Lima Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Lima

Lima, the capital of Peru, is a huge, thriving metropolis established by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535. The carefully preserved city center has retained much of its original colonial character set in the stones of numerous Baroque and Renaissance cathedrals, colonial mansions and palaces, many of which are included in this city orientation walk.
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Lima Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Lima Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Peru » Lima (See other walking tours in Lima)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cathedral of Lima
  • Casa del Oidor
  • Government Palace
  • Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor)
  • Santo Domingo Church & Convent
  • Alameda Chabuca Granda
  • San Francisco Monastery
  • Plaza Bolivar
  • Torre Tagle Palace
  • La Merced Church
  • Plaza San Martín
  • Francia Square
  • Plaza Grau
  • Paseo Colon
Cathedral of Lima

1) Cathedral of Lima (must see)

La Catedral de Lima is easily one of the oldest, most historical structures in Lima. Famous Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, is said to have laid the first stone, carrying on his shoulders the first log used in the construction. Particularly noted for its interiors, opulent with the intricate and delicately vaulted ceiling and checkerboard floor, the structure is embellished with very rare Baroque furnishings, the most remarkable of which are the beautifully carved choir stalls. Also notable is the colorful mix mosaic chapel which contains the tomb of Francisco Pizarro himself. Within the cathedral is a small museum displaying religious artifacts and pieces of art that are absolutely marvelous and well worth seeing. The marble flooring, the awesome paintings and the golden altars of the 17th century largely add to the cathedral's overall appeal, just as well.

The cathedral has 15 smaller chapels, each of which is devoted to a certain saint. A true historic monument of immense value, you will be amazed by the huge amount of historical information associated with it as soon as you visit and get to see its amazing architecture. Together with the other buildings overlooking the Plaza de Armas, this is the heart of Lima's World Heritage-listed area.

Why You Should Visit:
Between the relics, the mosaics, the archeological displays, and the interior of this religious sanctum, you could very well spend hours studying design.
There are catacombs, side rooms, upper levels galore and the exploration is part of the intrigue and fun.

Buy a combo ticket and visit the nearby Archbishop's Palace, too; they are both beautiful and worth your while; guided visits are a plus (you are supposed to tip the guide).
Once inside, do not take pictures! Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is a place of worship that is very important to Peruvian Catholics, and staff will not tolerate it.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat: 10am-1pm; Sun: 1-5pm
Casa del Oidor

2) Casa del Oidor

Casa del Oidor is a 17th century mansion, one of the oldest in Lima. It was built shortly after the city was founded. The house stands at Plaza Mayor and has a great historical significance. Its name “Casa del Oidor” translates as “the one who hears and listens” and reportedly is due to the fact that during a certain period of time the city magistrate, duly appointed by the king, had presided here over the court that used to hear complaints from members of the public. It is also said that ‘doñas’ (ladies) of the house would peep from the balconies, hidden behind the shutters, to see what's going on down in the square. The balconies appear quite amazing from the square below which is completely surrounded by walls.

The stone mansion is painted pale orange with a black trim and represents a fine piece of architecture. Sadly, it can be viewed only from the outside as the property is closed for the general public.
Government Palace

3) Government Palace (must see)

Also known as the House of Pizarro, the Government Palace – the official residence of the President of Peru – is located on the bank of the Rimac river in the center of Lima, overlooking the northern side of Plaza de Armas. This imposing site is graced with history and presented both strategic and spiritual importance to the ancient Incas as a former burial ground that had once housed the shrine of Taulichusco, the last chief of the Incas.

Construction of the palace was ordered by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Since then it has endured multiple renovations with the last one occurring in the 1930s, resulting from which is the current French Baroque look of the building. The project was undertaken by architects, Ricardo Malachowski of Poland and Jean Claude Sahut of France, and was overseen by Peruvian dictators.

Although access to the palace is restricted, those who wish may call the protocol office and arrange special tours of the premises. Visitors can observe the change of guard ceremony which is held every day at noon; no tickets are required. Inside the palace, of special interest are the Jorge Basadre Room, the Golden Hall, and the Sevillan Room.

Starting at 11:30am, a band plays prior to the changing of the guard at noon.
If you're there around 6pm, you can view the retiring of the flag and a little razzle-dazzle by the guards.
During the day, you can get a horse and carriage to take you around, but both the Palace and the Plaza are also very pretty at night.
Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor)

4) Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor) (must see)

What a better place to start a tour of Lima than the center of the city? Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor (“Main Square” in Spanish) is the place where Lima City was born in 1535, founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. It is also the spot from where Jose San Martin announced Peru’s independence from Spain in 1821. Importantly, Plaza de Armas is encircled by many monuments of historic importance, such as the Government Palace, the Municipal Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Palace of Union and the Cathedral of Lima.

A set of four avenues, namely – Jiron Carabajal, Jiron Union, Jiron Junin and Jiron Huallaga – frame the Plaza in a grid-like manner. Interestingly, after the conquest of the Incas, the King of Spain, Charles I, set forth regulations by which the cities should be built, which prescribed that the streets should follow a grid which frames the main square (or plaza) of a city.

In addition to these sights, you can also find several other buildings of historic interest in close vicinity of the Plaza. Among them are Casa del Oidor and the San Francisco Church. Both the Plaza and the surrounding area are breathing with history and are truly exciting to explore.

Why You Should Visit:
To see the history and culture of downtown Lima, inhale the ambiance, and take many pictures.
Terrific for people watching and a perfect place to start a tour of the city's historic areas.

Be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses to be able to see the details on the bright yellow buildings.
At noon at the Presidential Palace, there is the Changing of the Guard – really interesting to watch.
Check out a few places before buying expensive souvenirs, as many stores carry the same goods at varying prices. They'll try to sell you at the highest price – negotiate!
Santo Domingo Church & Convent

5) Santo Domingo Church & Convent (must see)

There are many places of historical value in Lima found in close proximity to each other. One such place, Plaza de Armas, is the central square of the city and provides access to some of the most important sites in the nation's history, including the Santo Domingo Church. The church stands in the northwest section of the Plaza, on the land donated by Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistador and the founder of Lima, to a Dominican friar, Vicente Valverde, in 1540. It is one of the oldest and most historically significant places of worship in the city. The architectural grandeur of Santo Domingo has drawn thousands of tourists from all parts of the globe over the years. The building has been renovated and modified numerous times and currently features a Baroque style.

The church has three naves, namely the Chapel of Rosary, the Chapel of Saint Rose and the Choir, all carved in cedar. Its main tower stands 60 meters tall, being one of the tallest in Lima. The church is considered a sacred place and houses the remains of Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Rose of Lima and San Juan Masias. The statue of Saint Rose, presented by Pope Clement X to Santo Domingo, is also here. The Church of Santo Domingo is a must visit for all religious aficionados!

Why You Should Visit:
Interesting tour with the Spanish/English-speaking guides, included in the ticket price for the convent.
The bell tower is a wonderful place to survey all of Lima and get a feel for the scope and extent of the modern city.
The grounds are beautifully kept along with all of the old artwork. There's also a library that is stunning if you like very old books in a wonderful setting.

Guides are available but they do take a lunch break so make sure you time your visit accordingly!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-1pm / 5-7:30pm
[Tower] Daily: 8:30am-5:30pm
Alameda Chabuca Granda

6) Alameda Chabuca Granda

Situated right behind the Government Palace, Alameda Chabuca Granda is a large pedestrian strip and vantage point stretching for two blocks along the Rimac River. The area is packed with street entertainers and snack vendors selling traditional Peruvian food at remarkably reasonable prices, and is completely safe and family-friendly until late at night. The area's signature attraction - red statue of a dancing woman - is in fact a monument to Chabuca Granda, famous Peruvian singer of the 20th century after whom it has been named. From here you can get a view of the old neighborhood of Rímac, San Cristóbal Hill, Desamparados Train Station, the Rayos del Sol Bridge, and a vast horizon of colonial mansions. In the 1990s, to replace the old market of Polvos Azules was built a new mall. Alameda Chabuca Granda is also home to three amphitheaters often staging local Creole music performances.
San Francisco Monastery

7) San Francisco Monastery (must see)

The San Francisco Monastery (Spanish: Convento de San Francisco) is a grand piece of architecture and a place of immense religious importance in Lima, much popular with foreigners and locals alike. Tourists usually get awestruck when they see the dome, the fascinating vault which has a half-spherical shape intricately carved in cedar. Complete with a church, the convent makes up the Lima Historic Center and was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1991. Within the complex are also the catacombs and the library.

Book lovers are in for an amazing experience at the huge library that contains nearly 25,000 tomes, including incunabulums and ancient manuscripts dating back to the 15th century. A descent into the catacombs will surely motivate the daring ones, enabling them to feel like the heroes of adventure movies. The convent's church reveres Jude the Apostle. Each year, during the Saint Jude festival, a procession of forty people carry a special silver stand that weights one and a half tonnes. Combined with the library, the church and the catacombs, the convent is bound to give you a truly fabulous experience.

The church inside the complex is free to tour around, but it is worth paying a little extra to go on the catacombs tour. There is an English and Spanish tour offered. You walk through the catacombs plus take a guided tour of the convent. Very interesting!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7-11am / 4-8pm
Plaza Bolivar

8) Plaza Bolivar

If you are fascinated with history and have a passion for historic places, then Plaza Bolivar in Lima is the right place for you. Previously known as Plaza de la Inquisición (Square of the Inquisition) and Plaza del Congreso (Congress Square), Plaza Bolivar is found in the downtown part of Lima, known as Barrios Altos. It lies two blocks away from Abancay Avenue and three blocks east of Plaza Mayor.

Presiding over the square is the Legislative Palace - the seat of the Peruvian Congress, - formerly the Inquisition Tribunal (Spanish: Tribunal del Santo Oficio). It is from here that the infamous Inquisition Tribunal operated up until 1813, under the reign of viceroys. Standing nearby is the Congreso de la República.

In 1859, the square assumed the name of Plaza Bolívar and had a replica of the Simón Bolívar monument, the original of which stands in Caracas, Bolivia, installed in the middle. Simon Bolivar played a key role in the history of South America, and is largely responsible for the liberation of five South American nations. Bolivar went down in history as a person of spirit, endurance, sacrifice and tremendous compassion for his fellow countrymen. Plaza Bolivar commemorates the great freedom fighter whose native country was Venezuela.

During the national holidays, Plaza Bolivar becomes the site of public gatherings and military parades. For the rest of the year, despite its historical and political significance, the square remains rather quiet and ideal a place for mental and physical relaxation under the lush canopy of the old trees.
Torre Tagle Palace

9) Torre Tagle Palace

The Torre Tagle Palace is a prominent Spanish Baroque mansion in downtown Lima, built in the 1730s. Today, the palace serves as the residence of Peruvian Foreign Affairs Minister and is heavily guarded by security forces armed with sophisticated weaponry and intensely monitoring the premises.

The palace boasts a nicely decorated façade with two elegant, dark color, wooden balconies done in a typical Lima style of architecture, wherein one balcony is bigger than the other. The building itself is a blend of styles, featuring colonial Spanish porch and patio, fine intricate wooden carvings on the pillars and across the ceilings - in keeping with Peruvian tradition, and the tiles showing a combination of Limeno and Moorish influences.

On the patio’s left hand corner is a set of scales that were used by merchants in the colonial period. Also on the premises is a beautiful, huge carriage of the sixteenth century. In the past, this palace was known to shelter outlaws as the law enforcement agents were not allowed in without a written and stamped authorization. Now that the system has changed, anyone can visit the palace and the best time for that is afternoon. You will simply adore this place, particularly if you have the passion for cultural flavors and architectural craftsmanship.
La Merced Church

10) La Merced Church (must see)

Iglesia La Merced is an 18th-century church in Lima, built in the so-called Churrigueresco style. The first church on this site was built in 1534 and housed the very first mass ever served in the city. The history of this place is the history of destruction and reconstruction. The original La Merced temple eventually proved too small for a growing community and had to be pulled down. The new, bigger church was built in its place in 1628. The year 1687 brought an earthquake in which it was destroyed and had to be rebuilt anew. About half a century later, in 1746, another, bigger earthquake damaged the church again and then in 1773, it was ravaged by fire. The current La Merced was completed in the late 1700s and has been noted since for its ornate Baroque and Colonial facade.

Tourists are awestruck by the beautiful architecture of the building. In addition to its intricate design, the church is grand with artwork, of which the most notable piece is the great altar honoring Virgin Mercedes, patron of the Peruvian armed forces. You can also see a huge collection of stunning paintings and colonial statues. Regardless of whether you're a history buff, an art lover or a passionate churchgoer, you will find a visit to this place well worth your while.

Why You Should Visit:
From the façade to the interior, every inch of this church is a work or art. All the altars try to out-do each other by their ornamentations and intricacies; each is different.

If the front door isn't open, go by the side door past the garden and to the underground.
This is an active church, so make sure you avoid mass times if you want to take photos.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-12pm / 5-8pm; Sun & Holidays: 7am-12pm / 5-8pm
Free admission
Plaza San Martín

11) Plaza San Martín (must see)

A very emotional place for many South Americans, and quite understandably so, the San Martín Square commemorates General José Francisco de San Martín who was the principal architect of the liberation of South American territories from Spanish control. The square was inaugurated in 1921 on the centenary of the declaration of independence of Peru in 1821. Placed in the center of the square is a mounted monument to General San Martín which was created by Catalan sculptor Mariano Benlliure.

The spacious square has recently undergone a renovation. Flanking it are several historic buildings, such as Club Nacional, a popular gathering place for the local elite, and Teatro Colón, one of the city's first theaters, built in 1914. Prior to the outset of the new millennium, the square had also been the home of the erstwhile elegant Hotel Bolivar.

The majority of the ancient buildings in the square bear similar Neocolonial and Baroque features which appear symmetrical and quite pleasing to the eye. In addition to its architectural splendor, Plaza San Martin is also known as a bustling and vibrant venue that lures tourists with a multitude of shops and restaurants located nearby. On rare occasions, the square becomes a site of political demonstrations.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the largest and most impressive squares in Lima, showing a great expression of French architecture.
Unlike the colonial architecture of Plaza de Armas, this plaza was built in the 1920s with all of the buildings faced in white stonework.

Be sure to look at the beautiful interiors of the Gran Hotel Bolivar which dominates one side of the plaza with its beautiful dome.
If you have a friend, try to get invited at least for a drink in the Club Nacional; it's THE private club in Lima and women still can't go in unescorted.
Francia Square

12) Francia Square

Francia Square's main highlight is the Recoleta Church. The church was built over a period of several different additions, and the various archaeological styles reflect the construction method. One may notice an example of French Gothic style, while another will cite Romanesque style. The church also is home to the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum of Natural History.
Plaza Grau

13) Plaza Grau

Plaza Grau was established in honor of the Pacific War hero and famous captain of the Navy - Admiral Miguel Grau. A statue and fountain pay homage to Grau in the middle of the square. Tourists can also visit the Justice Palace, Art Museum, and Naval Heroes Park from Plaza Grau.
Paseo Colon

14) Paseo Colon

Paseo Colon is an arterial road that runs across the downtown part of the Peruvian capital city. It was built in 1901 to address the needs of Lima's citizens who resided on the city’s outskirts. Under the presidentship of Nicolas de Pierola, the avenue was called 9 December, but later was renamed to Paseo Colon in keeping with its pedestrian nature.

Paseo Colon stretches from the West to the East of the city and comprised five blocks, linking Plaza Bolognesi with Plaza Grau. During the colonial period, the road lay at the southern edge of the town and was surrounded by a protective wall. At that time, the avenue was lined with beautiful old houses, yet the locals were tired of having too many classical buildings around and wanted more of French architecture in their midst to give the area a distinct look. Pursuant to this desire, four urns made of marble and four statues depicting seasons of the year were brought in from Plaza Mayor.

Over the years, several important additions, such as Parque de la Exposicion, Italian Art Museum and the National Art Museum, have been made around Paseo Colon. Tourists just need to stroll down the avenue and explore the many places of Peruvian art and culture on their way.

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