The Perfect Weekend in Lima

Make the most of three days in Lima, South America’s second-largest city, and the third-largest desert city in the world. Day 1: Immerse yourself in pre-Columbian Peru at the Larco Museum, followed by a visit to the ruins of Huaca Pucllan, then taste the best ceviche and Pisco sours in the world in the Miraflores District. Day 2: Head to the Plaza de Armas in the historic center of the city, then to the lively, trendy Barranco District known for its art galleries, boutiques, and clubs. Day 3: Stroll through Parque del Amour overlooking the Pacific Ocean before heading to nearby Larcomar for some last-minute shopping.

Miraflores, Peru
Many visitors to Peru stay in Miraflores, and for good reason: The neighborhood is where you’ll find most of the better hotels, as well as the top restaurants. Get off main streets to stroll the pretty side streets. Down by the ocean, walk the Malecón seawall and visit the Parque del Amor, or Love Park, to watch paragliders soar and bank overhead. The oceanfront is also home to Larcomar, an open-air shopping mall where you can grab a bite or shop for any items you may have forgotten.
1515 Avenida Simón Bolivar
The Larco Museum is the starting point of your visit to Peru. It has the largest collection of pre-Columbian pieces in the Americas and tells the history of Peru without being tiresome. That’s a feat in itself, because we’re talking about 10.000 years of history! Everything you’ll see in Lima and around the country will make sense after this visit. The quality and beauty of the pieces are amazing, showing all the complexity of the local cultures. It’s a beautiful museum, very well curated, the exhibits are simple and to the point and everything is explained in displays and videos. The museum offers also a super interesting guided visit for families with children. Other famous part of this museum is two private rooms dedicated to erotic pieces, showing the connection between erotic and fertility.
Huaca Pucllana, a restored centuries-old adobe ceremonial temple, has remarkably and defiantly sat right in the heart of Miraflores since 400 C.E. The temple complex includes a Wari (or Huari) cemetery, where four preserved mummies were discovered in 2010, and a small museum housing artifacts, pottery and other excavated relics. It’s especially atmospheric when illuminated at night, best seen from the on-site restaurant, an upscale and highly recommended spot for a memorable dinner.

Malecón de la Reserva 615, Miraflores 15074, Peru
The 25-story curved glass tower of the JW Marriott, opened in 2000 during a construction boom, may be the best-located hotel in Peru’s capital. Aside from its location across the street from Parque Salazar and the cliffside shopping and entertainment complex Larcomar (one of Lima’s biggest attractions), the hotel has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean (at least when the thick, gray sea mist known as la garua isn’t lingering). From the air, the JW Marriott is one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. It was one of the first large structures to be erected here, though many others have since joined it. Beside the hotel is the almost identical 24-story Parque Mar tower, which connects to the hotel at the base and features a small mall and a popular casino.

Despite the onslaught of other international chains in the city in recent years, the JW Marriott maintains a special foothold here and frequently brings in locals for weekend brunches. For travelers coming for just a day before hightailing it out to Cuzco, it serves as a great base for shopping or indulging in some of the city’s best restaurants, all of which can be found within a five-minute walk.
Calle San Martin 399, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Maido—in testimony to Japanese immigrants’ integration into Lima’s overall culture and, indeed, the positive benefits of a multicultural city—offers Peruvian-Japanese fusion food at its finest in a sleek, stylish dining room. Though renowned for sushi and other surfside delights, turf is also well represented on the menu in the form of steak, duck, chicken, and tofu. First-time visitors, especially seafood lovers, would do well to try the tasting menu, sure to offer unexpected taste sensations, courtesy of Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura. Fusion desserts range widely in taste and style and include such delights as mango-filled cannelloni, the typical arroz con leche as a crumble with passion fruit sorbet, and yucca cake with pineapple in ginger and azuki ice cream. The cocktails here are never boring, either. Reservations recommended, though bar seating can often be snagged at the last minute.
5390 Avenida Petit Thouars, Prada, Lima
When you’re ready for a proper pisco, Miraflores’s PiscoBar is a capital choice, both for traditional cocktails as well as heady new creations. As is to be expected, owner Ricardo Carpio is a celebrated pisco expert, which makes this the ideal laboratory for personal tastings of some of the country’s premier brands. Happily, it’s also a fabulous place to eat, whether you’re craving tapas or a full-on meal. Dishes like the seafood risotto and the beef with tacu tacu (Peruvian refried beans and rice) make you wish you had a Peruvian grandmother; the welcoming staff provide a warm facsimile.
Lima District 15001, Peru
Every day at noon at the Plaza de Armas (also called Plaza Mayor), trumpets blare, drums pound, and cymbals crash as the guard changes outside the presidential palace. Enjoy the Spanish fanfare like a local: from a plaza bench with an ice cream cone. The Plaza is also the site of festivals, concerts, and the much-loved annual National Pisco Day when the fountain spouts free high-proof grape brandy for all.
Jirón Carabaya, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
A city tour of Lima isn’t complete without visiting the catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco. The basement of the working monastery reveals the bones of wealthy Limeños who believed they would be the last to rest in their expensive plots. The tour reveals what actually happened to their remains. Since the catacombs couldn’t expand and affluent Catholics, unfortunately, kept dying, bodies were stacked to decompose down to the bones, and now the larger bones (femurs, forearms, and skulls) are arranged artistically in a circular pattern to make them more aesthetically pleasing to visitors. The site is interesting from both a historical and modern sociological, ethical, and religious standpoint.
Jirón Lampa, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru
Centuries-old catacombs decorated with human bones pepper the crypts at this Franciscan monastery dating to 1774. Decked out in impressive Spanish Baroque architecture, the canary-yellow church and monastery also house a remarkable library with some 25,000 antique texts (some predating the Spanish Conquest) and are flush with romantic courtyards and cloisters. Don’t forget to look up: A magnificent Moorish-style cupola, carved of Nicaraguan cedar in 1625, oversees the main staircase.

Barranco District, Peru
Barranco, one of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods, awash in character, is known for an artsy vibe and gorgeous colonial buildings. Cross the Puente de los Suspiros (Spanish for “Bridge of Sighs”) and follow the Bajada de los Baños to the seaside. Explore the side streets and duck into cute cafés and art venues, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC). The gallery-shop Dédalo, in particular, is ideal for combining coffee, snacking, shopping, and art viewing. Visiting another Barranco landmark, the belle epoque Hotel B, provides a quick trip back to a time of elegant architecture. Splurge for a smart cocktail on the rooftop bar to linger a little longer.
Miraflores 15074, Peru
If your main goal is picking up some lovely Peruvian-made handicrafts, fashion and other local delights, Centro Comercial Larcomar is one of Peru’s loveliest shopping malls, sitting on prime cliff-top real estate, just above the sea. You can find outlets of several of the city’s best handicraft shops, high-end clothing boutiques and a wide array of great restaurants, all located just beyond the lovely Parque Salazar, a cherished coast-hugging green space in Miraflores. Visiting both makes for an easy afternoon.

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