Peru has such an abundance of popular tourist spots--from Lake Titicaca to Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu--that Lima often becomes an afterthought to many visitors. But the country's capital, home to more than 10 million people, offers a unique crash course in Peruvian culture and history that every traveler needs to experience.

Whether it's touring museums, enjoying breathtaking light shows or admiring the city's scenic coastline, Lima has a wide variety of activities that you will not encounter anywhere else in Peru. So if you ever find yourself in Lima for a short visit or a long layover, here are six things you absolutely cannot miss while in this majestic metropolis fittingly dubbed La Ciudad de Los Reyes: The City of Kings.

1. Stroll Around Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas, Lima - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Also known as Plaza Mayor, this iconic location is the perfect starting point for travelers. Situated in the heart of Lima's historic district, it is just a stone's throw away from several important buildings such as the Government Palace, the Municipal Palace, the Archbishop Palace, and the Cathedral of Lima.

Arrive at the Plaza at noon and witness the changing of the guard in front of the government palace. It may not be as well-known as the one in London's Buckingham Palace, but it is as impressive and prestigious nonetheless. Afterwards, get lost in the streets surrounding the plaza and discover museums, churches, and colonial buildings along the way. As you wander around the historic district, don't forget to look up and find intricately designed wooden balconies that adorn several colonial buildings in the area.

2. Tour World-Class Museums

MATE - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Whether you are a history buff or just a curious tourist, a visit to any of the city's museums is a great way to learn more about the country's heritage and its cultural contributions. For a city deeply rooted in its history,  it is not surprising that Lima is home to some of the best museums in South America. It has dozens of cool places that showcase anything from history, archeology, architecture, anthropology to religion, culture, art and fashion.

Immerse yourself in Peruvian history and stop by the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru where you'll encounter thousands of artifacts from the Pre-Colombian period to the present day. Apart from state museums, Lima also boasts niche museums that are sure to trigger anyone's interest. Located in Lima's historic district, the Museum of The Inquisition has an exhibit of torture devices used during the Peruvian Inquisition. In the bohemian district of Barranco, you will find MATE's collection of Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino's larger-than-life images of A-list celebrities and indigenous Peruvians. And to prove that Peru is indeed the food capital of South America, there's even a museum in downtown Lima that will satisfy your craving for Peruvian Cuisine: the Museum of The Peruvian Gastronomy.

3. Visit Colonial Churches

Lima Cathedral - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

In a country where religion and culture are tightly intertwined, exploring Lima's old churches is vital in understanding how Catholicism came to power in Peru and how it reshaped the country's ideals. The city's colonial-era churches are not only known for their grandiose architecture, but each one has a unique story to tell.

Step inside the Cathedral of Lima just across Plaza de Armas and explore its 13 chapels with elaborately carved altars embellished with grotesque statutes, and a gold-plated main altar that rivals its European counterparts. Just a block away from the plaza is the renowned Monastery of San Francisco. The spacious property, built in Spanish-Baroque style, has two churches, a convent, and a library that stores a collection of more than 25,000 antique books. The monastery is also known for its catacombs which contains thousands of geometrically arranged human bones.

 4. Feel The Magic of Parque de la Reserva

Reserve Park Fountains - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Built in 1929 to commemorate Peru's civilian reservists, Parque de la Reserva was renovated in 2007 to include The Magic Water Circuit, featuring 13 unique water fountains that light up with different colors at night. The water displays have made the park a great family-friendly venue for both locals and tourists alike. Being the largest fountain complex in the world, the Magic Water Circuit is definitely a one-of-a-kind attraction that every visitor needs to see.

Stand in front of the park's Fuente de la Fantasia at 7 PM to witness an unforgettable light and laser show. Synchronized to music, the 15-minute spectacle highlights Peru's history and culture through breathtaking visuals projected onto giant curtains of water. After the show, walk around and enjoy the rest of the park's attractions such as the Magic Fountain, which jettisons thousands of gallons of water up to 80 meters in the air, and a 35-meter long walk-through water tunnel called the Fountain of Surprises.

5. Explore The Ruins of Huaca Pucllana

Lima Ruins - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Seeing how Lima has evolved into a modern metropolis, it can be hard to imagine that it also used to be home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Ruins of ancient temples, called huacas, can be found all over the city to this day. Although many of these huacas remain inaccessible to the public, Huaca Pucllana, one of the grandest and most prominent of these structures is thankfully open to visitors. This important archeological site is yet another testament to Lima's rich history that spans a millennium.

Take a guided tour along Huaca Pucllana's maze of footpaths and learn about the structure's significance in ancient Liman society. Throughout the ruins, you'll find beautiful pottery and life-like statues that depict the life of  Lima's early inhabitants.  After the tour, stay for dinner at the on-site open-air restaurant overlooking the ruins. The menu is pricey, but the food is excellent and seeing Huaca Pucllana lit up at night is a sight to behold. Surrounded by residential areas and tall buildings, pictures alone cannot justify the scale and the beauty of this gigantic adobe pyramid. It has to be experienced first-hand to appreciate its real value.

6. Traverse The Scenic Miraflores Boardwalk

Miraflores - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Straddling Lima's famous cliffs and the Pacific Ocean, El Malecon, a 6-mile long boardwalk that stretches from Callao to Barranco provides sweeping views of the city. El Malecon's most visited section, if not the most well-known, is Miraflores Boardwalk. Consisting of several parks that offer unique attractions, Miraflores boardwalk is the perfect spot to enjoy both Lima's seductive metropolitan charm and its heart-stopping natural allure.

What makes Miraflores Boardwalk particularly desirable is the myriad of activities it offers tourists. Go paragliding and get a thrilling bird's eye view of the expansive city and the ocean. Take pictures of Love Park's colorful, Instagram-worthy mosaics and sculptures. If you love shopping, then the cliff-side mall Larcomar is worth a visit. For more adventure, climb down the boardwalk to the coastline and give surfing a try. After you get your dose of adrenaline rush, walk up to La Rosa Nautica Restaurant at the end of a pier not far from the surfing area. Take in the beautiful views of the ocean as you indulge in the restaurant's top-quality Peruvian seafood.


Reserve Park - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Let go of your reservations about Lima and you will find this city to be wonderfully satisfying. If at first Lima appears bleak with all the fog that envelopes it, look closer, and you will see it slowly reveal its vibrant colors. Lima is a city for the inquisitive traveler. So go explore this wonderful place and delight in the little surprises waiting behind the mist.

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