Where to eat, sleep and shop in Lima, Peru

From some of the world's finest restaurants to a wealth of ancient culture, Peru's capital is a colourful blend

Street art in Barranco, Lima, Peru. Kalpana Sunder
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Why Lima?

Lima, the multicultural, frenetic, capital city of Peru, situated on the Pacific Ocean, was the royal capital of the Spanish in the past. Founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, today Lima’s colonial buildings with carved wooden balconies and Spanish Baroque architecture are juxtaposed against Pre-Columbian sites and modern high-rise buildings.

The city laid out in grids with green plazas, statues and fountains has come out of its turbulent history and has emerged as a gastronomic capital of South America with many world renowned chefs and restaurants on the list of 50 best restaurants of the world, besides a Food festival called Mistura.

Lima has several archaeological sites both within and around the city and pyramid mounds known as huacas, Catholic churches and monasteries and an art district called Barranco with vibrant street art and art and craft galleries. Lima also has some of the best waves for surfing-both in Miraflores and Chorrillos, and is one of the few cities in the world where you can paraglide.

The affluent seaside suburb of Miraflores, Lima

A comfortable bed

Splurge out at the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) property, Country Club Lima, located in the upmarket area of San Isidro. Housed in a 1927 English mansion, with old tiles, gleaming silver, chandeliers and historic paintings from the Museo Pedro de Osma, this classy property has a wood paneled bar  and  a stained glass atrium, serving high tea. Doubles with breakfast cost around 180 $ (AED 660) www.lhw.com/hotel

Another good option is the boutique property belonging to the Relais and Chateaux group- Hotel B, in the artsy bohemian neighborhood of Barranco.  Housed in a historic mansion, this cozy hotel with a book- lined den (where breakfast is served), is decorated with over 200 works of contemporary art and photographs. Doubles with breakfast start at around $ 315 (AED 1156) https://hotelb.pe

Find your feet

Explore the historical centre of the city which is a UNESCO World Heritage site with colonial buildings, Catholic churches and plazas with statues. Start at Plaza Mayor with the stunning Lima Cathedral, Archbishops’ palace and the Government Palace which is the official office of Peru's president-watch the ceremonial changing of the guard around noon every day.

Ceramics at Larco Musuem, Lima, Peru. Kalpana Sunder

Close by is the Peruvian House of Literature —Lima's old train station with a stained glass ceiling, which was restored in 2009 and turned into a library. Walk to Plaza San Martín, admiring the art deco architecture along Jirón de la Unión, a pedestrian street that links Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin. Visit a historical mansion like Casa de Aliaga to get an idea of how the wealthy people lived yesteryears.

From here take a taxi to Barranco  - Lima's bohemian quarter, a place for street art, craft galleries and nightlife. A daytime stroll will take you past stylish cafes, 18th- century casonas of the rich and walls covered with vivid street art.

Street art in Barranco, Lima, Peru. Kalpana Sunder

A walking tour of Lima with local historian Sara who can tailor a tour to suit your interest is a good idea. A full day tour costs $US 90 (Dh330)  http://walkinglima.com

Meet the locals             

Nothing beats taking a stroll or cycling along El Malecón - Lima’s scenic cliff top walkway.  This stretches for almost six miles, along the Pacific Ocean in Miraflores, one of Lima’s upscale districts. The stretch is dotted with parks, sculptures, cafes and benches, and is always buzzing with locals running, jogging or cycling. Don’t miss the sculpture “El Beso” (“The Kiss”) by Peruvian artist Victor Delfín at the Park of Love.

Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru. Kalpana Sunder

Book a table

Lima is the epicentre of a Peruvian culinary revolution.  If you want to have a meal at the iconic Central Restaurant- the  flagship restaurant of Peruvian chef, Virgilio Martínez Véliz and one of the world's best 50 restaurants,  then you must reserve a table at least two weeks in advance of your trip. Expect a colourful journey through Peru with exotic herbs, vegetables and fruits in 17+ courses! A tasting menu of eight courses costs 92 $ (AED 335) and of 17 courses costs 123 $ (AED 450) http://centralrestaurante.com.pe

For a unique dining experience, book a table at the restaurant located within the compound of a 1,500-year-old adobe pyramid, built by the original settlers of Lima- Huaca Pucllana .  With the excavation site lit up at night, feast on Peruvian specialities like tamales (vegetables and meats steamed in a banana leaf) and shrimp chowder. Meal for two costs around 100 $ (AED 360); www.resthuacapucllana.com/en.

Astrid & Gastón was the first restaurant that spearheaded Peru's gastronomic explosion in 1994. Book a table at least a month in advance, at their flagship restaurant in San Isidro. Their 13 course tasting menu with everything from classic Ceviche (raw fish with onions and chilies) to purple potatoes costs around 385 soles (AED 440);

To have a Peruvian cookery lesson, along with a visit to local markets and a taste of indigenous fruits, take a tour with Haku Tours.  Cost per person is around $80 (AED 290); www.hakutours.com

The city laid out in grids with green plazas, statues and fountains has come out of its turbulent history and has emerged as a gastronomic capital of South America with many world renowned chefs and restaurants on the list of 50 best restaurants of the world, besides a Food festival called Mistura.

Shopper's paradise

Head to the Inka Market in Miraflores, lined with rows of stalls, selling every Peruvian handicraft, from Arpillera aplique quilts, to alpaca woolen sweaters and ponchos, gourd art, typical silver Jewellery with local motifs, woven tablecloths and runners, masks and handmade dolls.                                                                For a great selection of Peruvian crafts from across the country, head to Artesenias Las Pallas in Barranco, the artisan shop cum home of Mari Solari, with walls lined with ceramics, textiles and wooden tablets. Cajamarca 212, Barranco 15063, Tel: 0051 1 4774629  For a unique shopping experience, head to Larcomar- Lima's upscale outdoor mall built into the Miraflores cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. http://www.larcomar.com

Wooden balconies in Lima, Peru. Kalpana Sunder

What to avoid

Be careful about using local taxis - use only registered taxis and negotiate the fares clearly before you take them. When you are in the city centre, be very careful about your camera and belongings. If you are taking photos of the indigenous population, do ask before taking!

Don’t miss

Make time for the Larco Museum - an archaeological museum housed in a beautiful 18th-century mansion, surrounded by a garden overflowing with cacti and bougainvillea. The museum has more than 45,000 archaeological objects and pre-Columbian art from gold and silver jewellery, pottery, exquisite Moche vessels to even erotic sculptures! Don't miss the storehouse of the museum with endless rows of archaeological artifacts. Entry per person 30 Soles (Dh35); (www.museolarco.org/en/)

Getting there

Fly Emirates to Lima via Sao Paulo. Return tickets cost around 10,300 AED (www.emirates.com)