48 Hours in Lima: The Ultimate Itinerary

Peru, Lima, Miraflores, Cliffs of Miraflores at sunset
Henryk Sadura / Getty Images

Lima is often a layover for travelers jetting off to more exotic and far off national destinations in the jungle, highlands and further up the Pacific Coast. However, Peru's capital city is worthy of dedicating a couple of days to. Kick back, relax, and get acquainted with the Andean nation’s history, the city's various regional gastronomic offerings, and the treasure trove of small galleries and impressive art collections that dot the streets of trendy districts.

If you have a short time to explore Lima and are looking for the essential activities to put on your list, this handy itinerary is for you.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Barranco district, Lima city - Peru
Christian Declercq / Getty Images

8 a.m.: After arriving at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, grab your luggage and set out by private shuttle to your accommodation in the trendy district of Barranco. This coastal district is a tourist favorite thanks to its powered-by-creatives charm, and your hotel—be it the swanky Hotel B or the tucked away Secondhome Peru—should be nothing less than unique and inspiring. 

10 a.m.: Head out for a relaxed and healthy breakfast at La Bodega Verde, a sweet garden cafe with outdoor and pet-friendly seating. Now it’s time for a stroll—but first, coffee. Lima has become a mecca for artisanal coffee houses that feature national and mostly organic beans, and Barranco just happens to host some of the city’s best cafes. For a nearby and easy to find option, head around the corner to Colonia & Co., where the coffee options are as varied as the environment is tasteful. If you’re observant enough, chances are you’ll be able to spot a favorite local artist or two.

11 a.m.: Limeños are generally nonchalant when it comes to time, and many businesses don’t bother opening doors until nearly midday. Enjoy some of the best artisan shops, galleries and museums in town: Artesanias Las Pallas, Puna Tienda, Dédalo Art and Gift Shop, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) are all located in Barranco and within walking distance. Stretch your legs as you peruse the local art scene, all the while working up an appetite for what’s to come...

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Aerial view of Miraflores park and Larcomar, drone shot of Lima's cityscape
Myriam Borzee / Getty Images

2 p.m.: Finally, it’s time to feast. In Peru, lunch is typically the largest meal of the day and the portions at local favorites like Taberna Peruana are telling of this custom. Located on the corner of one of Barranco’s main avenues, this restaurant specializes in traditional creole plates like lomo saltado (stir-fried beef, rice and french fries) and seco con frejoles (beef stew accompanied by creamy beans). Housed in a restored 20th century casona, the building itself is something to marvel at. There are also a handful of decent cevicherias within a few blocks radius (including the iconic Canta Rana) if you can’t wait to try Peru’s most popular dish, ceviche.

4 p.m.:  Before allowing yourself to fall into a food coma, head north along the malecón—the coastal footpath that connects Barranco, Miraflores, and San Isidro—for a gentle stroll with ocean views. If you want to pick up the pace, rent a bike on the Barranco end of the walkway or from any of the 100 rental stations in the Miraflores district, a mere 20-minute walk away. 

Passing the cliff-side mall LarcoMar, you'll be greeted by a skate park, tennis courts, public parks, small cafes and sculptures by Peruvian artists. Finally, end your adventure at the LUM (Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion), a Miraflores museum dedicated to exploring the 1980-2000 conflict between terrorist groups and Peru's government.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Maido Restaurant in Lima, Peru

Courtesy of Maido Cocina Nikkei

7 p.m.: Lima is home to numerous award-winning restaurants and splurging on dining at one of these world-renowned dining experiences is a must. On San Martin street in Miraflores you'll find two exceptional restaurants: the Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant Maido (voted Latin America’s Best three years in a row) and Rafael, a hip yet classy restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere at night. Sharing similar price ranges of $70-$90 per person, both establishments prove what a luxury it is to eat first-class Peruvian cuisine.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Main Square
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9 a.m.: If you didn’t already start your day with a sunrise surf session, power up with strong coffee and sourdough bread at Pan de la Chola, located in what was once an industrial sector of Miraflores. Serving up green juices, focaccia sandwiches and divine pastries, you’ll be craving this place long after you’ve returned home from Lima. Once you’ve polished off breakfast, order a cab to the historic center of Peru. 

11 a.m.: Colonial architecture painted bright yellow like marigolds in spring surrounds central Lima’s Plaza de Armas. Admire the main square and its central tiered bronze fountain, the Government Palace—fronted by guardsmen who rotate daily at noon, accompanied by a band—, and the Archbishop’s Palace with wooden Moorish balconies, from which adjacently lies the baroque 17th-century baroque Cathedral of Lima. 

A five-minute walk from the plaza, tour one of the oldest catacombs in all of South America beneath the 16th-century Convent of San Francisco. The underground vaults are said to contain over 25,000 skeletons and have impressively survived the earthquake-ridden centuries thanks to its anti-seismic structures. Ask your tour guide about the network of secret passageways that criss-cross Lima’s center. 

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Pisco sour, a cocktail prepared with pisco and lemon, sweetened with brandy, eggs, served cold. Chilean drink.
RHJ / Getty Images

2 p.m.: Having returned from underground and into the sunlight, leave Lima’s darker past behind you and move on to lunch. There are countless dishes from Peru’s gastronomic legacy that have continued to influence the most famous national chefs of today, and these can be sampled at restaurants in central Lima. Try Restaurante Plaza San Martín, La Muralla (located near the city’s old wall), or the historic El Cordano

It may not be evening yet, but this is your final day, so say cheers to the City of Kings with a proper Pisco Sour from the Gran Hotel Bolivar in central Lima’s Plaza San Martin. 

4 p.m.: Take a taxi to Pueblo Libre for a magnificent viewing of pre-Columbian art at Museo Larco. The collection exceeds 45,000 pieces that span some 5,000 years. Don’t feel shy when you come across the room of incredible ancient erotic pottery. The museum is also home to a lush garden and cozy restaurant-cafe.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Bohemian Barranco
Geraint Rowland Photography / Getty Images

7 p.m.: The steady Pacific Ocean keeps balance in a city as hustle-and-bustle as Lima and respects must be given. Say farewell to the coastal capital with a seaside evening meal at Cala or La Rosa Nautica, located in Barranco and Miraflores, respectively. Both specialize in contemporary Peruvian cuisine with plenty of seafood options. While La Rosa Nautica has Cala beat with its prime location directly over the sea, the latter has a more intimate and modern ambiance.  

10 p.m.: Close the night back in Barranco where it all started with a show of live music at La Noche, a classic night-time spot for Lima locals of all generations.