What I say when people ask me about the best things to do in Lima, Peru
Things to do in Lima vary, most especially if you know someone from the city. Lima seems to be a dull place and travelers often skip it but personally, I would recommend you stay at least 3 – 5 days max. Peru is one of the countries I once called home but I didn’t live in Lima. Lima was too big and noisy for me so I decided to live in Paracas, a 4-hour drive from Lima. Even if I didn’t get to stay longer in the capital, I visited frequently when I am having an island fever. More often than not, living by the beach will make you crave city life. Since Paracas was just a 4-hour bus ride, I frequented Lima (at least once a month).
There are many things to do in Lima and though this list only has 20 items, I’ve handpicked them for the adventurer in you! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via Instagram or Facebook. Enjoy!
#1: Sign up for a free walking tour
Lima by foot is the best way to discover the Peruvian capital. It wasn’t hard for me to look for free walking tours in Lima because there’s a lot! If you’re staying in a hostel, they can always recommend the best walking tour guide. Though this is for free, it is encouraged to tip the guide after the tour. People often ask me how to tip guides who offer free tours and in this case, I will say around $5 – $10 USD is an okay range. You may want to do the walking tour yourself but the thing is, when you walk around the city, you’ll always find yourself looking at important landmarks and buildings that you don’t have any idea about. I must admit that I am not a fan of tour guides but if you really want to understand Lima, a guide is necessary.
Meeting point for the Free Lima Walking Tour: For the historic center tour, the meeting point is at the Tourist Information Center in Avenida Jose Larco 799, Miraflores at 9:50 am. The Miraflores tour departs at 3:00 pm at the same meeting point. Both walking tours are available every day except Sundays.
#2: If you don't want to walk, take the Mirabus
If walking is not for you, then Lima Panoramic City Bus Tour is your option. There are different Mirabus tours to choose from but my favorite is the night tour where you can see the vibrant nightlife of Lima. This tour begins in Larcomar and goes through Huaca Pucllana, the Exposition Park, the Lima Art Museum, the Italian Art Museum, the Miguel Grau Square, the Palace of Justice, the San Martin Square, the Main Square, the Cathedral, the Government Palace, the Municipal Palace, the Wall Park, the Congress of the Republic, the University Park, the Gutierrez Oval, the Mora Park, the Reserve Jetty, the Cisneros Jetty, the Maria Reiche Park, the Yitzhak Rabin Park, the Jetties and the Love Park.
Price: This 3-hour tour runs every day and prices start at $10 USD per person.
#3: Swim with wild sea lions at Palomino Islands
Swimming alongside wild sea lions in Lima is a popular activity for families traveling with kids. You will also get to see the Humboldt penguins and lots of other types of birds. This tour starts at the Marina Club in front of the Naval Center and Naval museum. You will also see the islands of Callao (more on that later) and the El Camotal underwater, open sea, and passing by San Lorenzo Island.
Price: This tour starts at $70 USD per head and this price includes Callao Islands tour, English/Spanish speaking guide, neoprene suits for swimming, snacks, and insurance against personal accidents on board. Bring your own towel because you’ll definitely get wet!
#4: Biking tour in Miraflores neighborhood
Renting a bike in Miraflores is cheap and it’s one of the most local things to do in Lima. With the extremely unbearable traffic in Lima, Limeños love the bike. When you rent a bike in Lima, you will get to explore the city at your own pace and stop wherever you want! When you rent a bike in Lima, you will be given a bike map that will show you the paths around the city. Be very careful because Lima is a city full of cars. Make sure you only drive on the bicycle paths/lanes. This bike map includes a route where you will get to discover the Park of Olives in San Isidro, explore the bohemian, colorful, and artistic neighborhood of Barranco, pedal from the Park of Love in Miraflores to the top of El Morro Hill in Chorrillos for a 360° view of Lima Bay. On weekends, you can add Downtown Lima in your biking itinerary.
Price: $12 USD per person for a 6-hour bike rental
#5: Explore the vibrant nightlife in Barranco
Barranco is a neighborhood in Lima known for its nightlife and artistry. Here, you will find many bohemian bars, clubs that are open till morning, and unique Peruvian restaurants. It is very easy to explore Barranco on your own but if you are one of those people who prefer to sign up for a tour, I really recommend this 3-hour dinner show and Barranco district tour where you’ll get to explore the bohemian district of Barranco. This includes a dinner buffet and traditional folk performances during the meal at La Dama Juana Restaurant. You will also get to see the romantic “Bridge of Sighs” among others. Prices start at $65 USD and this includes hotel pick-up and drop off.
#6: Lima Live Magic Water Show Experience
Before Lima, I’ve only experienced water shows in Dubai and I had no idea that you can do this in the Peruvian capital! In Lima, there is a complex with more fountains than any other a public area in the world. It has two Guinness world record attractions! A laser and a hologram show is also an option. This will give you a better understanding of the local heritage and culture in Lima.
You can definitely do this yourself but availing a tour (with a tour guide) has very little price difference. Live magic water show tours start at $30 USD per person and include park tickets, private transport, and an English or Spanish speaking guide.
#7: Discover Peru's food culture through the local markets of Lima
Did you know that Peruvian cuisine is the best in all of Latin America? With this, you definitely should sign up for a local market tour in Lima! It’s super easy to do this on your own if you’re not a tour fan. Start in Chorrillos Fisherman’s Wharf where you’ll get to see hundreds of types of fishes. Lima is located on the coast and they have a very strong fishing culture and tradition. It is the only capital in South America that is by the sea so take advantage of the abundance of fresh fish! You can buy your own at the Wharf and cook at the hostel but there are also people who will offer to cook it for you in the market.
The second stop in this market tour is Surco district where you will find many different types of juices and smoothies made from Amazonian fruits. Peru has a little portion of the Amazon and there are lots of fruits, vegetables, (and even animals) that you will only find in this part of the world. Finish your market tour in the Surquillo Market in Miraflores. This is quite popular so you won’t miss it!
#8: Explore Pachacamac, a thousands-year-old religious site
You might think that Incan ruins and historical landmarks are only in the south but this is also part of the best things to do in Lima! Pachacamac is an archaeological site 40 kilometers southeast of Lima, Peru in the Valley of the Lurín River. There is a half-day Pachacamac Ruins tour for only $39 USD per person. This lasts for three hours but the food is not included in the tour. Many already asked me how to do it yourself but I think that the tour is cheaper and you’ll save more time.
#9: Ultimate Peruvian Food Tour
Like I said, and if you don’t have any idea how good Peruvian food is, Lima is the best place to get to know that. An ultimate Peruvian food tour starts at $87 USD per person. Quite pricey but if you are someone who travels for the food, this will be worth it. In this activity, you will learn about the cultural and historical facts behind the many Peruvian foods that you will try. There is also an interactive workshop about fairtrade and Peruvian chocolate. There are over 16 dishes to taste in this tour so my tip is to do it slowly. I started this tour super hungry so I ate a lot during the first three stops. After the 6th stop, I couldn’t eat anymore!
The good thing is, this food tour lasts 4 hours so you’ll get to pace. Most meals are for breakfast and lunch places: small restaurants and local shops recommended by locals. Most of these restaurants are in the Barranco neighborhood so you’ll get to enjoy a great boho neighborhood vibe.
#10: Meet friendly locals in Shanty Town
Known as the ‘pueblos jovenes,’ Shanty Town is becoming a bigger tourist attraction in Lima. Sure, the Malecon, Miraflores, and Barranco are always in the things to do in Lima list but if you want a local experience, visiting the Shanty Town is highly recommended.
This 3.5-hours Shanty Town tour in Lima contributes to their community. This area is known to be a poor working-class area and tourism is their money-making machine. The best part of this experience is that there is actually a chance to interact and learn with locals. The local community is very welcoming and they will show you around their area. During my visit, there was even a family who invited me to join me for dinner the next day! Shanty Town’s view is also very photogenic so don’t forget to take pictures!
There's more to Peru than Machu Picchu
#11: Go on a boat ride in Callao
You’ll barely see Lima’s Callao district in the many things to do in Lima list on the Internet and I guess that’s good, right? I often recommend this area to readers because everyone just goes to Miraflores or Barranco. Callao, a seaside city is definitely a treat! It is Peru’s main seaport and home to its main airport, the Jorge Chavez International Airport.
Callao city tour with boat ride starts at $70 USD. This tour lasts for 5 hours. 17th-century fortress, murals, colorful streets, colonial-style buildings (good for Instagram!), and multi-colored houses are some of the things you’ll discover in Callao. The highlight is the boat ride where you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the entire coast on a local boat that will take you around La Punta and Callao beach areas.
#12: Visit the Huaca Ruins + lunch or dinner
The Huaca Ruins are the most important pre-Inca ruins in Lima. There are actually three, namely Huaca Pucllana, an impressive pyramid in the middle of Miraflores; Huaca Huallamarca, a refurbished archaeological site in San Isidro; and Huaca Mateo Salado in Pueblo Libre, the biggest ruin in the city.
You can also go to the nearby Larco Museum for pre-Colombian art: get to see the finest collection of gold and silver from ancient Peru as well as erotic pottery. The perfect way to end your tour is by availing a 3-course dinner at the Cafe del Museo with the view of the ruins!
If you want to avail a Huaca Ruins and Larco Museum tour with dinner, it’s about $90 USD per person including entrance fees to all the ruins, pick-up/drop-off at your hotel, and of course, the three-course meal.
#13: Cooking lessons with a local family
Cooking classes with a local Peruvian family? Why not! This is probably one of the best things to do in Lima you shouldn’t miss. I mean, who doesn’t love food (and local culture) when they’re traveling?! When I backpacked South America for 3 years, I always made sure I learn how to cook through my host family stays. For every time I do this activity, I realize how generous the Latin American people are when it comes to sharing their culinary culture. They always taught me the exact way on how they make their food as opposed to other cooking classes that are only sharing 50% of their recipe, just for the sake of the paid experience. Learn how to make causa rellena, lomo saltado, and the famous Peruvian ceviche in this activity!
#14: Enjoy a spectacular show with Peruvian Paso horses
Now, this is one of the things to do in Lima that I never thought I’d do! I only heard this from a friend since I was looking for more cultural activities in Lima and the show of dancing horses was highly recommended! I live in Mexico and we always have these dancing horses in all major Mexican festivities but I never really saw them up close. This activity is a little bit outside of Lima (about an hour’s drive) but you will get to see the ‘hacienda’ culture in Peru. The fun part of this tour was our tour guide – he was dressed in a full ‘caballero’ costume which was a delight! They also explained how they breed their horses and showed us the best horses that compete in tournaments!
Peruvian cocktails (aka anything with pisco sour) were served and we also got a chance to do a couple of turns with the horses. Chalanes and Marinera Nortena are traditional dances in northern Peru. I was able to see the horses participate in this dance with a chalan! A Peruvian Paso horse show tour with lunch/open bar starts at $129 USD (all-inclusive).
#15: Join hostel parties to start your evenings
When you’re traveling alone in Lima, the best place to meet people is by staying in hostels, and of course, partying in their bars! During my 3.5 years South America backpacking escapade, I worked in hostel bars and it’s the highest time of my teenage rocking years! I got to meet different people from all over the globe and most of them are now my best friends forever! Hostel Kokopelli in Miraflores and Barranco has a very good backpacker vibe. The bar is open to non-guests so just walk in and have a great time! Of course, this is just the beginning of the night – after you’ve made friends, the next party destination is always Barranco! Don’t worry, every single person in the hostel will come so you won’t be alone! Just take it easy on the drinks, ok?
Disclaimer: I haven’t been to Hostel Kokopelli Barranco since they just opened in Feb 2020 (before the pandemic). However, I worked in Hostel Kokopelli Paracas and frequented the Lima-Miraflores branch so I know this place better.
You won’t miss the paragliders as they are super visible in the Miraflores Cliffs, especially when you’re by Intihuatana Park. Paragliding in Lima is a year-long activity since they always have the best winds for the sport. You don’t have to be a professional to do this as you can do a tandem (with a guide). What I really loved about this is the view of the Bay of Lima, especially during sunset! There are many paragliding companies in the Malecon boardwalk (between Parque Raimondi and Parque del Amor) and their prices are more or less the same. A 10-minute ride starts at $73 USD.
#17: Shopping at Larcomar
When I lived in Paracas (where there are no malls or commercial shopping areas), I always go to Larcomar whenever I am in Lima. It’s just complete with everything! Sure, shopping won’t be in everyone’s things to do in Lima list but during my recent Peru trip, I landed in Lima (from Mexico) and realized that I’d be doing a lot of hikes for my one-month trip without proper hiking gear. This is when my friends and I took a shopping trip around Larcomar. I also live in a small town in Mexico so whenever I am in malls, I feel very happy! Larcomar is massive and if you’re not a fan of shopping, this shopping center has lots of restaurants to choose from (for when you are tired of Peruvian street food). You’d be surprised to see there are more tourists in Larcomar than locals!
#18: Attend a Couchsurfing gathering
I am certainly not paid to promote Couchsurfing but through the years, this has been my vehicle in all my solo female travel adventures. Through Couchsurfing, I was able to meet different people who accepted me in their homes – they’re also now my best friends forever! In every major city, there are weekly Couchsurfing meet ups. I am not sure about the Lima schedule but it used to be every Wednesday. Now, with the pandemic, there are no announcements about meet-ups but my go-to Lima Couchsurfing group is Lima City…party, activities, meetings, music, culture and more. If you join this group, you will see meet-up announcements and even hang outs with travelers in Lima. Most locals participate in CS meetings, too!
#19: Go to Las Brisas del Titicaca for a traditional dance show
Las Brisas del Titicaca is a non-profit organization with 56 years dedicated to preserving, promoting, and spreading the diverse cultural expressions of Puno and Peru. Their work has been recognized through numerous awards and distinctions at the national and international levels. They are proud cultural ambassadors of the Peru brand which focuses on the indigenous groups, folklores, and hundreds of years of Peruvian tradition. They have many shows where you can choose from and they are usually very cheap. But the performances are grand and many artists and professional dancers around the world visit Lima just for this!
#20: Take surfing lessons
Did you know that Lima is the only South American capital on the coast? Lima might be a very urban and hectic city with tall buildings but you’d be surprised how many barefoot people carrying their boards are walking towards the beach. It seems super strange that Lima is a mix of the beach and city culture (just like Barcelona and Tel Aviv) but this is one of the most unique traits of Lima! Though the waves are not super high, they have it all-year-round. This is the best place to learn most especially if you’re a beginner and want to have a regular surfing routine. I worked in a surfing school in Lima for two weeks and definitely enjoyed every bit of it. If you have more time and you want to stay in Lima longer for free accommodations, food, and free surf, I recommend that you volunteer in a surfing school. They’re always looking! If you’re only in the capital for a few days, make sure to include surfing in your top things to do in Lima list! You don’t have to be very good at it. It’s just a very fun (and cultural) activity!