What is the historic center of Lima? Lima centre — Downtown

1. What is the Historic Center of Lima?

Historic center of Lima Peru | It is the old downtown of Lima metropolis, normally known as El Damero de Francisco Pizarro—checkerboard of Francis, due to its design in a military quadratic shape; it all starts in the Plaza de Armas of Lima, which is the birthplace of the city.

The historic centre is located between the districts of Lima and the Rímac and it is divided by the Rímac river.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Francisco Pizarro, the famous ‘conqueror’ of the Incas, founded Lima under the name of Ciudad de los Reyes on January 18, 1535; this historical event took place, exactly in the Plaza de Armas; the name of the city was changed by Lima within 500 years of documented history.

The expansion of Lima city to outside the historic center, began after the destruction of the City Wall of Lima in the 18th century.

In the early twentieth century, under the government of Augusto B. Leguía, Lima began to modernize and this fact had negative effects in the historical case, thus we lost colonial mansions and old balconies.

Fortunately, in the mid-20th century, the Municipality of Lima created a team of specialists to identify and protect the historical and artistic monuments from downtown Lima.

If you want to see that colonial wall, we recommend visiting the el Parque de la Muralla.

2. Why is it a World Heritage Site?

There is no street, plaza, or balcony in the center of Lima that is not relevant to Peruvian history, for example: Jirón de la Unión, Plaza de Armas, Casa Osambela, Palacio del Márquez de Torre Tagle, etc.

Due to this historical wealth, El Damero de Francisco Pizarro was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1988; if you walk through the center of Lima, you will see many old houses and churches that have a black and white logo pin up on their facades, which means that, they are UNESCO listed buildings.

3. What to do in Lima centre?

3.1 Take a FREE Walking Tour

Book the most popular tour of Lima on the 21st century organized by the pioneering company with 100% licensed indigenous Peruvian tour Guides; Book our FREE walking tour of Lima here, check out our amazing comments here. Don’t forget to leave your tip to the guide at the end of the tour, you can also see thousands of pictures and followers on our Instagram and Facebook.

Note for Peruvians: At the moment, our free tours are only available for non-Peruvian tourists; instead we suggest you to book the classic city tour of Lima.

3.2 Stroll through the Plaza de Armas of Lima

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Start your visit of the historic center at the Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas, in this place, you can visit the famous colonial water fountain from the 17th century, you can see the impressive colonial and republican buildings: the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Pizarro’s House, La Casa del Oidor, etc.

3.3 Visit the Jirón de la Unión

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

This is the most popular street in the center of Lima, it is a pedestrian alley, which dates back to the colonial period, at that time it was known as Calle de Los Mercaderes, because of the immense shops that existed in this place.

In the first decades of the 19th century, after the foundation of the republic of Peru, this street was renamed as Jiron de la Union, because it joins the old city with the republican area, that begins at Plaza San Martin.

3.4 Visit the artistic events at Alameda Chabuca Granda

This Alameda is named after Chabuca Granda, who was a famous Peruvian singer-songwriter, interpreter of popular songs like La Flor de Canela.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

La Alameda de Chabuca is located a few meters from the Presidential Palace, a lot of social entertainment events are held at this place; you will find musicians, singers and street comedians; the entrance it is free.

3.5 Try Chifa food in Chinatown

The richness of Lima gastronomy is very popular, due to its pre-Columbian history and the mix of local indigenous cuisine with the gastronomy of different ethnic groups such as the Spanish, the Afro-Peruvians, the Italians, the French, the Japanese, the Chinese, etc.

The Chinese arrived in Peru in the mid-nineteenth century, bringing their culinary tradition, but due to the lack of Chinese ingredients, Peruvian ingredients began to be used and thus Chifa food was born, a Peruvian-Asian fusion.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Go to the Chinese neighborhood of Lima, look for Capón street, the most famous Chinese street in Lima, in this pedestrian corridor, you will find several Chinese restaurants, we recommend Cevichino restaurant.

3.6 Tour the catacombs of San Francisco

Visit the oldest cemetery in the city of Lima, it was built in the 17th century by the Franciscan order, it is estimated that there are more or less 36,000 people who were buried in this place; the crypt that has a depth of 10 meters and 5 interconnected wells by very narrow tunnels with limited height.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

There are legends, which indicate the tunnels of San Francisco catacombs are connected with the Cathedral of Lima, the Presidential Palace and even with the fortress of Real San Felipe in the port of Callao.

3.7 Visit the Casa Aliaga, palace of the Conquistadores

If you are in the historic center of Lima, explore one of the oldest houses of Lima and meet its owners: The Aliaga Family, who are direct descendants of the Spanish Captain Jerónimo de Aliaga Ramírez, one of the partners of Francisco Pizarro (the Spanish conqueror).

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

This beautiful house is next to the presidential palace, to visit the interior of the house, we recommend booking in advance.

3.8 Visit the House of the Peruvian Saints

Visit the Church of Santo Domingo, which dates back to the Colonial period, 2 of the 5 Peruvian Saints lived in this place, their names are Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martin de Porres; both saints are very popular in Peru and worldwide.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Santa Rosa de Lima, is the first canonized woman into Saint in the American continent and she is Patron Saint of America and the Philippines.

San Martin de Porres, is the first Afro Saint in the world, he is also famous in Peru and the world, even in the Philippines even though he was never to the Philippines; thereforel, it is believed that San Martin had the power of bilocation; He was also capable of curing illnesses and preparing medical prescriptions with herbs, that is why he is known as the Patron of Pharmacists.

3.9 Visit the Taulichusco monument

This lithic totem is located in the Santa Rosa street, next to the Municipal Palace; the monolith was a deity for the protection of the inhabitants of the Rímac river valley; the stone was abandoned for many centuries, but at the end of the 20th century, we started highlighting our indigenous background.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Taulichusco, was a chief of the Rímac valley just before the arrival of the Spanish in 1535, his palace was located where the Presidential Palace is located today.

3.10 Explore the Balconies of Downtown Lima

The balconies have their origin in the Arab world, when Spain made the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, they also expelled the Arabs and all kinds of cultural influence from this nation was prohibited, such as the Mozarabic language, balconies, Arab clothing, etc.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Lima is located in the western part of South America, hundreds of miles away from Madrid; many of the laws that were dictated in Spain were not followed in Peru, which is why the first Spaniards who arrived in Lima kept their Arab culture regarding their food, language and architecture (balconies and domes of the churches).  

In the historical center of Lima, there are two colonial mansions that still have balconies from the viceregal period, visit the Casa de Torre Tagle and the Casa Osambela.

4. Restaurants in the historic center of Lima

If you are looking for a good tourist restaurant, we recommend getting to Santa Rosa street, there you will find dozens of tourist restaurants that offer Peruvian food; the prices range between 40 to 70 Soles—(10 to 20 USD)

If you are a tourist and don’t have much money, you can join our free tour, our guide will recommend you delicious and clean restaurants at super economic prices from 10 Soles to 15 Soles—(3 to 5 USD).

If you want to eat in a local middle-class restaurant, we suggest visiting one of the restaurants mentioned below; the prices range from 15 Soles to 70 Soles—(5 to 20 USD):

  1. Restaurante Plaza San Martín: traditional food buffet.
  2. La Leña: Specialized in dishes with chicken, they use firewood.
  3. La Muralla: Specialized in seafood and traditional food.
  4. Vermona: Specialized in pasta.
  5. Al sazón de Walter: Specialized in northern Peruvian food.

5. What to do in the center of Lima at night?

5.1 Visit the Plaza San Martin

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

This beautiful square was built at the beginning of the 20th century, under the government of President Augusto B. Leguía, it is surrounded by beautiful Renaissance-style buildings, in the center you will find the statue of Libertador Don José de San Martin, designed by Mariano Benlliure in 1921.

Below the statue of Libertador Don José de San Martin, there is a small woman statue dedicated to the motherland (Spain) and on the head of this statue, there is a Llama (Andean camelid); this curious fact is due to confusion, because the original design included the la llama (fire in Spanish).  

Keep in mind that llama in Spanish means an Andean camelid and fire.

5.2 Visit the Cordano Bar in Lima

This bar is the oldest one in the city of Lima, founded at the beginning of the 20th century by the Italian brothers: Luis and Antonio Cordano; in the 50s of the last century it was the most popular bar for Peruvian politicians, due to its proximity to the presidential palace and the congress of the republic.

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

Today, it is still a super popular bar, especially for national and foreign tourists, we recommend trying a couple of Pisco Sours.

5.3 Visit the Magic Water Circuit

que hacer en el centro historico de lima

It is a very modern attraction, if you are in the historic center, get there on foot, if you start walking from the Plaza Mayor in Lima, it will take you approx. 30 minutes.

At this recreation park, where you will see the play of lights, music, color and water; if you have kids, this place will drive them crazy; the entrance is 4.50 Soles, the first show is at 7pm, the operations days are from Monday to Sunday (they do not operate on Mondays).

6. How to get to the center of Lima?

6.1 From Miraflores:

  • First option: Take Uber or taxi, pay about 15 Soles to 20 Soles—(5 to 7 USD).
  • Second option: Take the Metro-Bus (Metropolitano) at Ricardo Palma station, get on line C, heading Miraflores to Lima center, please get off at Jirón de la Unión station. To use this service you need to pay 3.20 Soles pp—before entering the bus station there is a control booth, where you can ask for more information.
  • Third option: Take our free tour Lima, leaving from Miraflores.

6.2 From Barranco:

  • First option: Take Uber or taxi, pay about 20 Soles to 25 Soles—(7 to 8 USD).
  • Second option: Take the Metro-Bus (Metropolitano) at Bulevar station, get on line C, heading Barranco to Lima center, please get off at Jirón de la Unión station. To use this service you need to pay 3.20 Soles pp—before entering the bus station there is a control booth, where you can ask for more information.
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