PERU SERIES PART 4: Restaurants, Hotels, and Activities in Lima

If you’ve been following along with my Peru series, you can understand that after several days of hiking at a high altitude in Cusco and Machu Picchu, Alex and I were more than ready for some relaxation by the sea in Lima, Peru. Our plans for our 2 days and 2 nights in Lima were to eat as much Liman food as possible and soak in the culture by walking around the city and exploring the many parks. While Cusco felt very traditional with many indigenous people around, Lima was much more modern and diverse with an international feel. Another major difference was that while we had clear sunshine during our entire stay in Cusco, we did not see the sun once in Lima. Apparently the city can be very gray, especially in their winter months. Overall, we felt safe, but some parts of Lima can be a bit seedy and you have to be careful with cabs. (I will expand on this in my next post about general tips for traveling Peru.) Most of the time, we had either our hotel or a restaurant call a cab for us and we felt completely safe! We did learn that the cabs the hotel called could be a bit more expensive than others, but I feel that a few dollars is a small price to pay for your safety!

We took a short afternoon flight from Cusco to Lima and arrived with time to check into our hotel and relax a bit before dinner. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Lima in the upscale Miraflores area as it is a popular neighborhood with a lot to do. We spent most of our stay in the Miraflores and Barranco (a more bohemian and artistic area) districts, venturing only to Central Lima to see some of the churches. Central Lima is not the nicest area and food in the neighborhood is not recommended so we only spent a few hours there. So without further ado, let’s get to food, drink, and sightseeing recommendations for Lima!

Miraflores

You can easily spend your entire stay in Lima in Miraflores and many people do just that. Whether you are looking for shopping, food, or parks, Miraflores has it all! A great place to start is a walk (or drive, depending on where you are staying) to Larcomar, a mall by the sea. If you are like me, your immediate reaction might be distaste for going to a mall while visiting another country, but this isn’t just any mall. Larcomar is actually built into the seaside cliffs and offers unparalleled views of the ocean, particularly on a rare clear day. Larcomar also has several restaurants, including some American chains and some unique to Peru and even Lima.

Dinner in Larcomar
Dinner in Larcomar
View from Larcomar
View from Larcomar
View of Larcomar (built into the cliffs)
View of Larcomar (built into the cliffs)

On the recommendation of our concierge, our first stop was at Mangos. We had tortilla espanola (one of my favorite dishes of all time from when I lived in Spain), fresh ceviche with Andean corn, and wine. If you’re looking for a large meal, there is also a buffet option. The food was great, but the highlight of the experience was definitely sitting outside on a beachside cliff with beautiful panoramic views of the Costa Verde. I expected the restaurant to be touristy, but most of the people sitting around us were local (or at least Spanish!).

Inside Mangos (see outside above)
Inside Mangos (see outside above)

After eating at Larcomar, we took an evening walk around Miraflores and visited Parque Kennedy, home to hundreds of cats. On weekends, Parque Kennedy has several vendors and artists selling everything from jewelry to souvenirs to inexpensive art. As a cat lover, I was a big fan of this park. Many strays make their home here because a group of volunteers provides them with food thanks to the generosity of donations. The group also provides veterinary care and vaccinations to the cats, as well as advertises for their adoption. (In case you are a cat lover like me, you will be happy to learn that as of August, 330 cats have been adopted from the park in the last 3 years!)

Entrance to the Parque Kennedy
Entrance to the Parque Kennedy
Kitties at the Parque Kennedy
Kitties at the Parque Kennedy

The area around Parque Kennedy has several restaurants and bars, including the famed Calle de las Pizzas that is home to (any guesses??) pizza joint after pizza joint. We walked down the street, but found it to be very touristy and were turned off by the vendors trying to sell their wares to diners. Instead, we found a different option to return for brunch the next day: La Lucha Sangucheria. La Lucha Sangucheria had fantastic sandwiches and smoothies. We loved it so much that we talked about returning for another meal. After such heavy food in Cusco, it was so nice to enjoy a fresh fruit smoothie and a light and healthy sandwich. If you go for dinner, check out the outdoor chess park across from the restaurant where locals come to play chess in the evenings. And if you visit, here is fun video of celebrity chef Gaston Acurio at the restaurant!

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Photo via http://www.capital.cl
La Lucha Sangucheria. We sat right at the table shown in the left hand corner of this picture! Photo via http://mirafloresparatodos.wordpress.com/
La Lucha Sangucheria. We sat right at the table shown in the left hand corner of this picture! Photo via http://mirafloresparatodos.wordpress.com/

Peru, and Lima especially, is known for its Asian fusion cuisine. Nikkei is Japanese-Peruvian fusion and Chifa is Chinese-Peruvian fusion cuisine. Peru has the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America (Brazil has the largest) and Chinese immigrants have been in Peru since the 1800s.  Having read about these types of cuisine before our trip, I was on a mission to experience both if possible. Since Alex and I both love sushi, we found a highly-ranked sushi restaurant in Miraflores, Edo Sushi. We shared several rolls, which were all fantastic. I wish I could remember which rolls we ordered, but I remember that my favorite roll had banana (platano). I was totally blown away and am now on a mission to find a roll that includes banana in the US. Head to Edo Sushi for some Nikkei and you will not be disappointed!

Photo via http://www.miltrips.com/
Photo via http://www.miltrips.com/

As for the Chifa trend, Alex and I visited the barrio chino, Lima’s China Town, in search of the best Chinese-Peruvian fusion. Unfortunately, we never ended up finding a place that appeared clean and safe. I’m usually pretty open about trying things in other countries, but neither of us got a good feeling about the quality of restaurants in the barrio chino and decided not to risk illness. We also found the large crowds in the barrio chino to be a little overwhelming. It was the only place either of us actually felt unsafe and worried about being pickpocketed. If you go to Lima and have a different experience, or know of a specific restaurant, please let me know. I would love to hear about it! (I wish I had taken a picture of the barrio chino, but even searching google images, I cannot find anything that adequately captures the overwhelming crowds that we experienced!)

In my opinion, the shining star of Peruvian cuisine is the vast array of ceviche available. It is delicious and super fresh almost anywhere you try it. One of the most famous places to have ceviche is at Gaston Acurio’s La Mar Cebicheria. Alex and I watch a lot of Travel Channel and Food Network and had learned about Gaston Acurio’s fame in Peru before our trip. He owns several restaurants throughout Peru. Knowing that there can be long waits, we arrived for lunch as La Mar was opening and were seated almost immediately. We ordered beers and were provided with a selection of hand-cut potato chips with dipping sauces. (If you read my post on Cusco, you already know that Peruvian chips are a whole new ballgame. The chips at La Mar elevated that status even more!) I highly recommend ordering the sampler platter of ceviche at La Mar. Before our meal, I wasn’t even aware that ceviche was made any different from the classic preparation (lime, juice cilantro, onions, etc). With the La Mar sampler platter, we were treated to not only the classic preparation, but to a more savory ceviche with soy sauce, and a seafood ceviche with squid, shrimp, conch, and more. I couldn’t get enough of all of them! As if our visit wasn’t already amazing, I noticed a man sitting at the bar that I thought looked like Gaston Acurio. I asked our waiter and sure enough, it was him! We went and spoke with him and he was kind enough to oblige us with a picture. DO NOT miss La Mar if you are in Lima! It is the best.

Inside La Mar Cebicheria
Inside La Mar Cebicheria (clearly we were the first to arrive!)
Delicious Peruvian chips and sauces
Delicious Peruvian chips and sauces
Ceviche sampler
Ceviche sampler
Meeting celebrity chef Gaston Acurio
Meeting celebrity chef Gaston Acurio
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My namesake beer!

After lunch at La Mar, we treated ourselves to dessert at the Restaurant Huaca Pucllana. Huaca Pucllana is a large adobe and clay structure located in the middle of the Miraflores district in Lima. It was an important ceremonial and administrative center during the period between 200 AD and 700 AD. Unfortunately, the ruins themselves are closed for visits on Tuesday which happened to be the day we wanted to visit. However, if you find yourself visiting Lima on a Tuesday, you can at least get inside the ruins by eating at the restaurant even though you can’t walk around inside them. Dessert was fantastic and the rest of the menu looked great, too!

Inside Huaca Pucllana
Inside Huaca Pucllana

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Tombs
Tombs

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The "chocolate pot" dessert (kind of like a mud pie)
The “chocolate pot” dessert (kind of like a mud pie)
Mango creme brulee
Mango creme brulee

Another famous restaurant in Lima is La Rosa Nautica. Although we didn’t have time to go, our Chilean friends from Machu Picchu raved about it and said it has fantastic sushi. La Rosa Nautica is also located on a pier on the Costa Verde and has beautiful views of the coast and sunset. I also have to mention the ChocoMuseo again. We visited and toured the museum in Cusco but could not get enough! We found ourselves in need of killing an hour before Edo Sushi opened (South Americans eat much later than Americans!). The ChocoMuseo did the trick and we shared a pre-dinner dessert and hot chocolate drinks.

La Rosa Nautica from above
La Rosa Nautica from above

You’ll probably be in need of walking off all of the delicious food you have sampled in Lima, so I recommend checking out El Malecón. Alex and I ran and walked around all of the parks two or three times. El Malecon is a six-mile stretch of parks including Parque del Amor and Parque Maria Reiche. Parque del Amor includes mosaic walls and benches filled with romantic quotes and featuring a statue of lovers embracing. Parque Maria Reiche features interesting statues and workout equipment!

Miraflores
Miraflores
Parque del Amor
Parque del Amor

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Parque Maria Reiche
Parque Maria Reiche
Workout equipment in Parque Maria Reiche
Workout equipment in Parque Maria Reiche
Surfers on the Costa Verde
Surfers on the Costa Verde

As I mentioned earlier, we stayed in Miraflores at the Crowne Plaza Lima and could not have been happier with everything about the hotel. Our room was huge (I’m pretty sure we could have held a party there) and the concierge service was fantastic. The hotel staff was so friendly and constantly offering to give us recommendations or provide any help. The hotel also has great amenities like a pool, workout room, sauna, and full bar. The hotel is conveniently located a short walk away from Larcomar and the coast in one direction and Parque Kennedy in another.

We were definitely able to "drink, think, relax" at the Crowne Plaza Lima!
We were definitely able to “drink, think, relax” at the Crowne Plaza Lima!

Barranco

Barranco was my favorite neighborhood in Lima. It is much more bohemian area, bordering on hipster (think the Brooklyn of Lima). It is a great place to spend an afternoon walking around and soaking up Peruvian culture. the neighborhood boasts beautiful architecture, several parks, and a large selection of unique restaurants and bars. Some of the sightseeing highlights are the funicular, several museums, and the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. Unfortunately, the bridge was under construction so we were unable to grasp the magical atmosphere that it supposedly offers.

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Bridge of Sighs under construction
Bridge of Sighs under construction
I took this photo to show how the city is elevated from the coast.
I took this photo to show how the city is elevated from the coast.

As for where to stop and eat, La Bodega Verde is a quiet haven perfect for a relaxing bite to eat. We initially stopped in for some hot tea, but after reviewing the menu and walking down a bit more, we returned and ordered crepes. I am a huge tea lover and thoroughly appreciated the large pots of freshly brewed loose leaf coffee. The best part about La Bodega Verde was the quirky atmosphere. With both indoor and outdoor seating, La Bodega Verde is filled with artsy decorations and vintage toys. It is a great place to study, read, or just have a quiet conversation. And bonus, guess who also likes La Bodega Verde?

Tea at La Bodega Verde
Tea at La Bodega Verde

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After a light dinner at La Bodega Verde, we headed to one of Lima’s first craft breweries, Barranco Brewery. After drinking the typical Cusquenas and Cristals, good craft beer was much appreciated. We ordered a flight and my favorite was the Bulls Ay! Ale (see my ratings of the beers through my Untappd account by searching candietravels). The brewery also has a restaurant that serves good food and great bakery items, particularly the fresh bread and pizza!

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Peruvian corn nuts are the best!
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“In the old days, you threw away nothing and used everything. Work was hard and fast food didn’t exist. Good things took time. All hard work deserves a good beer.” Barranco Brewery, I agree!

Other Barranco restaurants/bars that we didn’t have time to visit but looked delicious and are highly ranked on Tripadvisor: Twist Gourmet Burger, (which as its name suggests, serves gourmet burgers), Veggie Pizza Peru (known for its fresh ingredients), and the Ayahuasca Restobar Lounge. We walked by Ayahuasca Lounge on our way home from Barranco and admired the beautiful exterior architecture (it is housed in a former 19th century mansion), but unfortunately it wasn’t yet open for the evening. It is one of the top 50 restaurants in the world and is well-known for its unique cocktails. Pictures online show a traditional background with avant-garde and modern touches-the perfect combination of old and new. If we ever return to Lima, Ayahuasca is at the top of my list!

Ayahuasca Restobar Lounge from the outside
Ayahuasca Restobar Lounge from the outside

Central Lima

There isn’t much to recommend in Central Lima in the culinary world, but there are several important sites that are worth seeing while in Lima. First is the famous Plaza Mayor, surrounded by the Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace of Lima, and the Palace of the Union. Plaza Mayor is the oldest public place in Lima and has previously been the economic center and ceremonial center of the city. It has also been home to the first bullfight in Lima as well as public executions during the Spanish Inquisition.

Alex and I in Plaza Mayor
Alex and I in Plaza Mayor
The Government Palace of Peru
The Government Palace of Peru
The Government Palace of Peru
The Government Palace of Peru

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The Cathedral of Lima and the Palacio Arzobispal
The Cathedral of Lima and the Palacio Arzobispal

After walking around Plaza Mayor, your next stop should be the Cathedral of Lima. The Cathedral was built in the colonial style during the 1500s. One of the highlights of a visit is seeing the many chapels within the Cathedral. The Cathedral is also home to several catacombs, including the tomb of the Spanish conquistador of Peru, Francisco Pizarro. For 10 soles, you can also visit the Religious Art Museum housed within the Cathedral.

Inside the Catedral of Lima
Inside the Catedral of Lima
Francisco Pizarro's tomb
Francisco Pizarro’s tomb

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One of the many chapels
One of the many chapels

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Descending into the crypt area
Descending into the crypt area
Skeletons!
Skeletons!

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In the Religious Art Museum
In the Religious Art Museum
In the Religious Art Museum
In the Religious Art Museum

Finally, you cannot miss the Convento de San Francisco and its catacombs. Fortunately, English-speaking tours are available and the visit is only a few soles. The Convento was built in the 1700s and contains a beautiful library with around 250,000 antique texts. Unfortunately, the library does not have enough funding and our guide told us that eventually, the library will cease to exist because there is no funding to properly preserve the books. The Convento also contains a large amount of important artwork as well as the famed catacombs which contain the bones of anywhere between 20,000 and 70,000 people depending on the source.

Convento de San Francisco
Convento de San Francisco
Inside the chapel
Inside the chapel
Library
Library
In the catacombs
In the catacombs

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Also in Central Lima: Congress
Also in Central Lima: Congress

General info about Lima

Usually Alex and I are big walkers while traveling. We always walk if we can. However, Lima is a large city and you may find yourselves in need of a cab to visit certain destinations. The cab situation in Lima (and Peru in general) can be a bit sketchy, so it is best to have your hotel concierge or restaurant staff call you a cab. Sometimes that can lead to a pricier fare, especially if you are traveling a longer distance, i.e. to the airport. We asked our favorite concierge if he could call us a less expensive taxi and he introduced us to a company called Satelito 3555555. If you have a smart phone, you can download the app to order a cab. The cars were new and clean, the drivers were courteous, and the fares were very reasonable. You can also rest assured that you will be safe because all drivers are vetted for security. I definitely recommend using the company if you can!

I think I’ve told you everything I could about Lima, so before we recap, please let me know if you have been to Lima! Do you have any recommendations? Did you go anywhere that I recommended? Next up on Candie Travels, all the general info you need to know about traveling to Peru!

RECAP:
Eat:
Mangos Cafe Restaurant, Larcomar, Malecón de la Reserva 610, Miraflores
La Lucha SangucheriaDiagonal 308, Miraflores
Edo Sushi, Calle Berlin 601, Miraflores
La Mar Cebicheria, Avenida Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores
Restaurant Huaca Pucllana, Cdra 8, Calle General Borgoño, Miraflores
Rosa NauticaEspigon 4 Circuito de Playas, Miraflores
La Bodega Verde, Sucre 335A, Barranco

Drink:
Barranco Brewery, Via Almirante Miguel Grau 308
Ayahuasca Restobar Lounge, Avenida Prolongacion San Martin 130

Do:
Larcomar, Miraflores
Parque Kennedy, Av Mariscal Oscar Benavides, Miraflores
Parque del Amor/El Malecón, along Malecon Cisneros
Plaza Mayor, Jirón de La Unión Cuadra 3, Central Lima
Cathedral of Lima, Jirón Carabaya
Convento de San Francisco, Jirón Lampa y Ancash, Central Lima
ChocoMuseo, Calle Berlin 375, Miraflores
Huaca Pucllana, Cdra 8, Calle General Borgoño, Miraflores
Barranco District

Stay:
Crowne Plaza Lima, Av. Benavides 300 – Miraflores 18

Taxi Company:
Satelito 3555555, http://3555555satelital.com/

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