished upon its restoration. Dominating the north side of the square is the opulent Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) on the site of the original palace built by the Conquistadors and completely rebuilt in 1938. Today, it's the home of the president of the republic and is only open for tours if booked a day ahead. The main attraction is the changing of the guard at 1145. Inside the Spanish baroque cathedral lie Francisco Pizarro's remains, and there is a small Museo de Arte Religioso (Religious Art Museum).  

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: Yes
Address: Plaza de Armas, Lima, Peru
Barranco

Bohemian Barranco attracts the party-loving weekend crowd with its lively milieu of restaurants and nightlife, creative residents and scenic seaside location. On Saturday and Sunday it is a popular place for tourists and locals alike, but during the week a peaceful, family atmosphere returns to the suburb. Many of the impressive colonial houses once built for the city's richest families are still very much in use, but all that remains of Barranco's original tram system is a beautifully restored, solitary tram car. Weekend visitors can take a short ride on the car, which leaves from the small Museo de Electricidad. 

MATE

Featuring the largest collection of Mario Testino’s photographs, the Asociación Mario Testino (MATE) is dedicated to a permanent exhibition of the work of this prominent Peruvian artist. Best known as one of the world's most famous fashion photographers, MATE was set up by Lima-born Testino to showcase his work. Housed in a 19th century Republican townhouse, MATE has recently undergone a 10 month renovation project to establish itself as a prime cultural attraction within the city.

Opening Times: Tues-Sat 1100-2000, Sun 1100-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 409 Pedro de Osma Avenue, Barranco, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 51125 17755.
Miraflores

The seaside suburb of Miraflores offers a comely base from which to visit the rest of Lima. Parque Kennedy, a pretty tree-lined park fringed by pavement cafés, offers a sanctuary from the noise and pollution of the city centre. Miraflores also has a number of excellent shops selling local arts and crafts, as well as the contemporary Larcomar mall. When the sun is sinking into the ocean, head for a sundowner at the Rosa Náutica: a bar and restaurant that juts into the sea on its very own pier. For a stylish night’s stay with ocean views, check into the Miraflores Park Hotel – the rooftop pool is sublime. 

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Museo de la Inquisición (Spanish Inquisition Museum)

The infamous Court of the Inquisition was first held on the site of this small museum in the late 16th century, and in the basement there are chilling examples of the torture instruments used by the Inquisitors. The attractive neoclassical building also features a magnificently carved mahogany ceiling. Explore the building and hear about its dark history on a guided tour. In contrast, behind the museum bubbles Lima's Chinatown: a maze of grubby streets dominated by exotic sights and smells. Enter through a decorative Chinese-style gateway, and sample some of Lima's best and cheapest chifas (Chinese restaurants). 

Opening Times: Daily 0900-1700.
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Plaza Bolivar, Jirón Junín 548, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 311 7777.
Museo de la Nación (National Museum)

Inside this distinctive concrete hulk of brutalist architecture that sits in the orderly suburb of San Borja, find the country's main anthropological and archaeological museum. Its broad range of permanent exhibits delves right back into Peru's history, back to its earliest tribal cultures. One of the most poignant exhibitions here is from recent times, however: the photographic Yuyanapaq: To Remember. This series of moving and at times heart rendering images were taken during the conflict Peru experienced from 1980-2000. The museum’s other highlights include ancient ceramics and traditional peasant costumes. The Museo de la Nación also hosts temporary and touring exhibitions.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Avenida Javier Prado Este 2465, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 476 9878.
Palacio de Torre Tagle (Torre Tagle Palace)

 Two blocks east of Plaza Mayor stands the jewel of Lima's colonial architecture: the Palacio de Torre Tagle. The mansion was built in 1735 for Don José Bernardo de Tagle y Bracho, who was made the First Marquis of Torre Tagle by King Charles V of Spain. The family house has beautiful carved wooden balconies, staterooms and opulent staircases, while the decorative azulejos (tiling) shows a mixture of Spanish and Moorish influence. The highlight, however, is a gilded 16th-century carriage. The government took the house over in 1918 and it remains the home of the Foreign Ministry. Tours need to be arranged in advance.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-1700.
Admission Fees: No.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Jiron Ucayali 363, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 311 2400.
Cerro San Cristóbal

Dwarfing houses in the Rímac district is the volcano-shaped hillside of Cerro San Cristobal, in the northeast of the city. On a clear day (admittedly rare amid the hazy desert airs of Lima), it affords far-reaching views of the vast city, all the way to the ocean in one direction and to the Andean foothills in the other. San Cristóbal is topped by a huge illuminated cross where locals leave petitions and candles, and there is also a café and small museum. The walk up has a bit of a reputation for muggings, so a taxi to the summit is recommended. 

Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Cerro San Cristóbal, Rímac, Lima, Peru
El Convento de los Descalzos (The Convent of the Barefooted)

 Several hundred colonial and religious Peruvian paintings are the main event at this spiritual sanctuary. The artwork is in the cloisters of Lima’s atmospheric Franciscan monastery, which was founded in 1592 and named after the barefoot Franciscan friars. As well as the paintings, see the kitchen, infirmary and the monks’ cells, and also the Chapel of the Virgin Carmen. Those with basic Spanish who would like more information can pay a little for a guided tour. The monastery is in the rundown Rímac area, at the end of the Alameda de los Descaloz walkway that was designed in the 17th century.

Opening Times: Daily 0930-1300 and 1500-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Alameda de los Descalzos, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 481 0441.
Museo de Oro del Perú (Gold Museum of Peru)

This well-known museum is housed in a Fort Knox-like building, set back from the street and surrounded by trees. Here, the loot that made Peru famous and Spain wealthy is on display. Hundreds of dazzling gold and silver artefacts from pre-Conquest to colonial times include a yellow-feathered Inca poncho and a skull sporting teeth made of pink quartz. Unfortunately, in the early 2000s, the museum was at the centre of a scandal when a large number of its artefacts were found to be fakes. The museum now assures that everything on display is authentic unless stated it is a reproduction. 

Opening Times: Daily 1130-1900.
Admission Fees: Yes.
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Alonso de Molina 1100, Monterrico, Lima, Peru
Telephone: (01) 345 1292.
Edited by Tina Banerjee
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