A sprawling metropolis, Lima is home to nearly a third of the Peruvian population. The capital of Peru, Lima is also the fourth largest city in the Americas following only Sao Paulo, New York City and Mexico city in population size.

Though many tourists solely pass through Lima on their way to Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the surrounding regions, those who smartly chose to explore the capital will not be disappointed. Bustling with museums, parks, beaches, shopping, restaurants and nightlife as well as a lively local community, Lima is a city with something for everyone to enjoy.

night shopping in Lima, Peru

locals dining at popular La Mar restaurant in Lima, Peru

Closer to the city center, Lima has colonial architecture housing many art and history museums, including the city's renowned duo, the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antroplogía, e Historía del Peru and Museo de la Nación. The city boasts the magnificent Plaza de Armas and the grand buildings that line the squares perimeter. The Government Palace, City Hall, Cathedral, Archbishop's Palace and Club de la Union building all guard the plaza's famed 17th bronze fountain. The ornately designed Cathedral is a destination in it's own right. The structure houses numerous masterpieces of the 17th and 18th centuries in its Museum of Religious Arts and Treasures. Another religious institution not to be missed is the San Francisco Church. Dating back to 1620, the Baroque and Neoclassical interior is assured to stun every visitor. The real draw to the church, however, lies in the bowels of the building. There tourists will find Lima's infamous and creepy catacombs. Additionally, the Gold Museum of Peru houses an impressive collection of, as the name suggests, all things ancient and gold.

Lima itself is a very old city and discoveries of Incan heritage are not limited to the boundaries of museum walls. Like many Peruvian cities, Francisco Pizarro founded Lima as a Spanish colony in the mid-sixteenth century. Already home to a sizeable Inca city, Pizarro was so impressed that he dubbed Lima "The City of Kings". Huaca Pucallana in Miraflores is an enormous Incan adobe mound and just outside city limits, Pachacamac and Caral are important pre-Hispanic archeological sites.

As a Spanish colony, Lima became an important port city and trade center for the entire southern hemisphere. From Lima, ships sailed to the Far East, Europe and to ports across the Americas. Today, the influence of these cultures, especially those of the Far East is still felt across the city. A sizeable Chinatown is an interesting and unexpected stop in the South American capital.

Chifa stalls mingle on Lima's streets with the best cevicherias and restaurants showcasing traditional Incan cuisine and highlighting local ingredients. Known as the "gastronomic capital" of the Americas, Lima hosts a bevy of flavors that fuse together into a uniquely Peruvian palate.

More than culture, Lima offers the opportunity to experience nature and adventure. Encompassing the upper Canete River Valley, the North Yauyos Cochas Scenic Reserve is overflowing with waterfalls, lagoons, dense forest and abundant wildlife. For adventure fanatics, the area boasts ample opportunities for river rafting and fishing. Surfing is a wildly popular sport in Lima. With its location directly abutting the Pacific Ocean, Lima has been host to numerous international and national competitions. Paragliding is an increasingly prevalent option for those wanting to experience the Costa Verde from above.

The summer months of January, February and March are the best time to visit Lima, because the weather is warm and clear. During these months, the city's beaches become the most popular attractions.