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What to do in Lima for free (or almost free)
Lima is one of the most charming cities in Latin America: it has activities for all tastes and, of course, one of the best gastronomic scenes in the world. The best thing about this city is that it’s possible to know it and have fun without much money. So if you already spent everything traveling through Peru or you are just traveling on a budget, here you’ll find how to enjoy Lima spending almost nothing.
Walk through the historic center of Lima
In order to know a place it’s always important to start with the basics, so put on your most comfortable shoes and go downtown.
The best route not to miss a thing is to start at Plaza San Martín (located in block 9 of Colmena Av.). In this large esplanade you will find old and emblematic buildings, such as the great Hotel Bolívar, which was the most elegant in the country at the beginning of the 20th century; the Club Nacional and Teatro Colón. In addition to bars and restaurants of many different styles, which are hidden in their portals.
Then walk along the Jirón de la Unión boulevard, which is a commercial street almost one kilometer long, connecting Plaza San Martín and Plaza Mayor. Here you’ll be able to see old colonial mansions with wooden balconies, typical of Lima: Carved wooden structures with very detailed and beautiful ornaments called “balcones limeños”. These balconies are one of the main reasons why UNESCO declared this part of the city a World Heritage Site. You have to see them.
Upon arrival to Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas you will notice the tremendous cultural heritage of this city. The square is surrounded by the most emblematic buildings, such as the Municipal Palace of Lima, the Presidential Palace of Peru (or Government Palace), the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral. Like in many other cities in Latin America, this square was planned to be the central spot of the city. Around it the rest of the city rises (in the form of a grid).
Stroll through Chinatown
A few blocks from the Historic Center and next to the Central Market is Capón Street, the center of Chinatown. The name of this street comes from the word caponear (to castrate), since the first Cantonese Chinese people who came to Lima in 1855, worked castrating pigs in the Central Market. This is how they settled in this part of the city, close to their workplaces.
Now they changed that line of work, but they sell products from China and food at a very low price. It’s actually the food what makes this Chinatown different from other countries, because this culture merged with Peruvian culture, creating a new gastronomic style: Chifa food, a very interesting adaptation of Chinese food to the Peruvian palate. It’s in this neighborhood where you can try the best chifa dishes in the city.
Know the culture
If you don’t have money, but have an interest in art, you are going to love these two cultural centers.
Cultural Center Inca Garcilaso: As far as is known, this old house was first built in the 18th century and then reconstructed several times after a number of earthquakes. Now it’s a cultural center with 4 art galleries and spaces where you can enjoy music, film and book presentations. The entrance is free of charge.
Address: Jirón Ucayali 391. To check the schedule you can visit the center’s website.
The House of Literature: This old train station, turned into a cultural center, is full of art. Right after going in you will enjoy the beauty of its architecture. You can also read in the huge library, see exhibitions, film shows and plays. All for free. There’s also a cafe, to relax for a while and then continue walking.
Address: Jiron Ancash 207. To check the schedule, visit their website.
Discover the Matías Maestro Presbyter Cemetery
Maybe going to a cemetery is not your favorite way of spending time, but it’s worth it. It’s the oldest cemetery in Lima, has an area of about 50 acres, 766 mausoleums and 92 monuments. It’s also the place where you will be able to see the best of 19th and 20th centuries architecture.
It was inaugurated in 1808 and built with the idea of creating a “city” outside the city, so it has squares, streets, gardens and areas for rich and poor people (just like the real Lima). Here lay the remains of famous people, such as Augusto B. Leguía, Ramón Castilla, Víctor Larco and Antonio Raimondi. It’s said that this is where the history of the city is best kept.
Visiting hours during the day are: 9 a.m. at 2:30 p.m. Entrance costs of S/ 7 (USD 2). Plus, on full moon nights there’s a night tour that costs S/ 20 (USD 6).
Address: Jiron Ancash 1611, Barrios Altos. For more information, you can check their Facebook page.
Relax in the Malecon de Miraflores
The Malecón de Miraflores is a very long public park and one of Lima’s most beautiful areas. This walk is almost 10 kilometers long (6 miles), right on the edge of the cliff that faces the sea. From every spot you’ll have a beautiful view of the bay.
Throughout the walk you will find one park after another, but with no doubt the favorite one is the Park of Love. Here stands the most famous statue of the city “El Beso”, by the sculptor Víctor Delfín. The sculpture represents two lovers kissing passionately, is 12 meters long, 3 meters high and is surrounded by a wall of mosaics with romantic phrases. From here you have a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean and, if you are lucky, you can see newly married couples, who seal their union here.
Enjoy Barranco neighborhood
This neighborhood is the most stylish and one of the safest places in Lima. Before being a popular bohemian area it was the summer resort of Lima’s upper class. The old restored mansions were turned into hostels, art galleries, fashionable bars and restaurants, which are crowded at night.
If you go right before sunset you can have a nice view from one of the viewpoints and then cross the Bridge of Sighs, the most photographed tourist attraction around.
You know, you don’t need a lot of money to have fun in Lima, but you need to walk a lot. If you’re visiting for one day and you are carrying your luggage, there’s good news: Airkeep is already in Lima and we have fantastic keepairs waiting for your bags. Enjoy the trip.