A beginner's guide to Lima

By Max Brown

Even Lima old-timers might learn a few things from newcomer Max Brown’s first week in Lima.

A beginner's guide to Lima

A paraglider near Lima's Larcomar (Photos by Max Brown)

My legs are a little sore as I walk home along the miles of parks situated on the cliffs in Lima. They run from Miraflores to Barranco and have to be one of my favorite areas in Lima. Walking these parks makes it easy to forget that Lima is the second largest desert city in the world.

From the parks, the sound of waves can be heard crashing along the beaches below. During the day, the area is active with joggers, dog walkers, and families. It\‘s a great place to walk or watch the surfers below. At night young couples can be found snuggling on the benches and short, stone walls.

Whenever I come to a new city, I spend some time walking around to learn the layout and try to get a glimpse of the people living their lives. Lima is huge, though, and it\‘s very important to pair this with either public transit or taxis. There is definitely no shortage of taxis here, but the public transit can be a bit hard to learn. The most important advice I can give is to get comfortable with the Metropolitano early on your trip. It\‘s cheaper than cabs and, depending on where you are going, it can even be faster.

The Metropolitano is bus rapid transit system started in 2006, and while it doesn\‘t compare to the public transit of somewhere like Berlin—what does though?—it does offer a great shortcut to most of the city and it\‘s pretty easy to understand. It cuts through the city and has stops near many popular tourist areas.

One of my favorites has to be the Parque de la Reserva (Park of the Reserve). Located here is the largest water fountain complex in the world and offers around 13 different fountains. Go during the night. I\‘m sure it\‘s nice during the day, but at night the fountains are lit and they have shows at certain times.

The fountains at Parque de la Reserva

Not only do the fountains make for great pictures, but a few are fun to run through as you try to avoid the jets of water. It\‘s worth the 4 soles entrance fee.

One lesson some friends and I learned was to always check if something is open before heading out. The park is open from Wednesday to Saturday, so don\‘t make the mistake of showing up on Tuesday and wondering why you can see and pretty lights or hear and water as you approach the fenced park.

The Metropolitano also has a convenient stop between the two major plazas in Lima center, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Martin. The area is great for museum hopping, taking pictures of historic colonial-style balconies, or watching the daily changing of guard at the government palace.

Across from the southwest corner of Plaza San Martin is one of my favorite museums, the Museo de Minerales Andres del Castillo. Here is a collection of huge crystalline minerals from all over Peru. These are really breath-taking. They have one room dedicated to fluorescent minerals which glow while under a black light.

A friend from my hostel, who studied geology in college, said this was the best minerals museum she had visited. The museum also houses a small collection of pottery and textiles worth seeing and learning about. Entrance to this museum is S/. 10.

For an enormous collection of pottery and other pre-Columbian artifacts, I highly recommend Museo Larco. The museum offers a wealth of information on many of the great cultures of Peru. The permanent collect has pottery, textiles, weapons, jewelry, and so much more. There\‘s a whole exhibit dedicated to pre-Columbian erotic pottery.

Moche ceramics from the Museo Larco

When the Spaniards arrived in Peru they found the art disgusting and destroyed much of it, but the museum has a number of great pieces. This museum is not so close to the Metropolitano, so I ended up taking a cab here and it costs 30 soles, making it one of the more expensive places I visited.

There are many museums in Lima, so I suggest a little research before you decide which ones you want to visit, or you might burn yourself out.

You can\‘t go to Lima without eating as much of the food as you can. Ceviche—a seafood dish marinated in citrus juices and chili peppers—is a must. I suggest finding a good cevicheria and spending a little extra on this dish—around 30 to 40 soles. There are many different types of ceviche, so maybe try a few. Yum.

For much cheaper, you can find great anticuchos throughout much of the city. Anticuchos are slices of marinated beef, usually heart. Usually this is served with potatoes and choclo—corn, but with giant kernels. The Barranco district has a few great anticucho restaurants with views of the picturesque Bridge of Sighs and ravine that run through Barranco. Make sure to try a Pisco Sour while at dinner. They\‘re good and pack a little punch.

Barranco and Miraflores are home to a great nightlife too. If you\‘re into dancing and clubs these are the areas for you. For me, I\‘m more interested in the food you get after a few cervezas and Pisco sours. It\‘s sad, but one of the things I\‘m going to miss most is getting a royal—a hamburger with ham, egg, and cheese at 2 a.m. With a ton of ají sauce for around $2. Ají is one of the many sauces you\‘ll encounter in Peru, and for sure a favorite. Careful though, it can be pretty spicy.

I didn\‘t get to do and see a number of things in Lima. There are ruins in the middle of the city or close to the south, paragliding along the cliffs of Miraflores, or always more museums. Needless to say, I\‘ll need to make another visit here before I leave Peru.