Lima is a sprawling city with a population of over 10 million people. Set on a desert, many areas of the city are dusty and dry, which is understandable given how rarely it rains. Lima’s chaos, noise, and size can be a little confronting at first, but there’s plenty to see and do that’s suitable for families. Here are my top picks:
This stunning part of the city means ‘look at the flowers’ in Spanish, and it’s easy to see why. With a plethora of council workers pulling up and replanting flowers every few weeks to ensure they’re in full bloom, this part of Lima offers plenty of open, green spaces that overlook the ocean and provide plenty of room for little ones to roam and explore.
It’s an upmarket area with a vast range of cafes and restaurants, many of which are family friendly and offer magnificent views of Costa Verde.
Explore artsy Barranco
Barranco is a suburb located right next to Miraflores, but with a unique feel. Artsy and eclectic, it’s full of chic bars, cafes and art stores. Easily manageable to explore on foot. It feels like a different city, and you can easily forget that you’re still in Lima. There’s some fantastic street art, so strolling around this area to just take in the art is a great way to spend a few hours. The artwork for Jade Rivera, a local artist who grew up in the Chorrillos district of Lima, is amazing!
Highlights include Dédalo, a beautiful artisan shop in an old hacienda with plenty of tiny rooms full of delightful trinkets to explore. It features stunning artwork from local Peruvian artists and some unique handmade gifts. Out the back is a large courtyard where you can eat and drink, soaking in the relaxed vibe of this place.
Restaurante Javier is in probably the most fabulous street in Barranco (Bajada de Baños 408), which heads down to the beach and is jam-packed with street art and atmosphere. It offers some superb views down to the Barranco beach area and, with great outdoor seating options, is very kid-friendly. We ordered some traditional meals including Papa a la Huancaína, (boiled yellow potatoes covered with an even yellower spicy and creamy cheese sauce, and accompanied by hard-boiled eggs and black olives) and a vegetarian version of Lomo Soltado (stir-fry veggies with rice and handmade potato chips), along with some picarones (a Peruvian dessert that is like a doughnut made from squash and sweet potato and covered with syrup made from chancaca) and spent a few hours enjoying the warm Peruvian sun.
Picnic on the Malecon
The Malecon (which means boardwalk in Spanish) runs from Callao to Barranco, but Miraflores is undoubtedly the most beautiful stretch. This long boardwalk is always busy with people walking, running, cycling, or just relaxing while soaking up the fantastic views of the Lima coastline.
Grab a blanket, pack a picnic and find a spot to settle in for some serious people watching! While you’re there, you’ll no doubt spot some bright yellow bikes cycling around. These are ice-cream sellers who cycle around different parts of the city selling ice-creams in summer. Listen up for the distinct shouts of ‘helados, helados, helados’, which is Spanish for ice cream, followed by what sounds like a duck quacking (using a whistle) just in case you don’t spot the bright yellow! They are everywhere in summer, making it hard to resist, but be sure to take some change with you as they’re cash only.
If you’re after somewhere special to sit, choose a spot near where the paragliders take off to glide over the city. The best area is right near Beso Francés Crepería, just down from the famous El Beso, a famous kissing sculpture located in Park del Amor.
If you can, aim for summer as during winter Miraflores is covered in a deep fog, meaning there probably won’t be many people paragliding and not much of a view.
Try some Amazonian fruits from the local markets
The fruit and vegetable variety in South America is second to none. Visiting one of Lima’s famous markets is a great way to sample some new varieties from the Amazon that you’ve never seen before.
While there are plenty of fruit and vegetable markets in Lima, my favourite is Market No. 2 Surquillo, on the edge of Miraflores and Surquillo.
Outside there’re various odds and ends, but inside it’s more of a traditional food market with a fantastic range of fruit, vegetables and plenty of meats (think plucked chickens hanging from rafters) sourced from all over Peru. It’s famous for locals and tourists, so shop around to ensure you’re getting a fair price before making a purchase.
Eat some potatoes!
Did you know Peru is home to 4,000 potato varieties? Particular potatoes are better suited to specific dishes. For example, it took us quite a few different tries before we found the perfect potato for good old mashed potatoes without turning into a watery mess! (Name the potato) One of the most popular dishes in Lima is Pollo a la Brasa con papas fritas, otherwise known as roast chicken and chips! The chicken has some fantastic spices, and the meat is probably the most tender chicken I’ve ever eaten. There are chain stores aplenty offering this delicious meal which is a hit with the kids!
Visit the Indian artisan markets
The markets are at the top end of Miraflores and offer a HUGE range of souvenirs for tourists. There are many shops within the markets themselves, though many offer similar items, and they’re all the same price. As with so many areas within Lima and worldwide, Covid affected these markets, with many forced to close. We visited when some of them had opened up again, and they were so pleased to see tourists again. With borders open again in Peru, I hope these beautiful markets see tourists return and help them recover quickly. On Av. Petit Thouars it’s a short walk from the main sights in Miraflores.
Experience the food
Lima is famous for foodies and proudly boasts two of the top 10 restaurants in the world. While many of the top restaurants require bookings, they can be worthwhile, though some may be unsuitable with kids!
My personal favourite is Astrid & Gaston. This stunning restaurant offers exquisite food and service in Casa Hacienda Moreyra, a gorgeous estate full of history in the upmarket suburb of San Isidro. Purchased by the first Count of San Isidro in 1777, the hacienda was the scene of the battle of La Palma in the Peruvian civil war of 1855. They declared it a historical monument in 1972 before becoming the home of Astrid & Gaston in 2014.
The menu frequently changes, offering traditional Peruvian ingredients sourced from across the country. And if you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to have a chat with Astrid herself, once named the world’s best pastry chef. We ordered Astrid’s famous chocolate bomb dessert – basically, a giant chocolate egg that you break open, and the waiter pours a hot honeycomb sauce over the top. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! After we’d ordered but before the dessert arrived, Astrid popped out of the kitchen and chatted to us for about 15 minutes, telling us where her inspiration for the dessert came from and just chatting about the restaurant, where we were from, how we were coping with Covid and the impact the pandemic had on their business.
Because of Covid, this ritzy restaurant now offers home delivery, so experiencing some of the amazing pastries on offer is a real treat for the kids if you can’t find a sitter.
Visit the main square
The Plaza de Armas is the centre of Lima and is an important historical landmark worth a visit. Conquistador Francisco Pizarro found the city in 1535. He decided on the site for the city’s plaza, making the square what it is today.
Surrounded by some very important landmarks, including the President’s home, Government Palace, the Cathedral of Lima and Archbishop’s Palace of Lima. An array of police and armed forces guards the plaza. We visited at the height of Covid when restrictions first eased, and it was eerily quiet with heavily armed forces patrolling the area. Packed with tourists, it’s a beautiful spot to stroll around. Nearby there’s plenty of cheap food options and discount clothing and shoe stores if you’re up for some shopping.
Magic Water Circuit
Circuito Magica del Agua Is about a 15-minute taxi ride from Miraflores and is a brilliant afternoon and early evening out with the kids. It’s usually packed in summer with loads of families arriving mid afternoon to enjoy the splash from the 13 water foundations within the park, which the Guinness Book of Records has recognised as the largest water fountain park in the world.
The park opens from 3pm to 10pm Monday to Sunday, and with entrance only 4 soles per person, it’s a very affordable option for families. Inside the park, you’ll find a range of food stalls selling a range of Peruvian street food, including the popular salchipapa, a combination of hot dogs cut up into slices served with hot chips. A massive hit with the kids!
There are now multiple time slots for the famous light and sound show, at 06:30 pm, 07:30 pm, 08:30 pm and 09:30 pm. So head to the central fountain area to see this spectacular show that will impress your kids!
In central Miraflores, these ruins surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings are just off a busy main road. Built in 400 AD, these ruins are large enough to spend a few hours but small enough not to tire out little legs too quickly.
Huaca Pulcllana Restaurant is situated right next to the ruins, and you can access the restaurant without going into the ruins if you’d rather sit and enjoy the view. However, the restaurant gets busy, so book ahead, particularly on weekends. It offers a great selection of traditional Peruvian food. The menu changes frequently but keep an eye out for the amazing ice cream sundaes with honeycomb!
We lived in Lima for just under 18 months at the height of Covid restrictions. It’s a fantastic city, and I can’t wait to return when it’s safe to travel to appreciate all this amazing city offers.