Peru’s sprawling mega capital is not so much a cohesive city as it is a mosaic of smaller neighborhoods. Comprising of over 40 districts and nearly 9 million inhabitants, Lima is a patchwork of everything from ultramodern seaside neighborhoods to gritty shantytowns that cling to barren hillsides.
It is one of the few cities in the world where executives can go surfing before high-powered breakfast meetings, there’s a golf course in the middle of the financial district, and where cat fanatics can stumble upon a multitude of kittens in Parque Kennedy. There are always new places to explore in a city as large as Lima, but these 5 neighborhoods stand out among the rest.
As the district with the most tourists wandering about, Miraflores sits along the Pacific Ocean and is arguably Lima’s most beautiful neighborhood. No district rivals Miraflores when it comes to parks and green spaces.
Notable parks in Miraflores include Parque Kennedy as well as Parque del Amor (Love Park), the Antoni Gaudi-eque park along the coast. Miraflores is also home to Larcomar (a high end shopping mall), paragliding, bike tours, and surfing. Miraflores also has a restaurant called La Lucha aka home of the most delicious sandwiches, milkshakes, and fresh juices I’ve ever tasted.
Just south of Miraflores, this seaside district became a popular beach resort for Limeño aristocracy in the early 20th century. Today, as home to many of Peru’s leading musicians, artists, designers, and photographers, it is considered to be the city’s most romantic and bohemian district. At night it is known for its lively bar and restaurant scene, but it is equally captivating during the day. Strolling along the Bajada de los Baños (a walkway that leads to the sea) visitors stumble upon the Puente de los Suspiros, or bridge of sighs. Legend has it that when the daughter of a wealthy man fell in love with a lowly street sweeper her father forbid their union. She lived out her days as a spinster, waiting at her window for a glimpse of her beloved and her sighs could be heard by those who crossed the bridge. It is said that your wish will be granted if you cross the 100 foot bridge while holding your breath.
Centro/ Barrio Chino
In 1988, the historic center of Lima was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the government palace, Plaza de Armas (the main square), a wealth of Spanish colonial churches, and San Cristobal hill, which gives panoramic views of the city. Also located at the city’s center is Lima’s Chinatown or Barrio Chino, known as a hub for Chinese cuisine and traditional cultural festivals.
Museums, famous restaurants, and art galleries dot Pueblo Libre and contribute to the rich history of the district. The Larco museum, which houses the largest collection of Moche artefacts in the country, is located not far from the district’s center. The largest and oldest museum in the country, the National Museum of the Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru, is also nearby. This museum is known for having one of the best pre-Columbian exhibits in the world. It offers a huge selection of pottery and incredible Paracas textiles. In the history section of the museum, the brutality of the Spaniards in the country and of the challenges the nation has faced since its independence are documented.
Jesús María, my district in the city, is of course my personal favorite. It may not have the glamour and upscale feel of Miraflores, or the bohemian vibe of Barranco, but it truly is my home. The district ranks among the highest for the best quality of life in Lima, and is thus highly residential. It is also home to my school, la Universidad del Pacífico, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. This district is more low-key in comparison to the others, but it is cozy, peaceful, and home to various parks and markets.
Inspired by all that Lima has to offer? Check out ISA’s Study + Service-Learning programs in Lima here.