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The Lowdown: Lima

Gorge yourself on the sensual pleasures the city has to offer, from its colonial architecture to innovative cuisine, says Zoe McIntyre

 

Once a mere stopover en route to Machu Picchu, Lima has become an unmissable part of any Peru itinerary, with its tantalizing feast of cultural and culinary delights to satisfy even the most voracious wanderlust. Perched on cliffs overlooking the rolling Pacific, the Peruvian capital was, for centuries, the most important city of the Spanish viceroyalty and its colonial center boasts sweeping avenues, grand palaces and baroque churches that bear UNESCO’s stamp of approval. These days, Lima’s beating heart is found in several southern suburbs: there’s the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, known for its belle époque villas and trendy art galleries, while Miraflores is all green parks and cliff-edge bars where the young and beautiful sip tangy pisco sours. Of course, all this is outshone by the city’s real showstopper — its gastronomy. As the thriving hub of Peru’s food revolution, Lima flourishes with an ever-increasing choice of sophisticated restaurants in which lauded chefs experiment with extraordinary ingredients from the country’s waters, mountains and jungle. Add to this a vibrant street food scene and interesting fusion cuisine and it’s easy to understand why travelers flock to Lima just for a bite to eat. In fact, more than 545,000 U.S. travelers reached the city in 2015 — a six percent increase on the previous year. No doubt this trend will only continue as the city’s charms become fully realized.

Eat

Central Take a tour of Peru’s culinary biodiversity at this chart-topping restaurant helmed by illustrious chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz, who organizes his elaborate 11- or 17-course tasting menus around ecosystems. With molecular precision, each dish calls on an inexhaustible array of native ingredients, from ceviche of local langoustine to sauces made with Andean purple corn. In late 2017, the restaurant will relocate from its Miraflores location to a former factory in Barranco in what will surely be the city’s hottest new opening. centralrestaurante.com.pe

Ámaz This pioneering restaurant dedicated to the flavors of the Peruvian Amazon will surprise even the most discerning gastronomes, with its exotic jungle delicacies, from giant river snails stewed with spicy chili to sweet-and-sour sauce made from the fruit of the camu camu tree. The setting is suitably tropical, with bar stools carved from Amazonian trunks and tribal-looking tableware. The affable servers are more than happy to explain any unfamiliar recipes to puzzled customers. amaz.com.pe

Canta Rana For a more rustic dining affair, join boisterous locals at this decades-old cevicheria famed for its generous portions and amazing array of ceviche (fresh fish marinated in citrus juice), tiradito (the Peruvian take on sashimi) and other seafood specialties. Occupying a colorfully painted house in the Barranco neighborhood, the perennially popular haunt oozes an atmosphere that feels totally authentic, with walls plastered in football memorabilia, flags and old photos. Phone only +51 1 2477274

 

Sleep

Arts Boutique Hotel B Occupying a two-story belle époque mansion in the heart of the Barranco district, this intimate 17-suite bolthole marries old-world elegance with bohemian spirit. Beyond its meringue-white columned façade, opulent interiors are all soaring ceilings and polished checkboard floors, dripping in exotic wood furnishings and eclectic art. Breakfast is served in the elegant library and there’s a buzzy restaurant frequented by well-heeled locals, but the best spot is the guest-only roof terrace for cocktails with a sea view. hotelb.pe

Second Home Even from the Bavarian-style exterior, it’s clear there’s something original about this whimsical guesthouse which was formerly the home of famous Peruvian painter Victor Delfín. His sculpted ironworks are scattered around the pretty gardens and outdoor pool, with more on show in the on-site art gallery and studio. The eight light-filled bedrooms divided between the main building and an ocean-facing annex each boast their own quirks, from claw-foot bath tubs to polished wooden balconies. secondhomeperu.com

Belmond Miraflores Park Ideally positioned along the oceanfront of the fashionable Miraflores district, this upscale high-rise hotel is a stone’s throw from the Larcomar shopping center, the leafy Kennedy Park and many of the city’s best dining spots. Its 89 smart suites have either ocean or city views, while its top facilities include a rooftop infinity pool and relaxing spa. There’s also a trendy bar and a glass-fronted restaurant on the 11th floor where faultless service befits its international clientele. belmond.com/miraflores-park-lima

See

Museo Larco Peru’s fascinating pre-Colombian past is on show at this superb private museum that houses a mind-boggling collection of artefacts spanning more than 5,000 years of history. Displayed in a stately mansion, the exhibits cover everything from ancient Incan crafts to eyebrow-raising erotic pottery, as well as elaborate golds and exquisite tapestries. Don’t miss the Sacrifice Ceremony room detailing gory blood-spilling rituals of the Moche civilization, before stopping at the smart café-restaurant set in lush tropical gardens. museolarco.org

Parque de la Reserva Spend a memorable evening at this newly renovated park, much loved by locals for its Circuito Mágico del Agua (Magic Water Tour), a marvelous assemblage of 13 colorful fountains that shoot water up to 80 meters into the air. Take a walk through its Túnel de Sorpresas (Tunnel of Surprises) or vist
at sundown for the Fuente de la Fantasía spectacle, when the fountains dance to choreographed music and lights. Open Tue-Sun. circuitomagicodelagua.com.pe

Monasterio de San Francisco Downtown Lima is replete with colonial architecture, but the best preserved is this Franciscan church and monastery whose frescoed interiors are majestically adorned in Moorish-style tiles and gilded altars. Its superb library contains 25,000 ancient texts but most visitors head straight for the spooky subterranean catacombs that contain the remains of some 70,000 bodies, arranged to decorate the walls in strange and macabre skeletal and cranial patterns. museocatacumbas.com

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