Thanks to its designation as a UNESCO World heritage Site, the historical center of Lima is immaculately preserved. Encompassing the area between Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, the core includes the majority of the city’s outstanding colonial attractions and palm-fringed green spaces, all within easy walking distance.
The Plaza de Armas, also known as Plaza Mayor, is a good starting point for a walking tour of the district. The center’s most historically significant landmarks—the Lima Cathedral, the Government Palace (the presidential residence), the Archbishop's Palace, and the Palace of the Union—all cluster around the square. Nearby in Barrio Chino, Lima’s famous Chinatown, restaurants serve chifa, a delicious Peruvian-Chinese hybrid cuisine. Other highlights include the Central Market and the Convent of Santo Domingo, whose tower offers a stunning view of the city.
Private and group walking and cycling tours exploring Lima’s historical center offer half-day and full-day options. Some combine visits to various city attractions such as the pre-Columbian site in Miraflores or, farther afield, the Inca settlement Pachacamac. Other tours focus specifically on art, culture, and Lima’s famously dynamic food scene.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Many attractions have small entrance fees, which would be included if you are visiting as part of a larger tour.
- Though the area is safe, always be careful with your possessions and avoid wearing eye-catching jewelry and accessories.
- Remember sun protection and water for hydration.
How to Get There
The fastest and most direct route to the historical center is to take the Metropolitano Bus, which bypasses traffic on its very own designated lane through the city. From Barranco and Miraflores, take the line going North (Norte)—with several stops along Avenida Bolognesi—to the Jirón de la Unión stop and walk three to four blocks to the plaza.
When to Get There
The historical center is popular with tourists, so expect crowds to follow the patterns of high summer season (December to April) and important religious holidays like Easter (March or April) and Carnaval (February). Churches and museums close at 5pm every day except Monday, when they are generally closed. The plaza is particularly lovely in the evenings when warm golden lights illuminate the park and the colonial facades.
The grand Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lima. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incas here and founded the city in 1535, calling it the “City of Kings.” In celebration of the Spanish victory, he ordered the plaza constructed and completed that same year. By 1821, the tides had turned, as anticolonial rebels chose the square to declare their independence from Spain as the Republic of Peru.