Where do you even begin to plan for your trip to Lima, let alone Peru? Nowdays there is a wealth of information available like never before and even the most savvy of travelers can get bogged down by the plurality of voices sharing their experiences. The ideal scenario would be to have a local friend to call on for insider insights, someone whose taste and characterization of a place you could blindly trust. What is perhaps the next best thing? The perspective of an expat who understands the culture, history and nuances of a place, while also bridging the divide through their own native cultural lens. In that sense you would get the best of both worlds, essentially a shortcut to the “meat and potatoes” of a destination through a curated itinerary that would allow you to get the most out of your trip. Today is your lucky day, because that is just what I’m offering you – a way to hack your travel planning to Lima. I’m a Kansas City native who has spent the last 15 years as an expat, the last eight of which have been spent in Peru alongside my Lima-born husband, Lucas, helping visitors discover the best of what the country has to offer. So, here are my two cents on how to hack Lima and have an unforgettable stay in the City of Kings.
where to stay in lima
While Lima has 43 districts, or neighborhoods, you can safely narrow your visit down to three or four where you’ll be wandering: Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro and Lima’s historic center. There are a few outliers you may hit along the way but for the most part you’ll be in and out just to see a main attraction or two. The best areas to book your hotel would be, hands-down, Miraflores or Barranco.
Miraflores offers a modern view of the city with lots of shops, most of the upscale restaurants and you’ll even find many international chains (sometimes a comfort, but I know you did not come all the way to Peru just to hit up Starbucks). Miraflores is a safe neighborhood where you can walk around and get a feel for how the city has developed over the last 40 years; there are beautifully landscaped parks, the coastal promenade, or malecón in local lingo, bike lanes, paragliding and more. While you can find internationally recognized hotel chains like the Marriott and Hilton, I’m a believer in getting carried away by the charm of a boutique hotel. A couple of lovely options that are well-located and are a big hit are: Hotel de Autor and La Quinta Miraflores Boutique
Barranco is the bohemian, romantic and even slightly hipster side of the city. Here you’ll find gorgeous traditional mansions that have been restored and invite you travel back in time. The colors of the neighborhood pop as you walk through the narrow, tree-lined streets and appreciate the eclectic architecture, eye-catching street art and boutique art galleries that are peppered throughout the area. The laid-back vibe and mix of traditional styles infused with a modern twist make this district truly unique and unforgettable. Looks like people have begun to take notice as some amazing boutique hotels have opened recently allowing guests to be fully immersed in Barranco’s hallmark style. Try Casa Republica or Villa Barranco for an extra special stay in Lima.
what to eat in lima
If you haven’t tried Peruvian cuisine before now, then there is no better place than Lima. And even if you have, be prepared to be blown away by the freshness of the ingredients, variety of flavors and seemingly boundless fusions. This is undoubtedly the longest section of tips; after all, we do run Lima food tours so we believe this is one of the best ways to get to know Peru. With limited time in the city, you’ll still be able to understand why Lima has been declared the Leading Culinary Destination in the World for the last six years by the World Travel Awards. By now, most people have heard of cebiche and the pisco sour, Peru’s flagship dish and drink, even if you haven’t tried it, however the country’s rich foodie history has so much more to offer. Let’s take a look:
Chicken is undoubtedly king of the meats in Peru. While rotisserie style chicken is an all-time favorite, we encourage you to reach outside of the box for a more creative and exotic dish. The pollo canga at Amaz restaurant is made with free-range chicken marinated in Amazonian spices and served with a peanut and coconut foam from the same region.
Cebiche has become synonomous with Peruvian cuisine on the international scene in the last few years. It generally brings to mind delicate, white fish in lime juice with aromas of cilantro, chili peppers and onions that float up from the dish. Spice things up with an Asian-fusion cebiche, featuring tuna, soy sauce and sesame seeds to bring your palate to life. You can try a cebiche nikkei at one of the top cebicherías in Miraflores, El Mercado.
The legacy of the milanesa in Peru tells of the Italian migratory wave that came to the country after Peruvian independence in 1821. It's one of those comfort foods that warms the soul. At La Verdad de la Milanesa, you can have it your way; forget about the boring, breaded, pan-fried chicken filet. At this Barranco gem, you have your pick of chicken, beef, fish or a vegetarian base, you choose your own topping and tasty side dish - we recommend the sweet potato fries.
Traditionally from the southern city of Arequipa, the spicy rocoto pepper is stuffed with beef, raisins, peanuts, fresh Andean cheese and spices. It's a hearty meal that will warm you up in no time. For a Limeño twist, order a rocoto stuffed with juicy calamari and other delights from the sea. You can order this spectacular take on an old favorite at La Mar.
Going out to eat in Peru is a social activity, like in most countries. In Lima, one place has adopted the concept of serving Peruvian dishes, tapas-style so patrons can try a wider variety of delicious, small bites. At Barrio, they don't serve your typical BLT, instead they've given this classic a jungle twist. The bite-size sandwich is served with sun-dried grilled pork (cecina), lettuce, tomato and a mayonnaise made from the Amazonian fruit cocona and spicy, fragrant, charapita peppers from the same region.
Tío Mario - Under $5
Long ques are always a good sign in a restaurant and this place is worth the wait. Their flagship dish, the anticucho, is a creole dish made from beef heart and grilled to perfection. Don’t let the sound of it stop you, it is delicious. You can fill your heart at this popular restaurant in the Barranco district for five dollars.
La Lucha - Under $10
La Lucha is what locals call a “sanguchería”, a place that serves different sorts of Peruvian sandwiches and fresh fruit juices. One of their top-sellers is the is chicharrón sandwich (fried pork), which Limeños serve with sweet potatoes and onions. La Lucha, in Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, is packed with both Peruvians and visitors day or night.
Sophie Bistro - $10 lunch menu
A gourmet starter, main course and dessert for 10 dollars? Yes please! Sophie Bistro, a beloved restaurant of foodies and chefs, offers a lunch deal that will raise your standards of quality eating and leave you, for once, with a smile when you get the check.
Madam Tusan - $6 lunch menu
Chifa, the Peruvian-Chinese food fusion is among the most popular in Peru for its variety, big portions and low price. There are literally thousands of chifa restaurants around Lima, but if you want the gourmet option, created by the internationally reknowned chef Gaston Acurio (restaurant Astrid & Gaston ranked No 14 in the world) try Madam Tusan. They go beyond your typical chifa as the menu incorporates a variety of Asian fusion dishes. Their restaurant on 28 de Julio in Miraflores offers a lunch deal for 19 Soles, or just six dollars.
Pardos Chicken - Under $10
Chicken is by far the most consumed meat in Peru, but there is a particular way it is prepared that over the decades has made it one of the five favorite dishes for locals: Pollo a la Brasa. This charcoal grilled, rotisserie chicken is often served with fries and a salad. Our favourite spot is Pardo's Chicken, a chain with several locations around Lima.
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Address: Jirón Colina 107, Barranco - Lima
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