Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the city is shrouded in history, culinary geniuses and full of aesthetic delights. We couldn’t visit Peru without a stop by Lima, so of course it was part of our 4 month honeymoon around South America. So I couldn’t wait to share our ultimate city guide for Lima, Peru.
We arrived in Lima in a bit of daze from our travels and immediately jumped in a taxi to our hotel. Lima is well known for its crazy divers and traffic, this is an understatement; it’s so much more than loco! We were soon wide-awake, taking in the bustling city, which is home to a third of Peru’s entire population. Our chosen district was Miraflores, a trendy and well developed part of town, home to affluent Peruvians who enjoy a beautiful and well kept setting next the ocean.
Fitness aficionados frequent the cliff boardwalk and parks on the weekend, an ideal spot for a run or circuit work, where the fashionable locals populate the various establishments in Miraflores. This area also offers a great spot for exploring the surrounding districts of Lima, including one of our favourites, the bohemian Barranco.
WHAT TO EAT IN LIMA
Peruvian cuisine is definitely on the up! Out of all the South American countries we have visited, Peru is definitely the country that uses the healthiest food in its dishes. It has an enormous selection of vegetables, fruits and spices, which are easy to find and extremely cheap (I wish I could do my weekly shop in a Peruvian market). As we all know maca, chia seeds, quinoa, acai are expensive in the UK and here the cost in Lima is next to nothing.
WHERE TO EAT IN LIMA
Lunch at Central was an unforgettable dining experience and one of the most colourful gastronomic affairs we’ve been lucky enough to try. Chef Virgilio Martinez uses ingredients from around Peru, the Andes, the Amazon and the ocean and bases his menu on the altitude of where the food comes from, i.e. ‘Spiders on a Rock’ (seafood) from -5m. The tasting menu we sampled has 18 courses so technically were tried food from 18 different altitudes and is a celebration of the biodiversity of Peru. I’d recommend the tasting menu with the wine pairing. One of my favourite dishes was the ‘Low Andes Mountains’ (quinoa, beef, airampo) at 1800m, they have naturally pink quinoa in Peru– I swear that had no influence on me picking it as a favourite dish… We were lucky enough to meet Virgilio, a man very passionate about the food he creates and extremely modest. His team too is extremely knowledgeable on each dish and will explain in detail the ingredients and where they are sourced.
Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura is of Peruivian/Japanese descent with an extraordinary knowledge of Nikkei cuisine (Peruvian, Japanese fusion – two of my favourites!). An extremely friendly man and talented chef, his dishes were as original as they were delicious. Fortunately for the world, Mitsuharu has huge plans for expansion, firstly China, but also plans for London – fingers crossed this happens soon. We tried the 15-course Amazon Nikkei Experience with a refreshing bottle of white wine. All his ingredients are from Peru, including the biggest river snails and guinea pig – a popular meat in the highlands in Peru. However the clever construction made this dish a delicious one, but my favourites were the ‘Lapas cebiche’ and ‘Short Rib’. The service at Maido was outstanding, right from the start when guests enter the restaurant they do so to a chorus of ‘Maido’, which is a form of greeting in Japan. Maido is the perfect venue for an unforgettable lunch or dinner.
amaZ has a very familiar feel, with interiors reflecting the Amazon, full of colour and indigenous artifacts. There is a good cocktail bar in the front where you can sit and enjoy your meal if you choose, complete with a chatty and knowledgeable barman. We sampled one of their cocktails and then headed into a comfortable and original booth like seating arrangement, which provided just enough privacy whilst still enjoying the ‘buzz’ of the place. We were very impressed with the tasting menu, extremely filling with a delicious fare indigenous to the Amazon.
Again we sampled enormous snails, fish that grow to 3m(!) and fruits with a delectable sweetness. My favourite dishes were the various salads including the Amazonian Chef’s Salad and chick ‘memepa’, both using fresh and unique ingredients of the amazon. The service was very good with charming and diligent waiters.
WHERE TO EAT VEGETARIAN
A delightful little vegetarian and vegan café in Miraflores, with a chilled vibe. This is a perfect stop for a light lunch or just afternoon tea. The café has a lovely little garden at the back and the most helpful owner.
Tucked away on a quiet street in hectic Lima, Almazen is another vegetarian foodie option, boasting an inviting and relaxing ambience for its customers, in a light and airy space. The Peruvian inspired dishes are creative and delicious.
In the heart of Miraflores Aromia is a lovely little coffee shop we stumbled across for breakfast. The barista on the day we visited was very friendly and helpful. We had a light breakfast, a homemade seeded quinoa muffin and chia seed and mango yoghurt pot. The space is light and airy, somewhere you could easily take up residence with a laptop to check emails, do some work or even read a book.
WHERE TO DANCE
When in Peru and in Lima, in particular, you must try a Pena, a completely different clubbing experience to what we are used to in the UK. Pena’s are traditional Peruvian nightclubs; their various traditional and modern dancers, singers and actors perform throughout the night all bought together by an enigmatic MC. On the night we went our MC loved a bit of audience participation and being a western girl with huge blonde hair there was no hiding and before you know it I was on the main stage with a few other unfortunate patrons about to partake in a rather embarrassing dance competition! My Spanish is pretty basic so I didn’t really know what was going on but I decided against leaping from the stage and I waited nervously for my turn to take to the floor to strut my stuff. I didn’t win but Tom was sure I should have for the loudest cheers I got from the audience. Enough on that embarrassment, after all the performances everyone takes to the floor to dance the night away. To get a decent table book ahead and arrive between 10pm and 11pm, there is no need to get there any earlier otherwise you will be hanging around for a while.
Overall Miraflores was a welcoming treat for the five days we stayed. The food, the people, the experiences were ones to remember. Stay tuned for part two of Lima city guide with all the different types of yoga studios and outdoors activities to keep you entertained.
WHERE TO SLEEP
For our stay in Lima we were looking for a well-located, safe, authentic and comfortable place to call home. Hotel Antigua offered all this, along with welcoming staff and the best Pisco Sours. The historical boutique hotel is situated in a Spanish-colonial building where the original features and façade have been kept in tact, including the old mansion or ‘casona’ – an element we admired and made a pleasant change from the chain hotels popping up along the seafront of Lima.
Colourful Peruvian artwork decorates the walls and vintage reclaimed objects are seen throughout the hotel, which include old sewing tables used in the restaurant, industrial pulleys for lights and gramophones for decoration. The reception area and bar are colourful and hip yet simple without overpowering the colonial aspects of the property. I particularly liked the vibrant look to the bar. The rooms are completely in-keeping with the colonial heritage of the building, compared to the modern bar downstairs. The room itself was large, extremely comfortable, with a huge bed, air conditioning (very much needed in Lima in January), eco bathroom amenities, plenty of storage space and a large bathroom. There is a restaurant on site at the property, KG Restaurant, serving breakfast and we also tried dinner here. Breakfast is a simple offering of fruit, bread, eggs, cheese and hot drinks however dinner included a larger menu where we opted for a fresh salad and Ceviche. Hotel Anitgua is a hotel that captivates its guest with its cultural heritage and warm and welcoming staff – something we saw throughout our travels in the people of Peru.
WHERE TO SPA IN PERU
Located in Arawi Hotel, Peru Wellbeing is a small and well-appointed spa with 8 treatments rooms. As my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we opted for the ‘Honeymoon Package’. On entering the therapy room the beds and tables had been decorated with hearts, petals and chocolate covered roses, for me this was a little over the top but very sweet nonetheless. The package comprises of a full body scrub which we washed off in the next door well equipped shower, followed by a full body massage. The therapists were very professional and experienced. The overall treatment was lovely and my husband claimed it was the best massage (of the few he has had!) he’d ever experienced. At the end of the treatment it was time to enjoy the strawberries, sparkling wine was also offered however as I have learnt over the years it is best to drink plenty of water after a massage and fortunately there was some on offer.
Author: Claire Mans
Claire is an avid traveller and luxury nomad. She spent her honeymoon in Africa last year and has just returned from a 4 month sabbatical with her husband to discover the gems of South America. When she’s not planning her next trip, she’s usually on the hunt for her next fashion fix or sweating it out in a HIIT Class. Follow her adventures on instagram @Clairemahowe.
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