Lima’s several charms include a UNESCO-listed city centre with Spanish colonial buildings with wooden balconies, world-class museums and pre-Columbian archaeological sites. The heart of Peru has also emerged as its gullet, what with it becoming the centre of a gastronomical revolution, with some of the world’s best restaurants and chefs. Each year, Mistura, South America’s biggest culinary festival, takes place in Lima, drawing in more than a half a million visitors. All of which means, there’s no time like now to be planning a holiday there.
10 AM: TIME WARP
Begin your Lima journey with a walk around its UNESCO listed historical centre — the Plaza de Armas, the mustard yellow of the colonial buildings striking a cool contrast with green parks and the blinding blue of the sky. Pop into one of the oldest houses, Casa de Aliaga, which is a treasure trove of period furniture, curios and memorabilia. It was Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who founded the capital city in 1535 and gave this plot of land to his trusted right-hand man, Jerónimo de Aliaga. (Tours have to be organised at least 24 hours in advance.) Then take a tour of the Monastery of San Francisco, visiting its old library with its spiral staircases and ancient manuscripts and the fresco-lined walls, and finish at the Catacombs with its piles of human bones arranged in geometric patterns.
1 PM: FISHY TALES
A Peruvian rite of passage is a genuine ceviche meal — Peru’s iconic raw fish ‘cooked’ in citrus juice, and traditionally dressed with chilli peppers and raw onions. Head to La Mar Cebicheria in Miraflores and try the ceviche with scallops, avocado, chalaca salsa, olive and Leche de Tigre along with Nigiri Lima, tuna belly and egg.
3 PM: DATE WITH HISTORY
Lima is unique because of the pre-Incan mounds that were ceremonial centres, called huacas, that are located in and around the city. Thanks to Lima being situated in a dry and arid desert area, these structures have been well-preserved for over 2000 years. Visit the Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores area, a pyramid made with clay adobe bricks in seven platforms, which predates the Incas by centuries. There is also an onsite museum that showcases many of the tools, ceramics and textiles that were found by archaeologists.
5 PM: ART FIX
Explore the Soho of Lima: the artsy district of Barranco, sandwiched between the upscale Miraflores district and Chorrillos, the port. The streets are like an open-air gallery, with colourful street art juxtaposed against old mansions with peeling paint and beautiful balconies. The main square has the public library surrounded by fountains, gardens, street performers and artists. Explore the art galleries and craft boutiques. Dedalo located in a large house with an outdoor café, stocks wooden platters and mats, bright Peruvian textiles and bags, handmade toys and silver jewellery with Incan motifs. From here make your way to Mari Solari’s Las Pallas Store, which stocks Peruvian crafts, such as portable altars and clay figurines, from across the country.
8 PM: TIME FOR PISCO
Head to Huaringas Bar at Miraflores (Bolognesi 460) housed in an old stone building filled with nooks and crannies. The décor is based on the elements such as fire and water and is the best place to have the famous pisco sour, the South American grape brandy, blended with sugar, citrus, bitters and egg white. Try its wide range of frothy egg-topped pisco cocktails, many infused with fruits such as passion fruit. Snack on anticuchos (grilled beef marinated in spices and vinegar) and egg rolls.
7 AM: WALK IN THE PARK
Start with a walk through Bosque El Olivar in the peaceful residential district of San Isidro, where an olive grove was first planted in 1560, from a shipment of olive trees brought from Seville, Spain. Today there are more than 1600 olive trees in this little local park with over 30 species of birds.
10 AM: CULTURE FIX
If there is one museum that you have to visit, it’s the Larco Museum. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, with a lush garden and bougainvillaea creeping on the walls, it has a collection of over 50,000 ceramics from the Nazca, Chimu and Incan civilizations, and gold and silver jewellery from several excavations. Don’t miss the Moche portrait vessels, the erotic pottery collection and the storehouse of the museum which is piled ceiling-high, with archaeological finds. End your visit with a lucuma (an indigenous fruit) mousse at its small café.
1 PM: LUNCH IN STYLE
Head to super Chef Virgilio Martínez’s Central, one of the best restaurants in town. You can choose between tasting menus of eight or 17 courses; there are vegetarian options, too. Expect beautifully plated creations that use ingredients from different elevations and ecosystems in Peru, from the Pacific coast to the high Andes to the depths of the Amazon. An eight-course menu costs around $90, and the bookings have to be made weeks in advance.
3 PM: PARAGLIDE OVER THE CITY
Lima is one of the few capitals in the world over which you can paraglide. Its 70m cliffs in Miraflores and strong Pacific winds make it ideal for urban paragliding. Take a tandem flight, and you will get to enjoy the incredible view of Costa Verde, a road that follows the Pacific coast atop Lima’s cliffs. Usually, the deal includes a video of your flight, too. Tandem sessions usually cost around $80.
5 PM: RETAIL FIX
For really special woollen garments made of natural alpaca, vicuña, llama and guanaco fibres, in European style, head to one of the Kuna stores. Also worth a visit is Larcomar, built into a cliff in Miraflores, which is Lima’s glitziest mall with restaurants, movie theatres and over 100 upmarket shops overlooking the ocean. Drop by at La Zapatería, a small leather boutique in Barranco, for handmade leather shoes at reasonable prices. You can choose from their collection or order a customised pair. For handmade silver and wood artefacts, drop by at Ilaria (they also have one outlet at the airport). Don’t miss a quick visit to Vernácula, a concept store with a café, devoted to Peruvian art, interiors and fashion with the ‘Made in Peru’ label.
7 PM: DANCE UNDER THE STARS
For a real dose of local culture, where you can dance and sing with the locals, head to a peña. Peñas are high-octane music venues, where traditional Peruvian music and Creole music are played by a live band. Couples perform local dances to traditional music. Many of these are found in Barranco such as La Candelaria, which offers dances from three regions- the Andes, the coast and the Amazon.
10 PM: NOSH IN THE CITY
For a Peruvian meal presented with flair and at prices that don’t break the bank, head to Tanta, a bistro (belonging to the famous chef, Gastón Acurio) just off Plaza Mayor. Try a plate of causas limeñas (cold mashed-potato appetisers with varied fillings such as chicken, avocado and eggs) and ají de gallina, spice-creamed chicken served with potatoes and white rice, along with glasses of chicha morada, purple corn juice.
WHERE TO STAY
Country Club Lima in San Isidro
Splurge at the luxe Country Club Lima, which belongs to the Leading Hotels of the World. It comes gilded with gleaming silverware, crystal chandeliers, old tiles and 300 pieces of art on loan from the Pedro de Osma Museum. Don’t miss high tea, which is served in the stained- glass cupola lounge. It also has a golf course in the middle of the city. www.lhw.com.
Stay at the atmospheric boutique Hotel B in Barranco, a Relais & Châteaux property, with just 17 stylish suites. This former Belle Époque summer home built in the 1920s is now decorated with contemporary art, photographs and artefacts. Do have breakfast in it cosy library den and enjoy a Peruvian meal at its restaurant. hotelb.pe.