This walking tour in Lima will last 2-3 hours, depending on your pace. That’s what we did. Though there are a few “free” walking tours in the historic district, we opted to do it ourselves because we had the whole day to explore the area and didn’t want to rush. We wanted to take it slowly, on our own terms.
Lima is a bustling city and the world’s second driest capital, next to Cairo. Most often, Lima is where most tourists/visitors land on their way to fulfill a bucket list – Machu Picchu! Staying for three days in Lima is ideal – enough to explore the historic district, Barranco, and Miraflores neighborhoods. And maybe, a day tour to Huacachina and Paracas.
On our first day in Lima, we started at 9 o’clock in the morning. On our way to Plaza San Martin, we encountered locals in their costumes. We didn’t really know what was going on, but I think they shot a promotional video for the upcoming Independence Day or something.
Let’s start the tour.
1. Plaza San Martin
Start at the square named after “The Liberator,” Jose San Martin. The square is the second most important square in Lima, and political discussions, protests, and celebrations are mainly gathered here. Walking around the square, you will find a diverse array of colonial buildings.
Related Post: Traveling in Peru by Bus – A Travel Itinerary
2. Bolivar Hotel
According to the guide I overheard, Peru doesn’t consider Bolivar as “The Liberator.” In Colombia, Simon Bolivar reached a god-like status. On the other hand, he is no hero in Peru and a few Latin American countries. However, a hotel is named after Simon Bolivar across the Plaza San Martin (the real “Libertador”). Mick Jagger and Ernest Hemingway once stayed here. It is also worth noting that the hotel hosts “El Bolivar Bar,” which allegedly has the best pisco sour in the country. Not sure about that, but it surely is the most expensive one in the country, right?
3. Black Market Street
Right next to Hotel Bolivar, you will find Black Market Street. If you bring dollars, this is the best place to exchange money. Like anywhere else in the world, the tiny black market shops here will give you better exchange rates than the banks nearby.
4. Jiron de la Union
The street is named as such because every block carries the names of big cities in Peru. The street is a pedestrian-only shopping street, and big and small shops line both sides, but, unfortunately, prices here are fixed. This is not your regular street for bargain shopping.
5. Basilica and Convent of Nuestra Senora de la Merced
Right in the middle of the shopping district above, you will find this Baroque Church. The facade has the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the patron saint of the Armed Forces of Peru. While it’s free to go inside, good luck if the church is open when you pass by here.
6. Plaza de Armas in Lima
It seems to me that every city in Peru has its own Plaza de Armas. Lima, as a capital, is, of course, no exemption. This is the city’s most important square and the heart of the historic district; thus, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fountain in the middle of the plaza, back in 2009-2010, had pisco instead of water. Obviously, I’m 12 years late! This could have been my favorite place! 😂
7. La Casa de la Gastronomica Peruana
The building used to be a post office. Nowadays, it is a museum where you can see the evolution of gastronomy in various regions of Peru. And if you are lucky, when the museum is hosting events, you might be able to taste/sample a few Peruvian gastronomies. It was closed when we went there.
8. Palacio Presidential / Palacio de Gobierno
You can’t miss it. On the northeast side of Plaza de Armas, handsomely-dressed guards are visible in a block-long Baroque building. The presence of armed men is heavily visible in the area because this is the official residence of Peru’s president.
9. Lima Metropolitan Cathedral
This Catholic Church was built in the 15th century and dedicated to St. John, the Evangelist and Apostle. There’s a fee to go inside, but it’s worth it. I couldn’t count how many chapels are in there, and they’re all different from one another. Also, the interior has a mix of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles. Don’t forget to go into the basement, where you can see the tomb/crypt of Francisco Pizarro. He was responsible for the Spanish conquest of Peru.
10. Palacio Arzobispal / Archbishop’s Palace of Lima
On the left side of the Cathedral, you will find the Palacio Arzobispal. Do not lose your ticket from the Cathedral because you can use it here, too. Most of the rooms here are open, and the paintings are to be admired. But the best thing I like here is the grand staircase.
11. Museo Pisco
Across the Palace of the Archbishop is the Museo Pisco. If you need a break from walking and want to try a bit of pisco before continuing, have a seat here and enjoy people-watching.
12. Casa de La Literatura Peruana
This preserved colonial building was once a train station. Today, it is a museum of Peruvian literature that stores outstanding works of the country’s elite authors and researchers. Admission is free.
13. Museum Convent y San Francisco Catacombs
Visit the Church of San Francisco first. Nothing special here (at least, for me), nonetheless interesting to see what’s inside. Right next to the church are the convent and catacombs. The place is steeped with intrigue and history, and the interior’s architectural styles will blow your mind away. It has been said that about 30,000-70,000 people were buried here.
There is a fee to enter, and you must wait for the scheduled tour. They have English tours but not as many as the Spanish version. You can’t go on your own, and photography is not allowed. If you want a spooky experience, you can join the night tour at the catacombs.
14. Malecon Rimac / Puente de Piedra
Moving from the San Francisco convent, walk to Puente de Piedra, the oldest bridge in the city. You will see the colorful “slum” of Lima built on the mountain from the bridge. On the top of it is a huge cross, perhaps, their version of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
15. Rimac – Vestiges of Colonial Era
Cross the Puente de Piedra, and you will enter Rimac, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though it has a UNESCO stamp attached, the place is nothing but the forgotten side of Lima’s historic district. The colonial houses/buildings here are almost in a state of collapse, and no one is taking care of them. Apparently, renovating these houses to their original form and glory needs a big budget, and the city is not prioritizing it.
16. Museo del Convento Santo Domingo
End your walking tour at Santo Domingo Convent Museum. It’s a relaxing place to rest for a while after continuous walking. Inside, the mosaics, courtyards, paintings, domes, arches, and the church itself will wow your adventurous spirit. Don’t miss visiting the massive library that holds 25,000 books!
17. The House of San Martin de Porres
If, after lunch, you want to explore more of the historic district, visit the birthplace of San Martin de Porres. He is the patron Saint of the mixed race, sick humans and animals, health workers, housekeepers, and the poor. San Martin is the first black saint in the Catholic world.
Across his house is the church of Santa Rosa, another beloved saint of Peru.
The historic area in Lima can be explored on foot for 2-3 hours, and exploring the district for a half-day is enough. You can have lunch along Jiron de la Union street if you finish this walking tour by noon. If you want to venture a block from Main Square (Plaza de Armas), you will find small cafes and restaurants where the locals eat.
Where to Stay in Lima
I’d say that staying in Miraflores is your best bet. It’s modern and everything you need is close by. Even the locals would recommend staying in the area because it’s safe. I stayed at Pariwana Hostel Lima in Miraflores. If you can afford it, book your stay at Innside Lima Miraflores.