Lima Introduction Walking Tour, Lima

Lima Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Lima

Lima, the capital of Peru, is a huge, thriving metropolis and one of South America’s largest cities; it was 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 Plaza de Armas – the city's main square, as well as numerous Baroque and Renaissance cathedrals, colonial mansions, palaces and other historic sites.

In the pre-Columbian era, what is now Lima was inhabited by indigenous groups, incorporated into the Inca Empire in the 15th century. A famous ancient temple existed on the territory prior to the Inca occupation, and later destroyed by the Spanish, came to be known by visitors as Limaq. Eventually it lent its name to the whole area. The word "Lima" is believed to be the Spanish pronunciation of that name.

The city gained prestige after being designated capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1543. During the next century it flourished as the center of an extensive trade network that integrated the Viceroyalty with the rest of the Americas, Europe and the Far East. After independence, in the early 19th century, Lima became the capital of the Republic of Peru. In the 1940s the city enjoyed a period of rapid growth spurred by migration from the Andean region.

The local architecture offers a mix of styles, starting from the early colonial style manifested in the Cathedral and Monastery of San Francisco, the Cathedral of Lima, the Convent of Santo Domingo and other locations, influenced by Spanish Baroque, which gradually shifted towards Neoclassical and Art Nouveau designs. In 1988, the Historic Center of Lima was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site.

The city is also known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas, mixing Spanish, Andean and Asian culinary traditions. Lima's Central Market is the best place to commence exploring the colorful local food scene. Here you can buy just about anything: live chickens, fresh fruits and vegetables, hanging meat – from rabbits to guinea pigs to the whole pigs, freshly caught fish and seafood, spices, and other groceries of all kinds. The onsite little food stands serve simple, but fresh and delicious, authentic menu.

If you wish to get a closer acquaintance with the historic and modern Peruvian capital, at your own pace and in your good time, embark on this self-guided introductory walk and enjoy yourself!
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Lima Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Lima Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Peru » Lima (See other walking tours in Lima)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza de Armas (Main Square)
  • Cathedral of Lima
  • Casa del Oidor (House of Oidor)
  • Government Palace
  • Santo Domingo Church & Convent
  • Casa de Aliaga Historic House
  • Alameda Chabuca Granda Vantage Point
  • Basilica and Convent of San Francisco
  • Plaza Bolivar (Bolivar Square)
  • Inquisition Museum
  • Central Market
Plaza de Armas (Main Square)

1) Plaza de Armas (Main Square) (must see)

What a better place to start a tour of Lima than the center of the city? Main Square 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, Main Square 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 square 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. They prescribed that the streets should follow a grid which frames the main square of a city.

In addition to these sights, you can also find several other buildings of historic interest in close vicinity of the square. Among them are Casa del Oidor and the San Francisco Church. Both the square 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. It is also a perfect place to start your 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!
Cathedral of Lima

2) 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 Main Square, 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).
Casa del Oidor (House of Oidor)

3) Casa del Oidor (House of 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 house that 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 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

4) Government Palace

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 Main Square. 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.
Santo Domingo Church & Convent

5) Santo Domingo Church & Convent (must see)

Santo Domingo Church stands in the northwest section of the main square, 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 and therefore is a wonderful place to survey all of Lima and get a feel for the scope and extent of the modern city. 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 chapter house of the Santo Domingo Church was the place where the University of San Marcos, the first Peruvian university and the oldest university in the Americas, was founded in the 16th century. There's also a library that is stunning if you like very old books in a wonderful setting.

Why You Should Visit:
Santo Domingo Church is one of the most important historical landmarks in Lima and a must visit for all religious aficionados!

Interesting tour with the Spanish/English-speaking guides is included in the ticket price for the convent.
Casa de Aliaga Historic House

6) Casa de Aliaga Historic House

In 1535, Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, designating the Plaza Mayor as the central square and laying the cathedral's foundation stone. He granted land, including the Casa de Aliaga, which still stands. Don Jerónimo de Aliaga received this land next to the palace. Both the Government Palace and Casa de Aliaga are built on a Huaca dedicated to Taulichusco. Casa de Aliaga is as old as Lima, believed to be South America's oldest inhabited house, owned by the same family for 17 generations. The house blends various architectural styles due to earthquake repairs and renovations over the centuries.

Externally, the house may seem modest among neighboring buildings, but its historic wooden balconies hint at the family's wealth. Inside, colonial-style decor, Spanish wall tiles, and a marble staircase with a wooden railing await. The collection includes colonial art, like paintings, statues, and Jerónimo de Aliaga's conquistador sword. A charming courtyard boasts a detailed wrought iron fountain.

Casa de Aliaga operates as a private family museum, open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm for a 30 soles admission fee. Advance reservations are essential via the museum's website, where you can also arrange official guides. Thursdays offer a unique dining experience, with owner Jerónimo de Aliaga preparing lunch in the historic mansion. Though a bit pricey, it's a rare chance to savor exceptional cuisine in this old mansion. Conveniently located near the old city center, it's accessible on foot or by bus to Jirón de la Unión stop.
Alameda Chabuca Granda Vantage Point

7) Alameda Chabuca Granda Vantage Point

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, a new mall was built to replace the old market of Polvos Azules. Alameda Chabuca Granda is also home to three amphitheaters often staging local Creole music performances.
Basilica and Convent of San Francisco

8) Basilica and Convent of San Francisco (must see)

The Basilica and Convent of 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. 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, this place 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!
Plaza Bolivar (Bolivar Square)

9) Plaza Bolivar (Bolivar Square)

If you are fascinated with history and have a passion for historic places, then Bolivar Square in Lima is the right place for you. Previously known as the Inquisition Square and Congress Square, Bolivar Square 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 Main Square.

Presiding over the square is the Legislative Palace - the seat of the Peruvian Congress, - formerly the Inquisition Tribunal. It is from here that the infamous Inquisition Tribunal operated up until 1813 under the reign of viceroys.

In 1859, the square assumed the name of Bolivar Square and had a replica of the Simon Bolivar monument 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 that include Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Bolivar went down in history as a person of spirit, endurance, sacrifice and tremendous compassion for his fellow countrymen. Bolivar Square commemorates the great freedom fighter in South America.

During the national holidays, Bolivar Square 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 an excellent place for relaxation under the lush canopy of the old trees.
Inquisition Museum

10) Inquisition Museum

The Inquisition Museum is one of the best maintained and most often visited museums in Peru. It sits on Bolivar Square and is housed in the old building of the Peruvian Congress and National Senate. The building is now considered a site of national importance and was first opened to the public on July 26th 1968.

It was from here that the Spanish Inquisition was run between 1570 and 1820. The Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century sought to eradicate blasphemy and heresy, pursuant to which objective it used to have the suspects of such deeds brought here for torture that took place in the basement. The Inquisition targeted, in particular, Spanish Jews who were often accused of secret dealings.

Today, visitors can see the dungeons where the prisoners were held and the life-size wax models graphically depicting the acts of the torture that the victims had to endure. Some visitors may find such sight quite disturbing and sending shivers down one's spine! However, the museum is a sure must for history lovers.

In addition to paying homage to the Peruvian Congress, the museum missions to preserve and to pass down to future generations the historical and cultural richness of the nation. The artifacts exhibited here highlight the importance and the impact that the Inquisition has had on the Peruvian history.
Central Market

11) Central Market

Central Market, known locally as Mercado Central, is located east of Abancay Avenue. The market fills an entire city block with stalls that sell fruit, meat, seafood or ready made meals. Visitors can also buy clothing, toys, kitchenware, books and other souvenirs.

Central Market is a popular place for locals to buy affordable food. Therefore, it is almost always bustling with activity. Visitors can plan to shop while they are at Central Market or they can simply enjoy a glimpse into the life of shopping with local Lima residents.

Central Market is located in the midst of shopping opportunities, but that's not all tourists will find in this area. The Plaza Castaneta park is nearby, as is the historic Convento Santa Rosa de las Monjas. It is also a short walk to the Santo Tomás Church and the Museum of the Inquisition and Congress.

The market is open daily from 7 AM to 9 PM.

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