Lima, Peru’s sprawling capital city, is awash with pisco sours, ceviche, rich heritage and contemporary art. The Resident recommends what to see, do, eat, and where to stay in this vibrant south American metropolis
Lead image: Belmond
Peru is having a bit of a moment. From Peruvian food taking over London – I’ll see you at Lima Floral in Covent Garden for brunch – to colourful pom-poms taking over our summer wardrobes; la hora loca (that’s crazy hour, to you and me) has landed and I’m waving both hands in the air.
My enthusiasm for this sprawling south American country comes not from any ‘top travel 2018’ editorials, or even a bucket list desire to visit Machu Picchu (we did, of course), but rather comes courtesy of a university friend who went off to live in NYC and fell in love with a Peruvian. Their nuptials in Lima provided the perfect excuse for a South American adventure (and an unforgettable wedding reception – do Google la hora loca).
Lima is one of those destinations that makes you want to wander the world endlessly and never return home. The sprawling, pulsating city – perched high on the cliff tops overlooking a highway that runs alongside the Pacific Ocean – is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru with a population of around 10 million people.
It’s the home of the pisco sour, Inca Cola (an intriguing yellow cola that tastes like Iron Brew), the freshest ceviche and some fantastic steaks. In fact, it’s a foodie’s paradise, with three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Central, Maido and Astrid y Gastón), where you can dine like a king on the budget of a court jester.
Lima is made up of 43 districts, but we concentrated our efforts on just two of them: the stylish seafront area of Miraflores, where people flock for weekend brunches, and the Soho-esque downtown area of Barranco. Handily, they’re right next to each other.
WHERE TO STAY
In Miraflores you’ll find Lima’s top hotels – Hilton, JW Marriott, Country Club Lima Hotel and, one of its long-standing champions, Belmond Hotel Miraflores, where we were very glad to rest our weary heads after a long flight via Madrid (BA, frustratingly, cancelled its off-season direct flights to Lima just as we were about to book).
The beds are the type you never want to get out of – so big you have to scoot over to your bedside lamp and so ridiculously comfortable that you might just skip that first morning’s sight seeing. An ocean view suite is a must. You can fling open the curtains and gaze over the crashing waves and never-ending horizon, or cast your eyes down to the landscaped park in front of the hotel, busy with joggers, dog walkers and Tai Chi devotees.
Fling open the curtains and gaze over the crashing waves and never-ending horizon
For more fabulous ocean views, head to the rooftop, where you can breakfast alfresco on the terrace at The Observatory, enjoying an amazing array of hot and cold dishes (it’s a great spot for brunch, whether you’re staying at the hotel or not). Afterwards, crash out on a lounger by the fabulous rooftop pool, where you can watch paragliders sail by as you catch some rays, bolster your Instagram feed with some seriously enviable poolside selfies, and dip in and out of the heated water.
Set yourself up for some serious touristing with a massage at the small but perfectly formed Zest Spa, also on the rooftop by the pool and fitness centre. The full body massage, with oils infused with indigenous ingredients from the Peruvian Amazon, will melt you into nothing, eradicating those scrunched up shoulders, chunky post-flight ankles and any niggling thoughts about work.
WHAT TO SEE
For the wanderers, a stroll along the Miraflores Boardwalk, or ‘Malecón’, which hugs the cliff tops for a six-mile stretch, is a must. Join the beautifully landscaped pathway from right outside the hotel door, and follow it through parklands like the Parque del Amor (where you’ll find the famous El Beso statue of lovers embracing by Victor Delfín), past the shiny new Larcomar shopping precinct, more public art and mosaics, and La Marina Lighthouse – Peru’s most famous active lighthouse.
The biggest tourist attractions are the Presidential Palace, Huaca Pucllana (a huge clay pyramid that was once an important centre for culture), and the Magic Water Circuit, an impressive new display of illuminated fountains.
A stroll along the Miraflores Boardwalk, or ‘Malecón’, which hugs the cliff tops for a six-mile stretch, is a must
Barranco is just to the south of Miraflores, about a 30 minute stroll along the seafront from Belmond Hotel Miraflores (or a swift taxi ride). Head for the Bridge of Sighs, where you’ll find colourful street art, a charmingly rustic yellow cathedral (Iglesia La Ermita) people selling trinkets and a few touristy bars and restaurants.
From here, take the steps up to the Plaza de Armas and pop into the little boutique shops and Bisseti coffee shop, where you can fuel yourself on a ‘capucholo’ – a cappuccino gloriously spiked with pisco – and then head for the fantastic Mario Testino Museum, MATE, for vibrant celebrity portraits, colourful captures of traditional Peruvian culture and rotating exhibitions by local artists.
Where to eat
But enough roaming, there’s food to be eaten! As well as the three aforementioned top 50 restaurants in the world (tip: book them months in advance), there’s Tragaluz, a vibrant restaurant-cum-art-gallery that showcases local contemporary art. Located on the ground floor of the Belmond Hotel Miraflores, it serves Peruvian, Asian and Mediterranean food, including killer ceviche and life-changing Argentinean steaks. Ceviche lovers should also check out La Mar cevicheria.
Down in Barranco, along Avenue San Martin, you’ll find some fantastic little authentic bistros serving up hearty, delicious Peruvian cuisine. Call into the quirky La Posada Del Ángel III for cocktails and light bites, or Canta Rana, an odd little canteen covered in football paraphernalia that serves up huge, delicious plates of ceviche, Peruvian seafood stew and Arroz Chaufa (a Peruvian/Chinese fried rice dish).
Down in Barranco, along Avenue San Martin, you’ll find some fantastic little authentic bistros serving up hearty, delicious Peruvian cuisine
Then there’s Isolina. My favourite. This rustic-looking bistro with Andalusian floor tiles serves up Peruvian-Creole food, from a time when the Spanish and African slaves were a bigger influence on the local cuisine than the Japanese and Chinese. Here, two of us shared a glorious beef short rib stew that could have fed four, alongside goblets of potent Pisco Punch the size of our heads.
Sadly, our Liman love story came to an end, but we returned home armed with a newfound love for ceviche, pisco sours and la hora loca, Peruvian style.
Rooms at Belmond Hotel Miraflores start from £366 per night for a City View Junior Suite including breakfast. BA flies direct from London Heathrow to Lima during peak season (and via Europe and NYC and during off-peak seasons)
London’s Best Pisco Sours
Thirsty for a pisco sour this side of the Atlantic? Fortunately they’re as popular in London as they are in Lima. Here’s where to find three of the best:
Ceviche, Soho & Old Street
Serves food and cocktails inspired by Lima and Peru’s Pacific coast.
The Lost Alpaca, Covent Garden
The revamped basement cocktail bar of Lima Floral
Chotto Matte, Soho
A Japanese-Peruvian restaurant that serves great pisco sours.