Where to stay in Lima: Best areas and neighborhoods

Where to stay in Lima
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Where to stay in Lima? The best areas to stay in Lima are Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. Before booking your accommodation learn about the best neighborhoods in Lima with its pros and cons.

Lima earned the nomenclature of “City of Kings” due to the fact that it was founded on the Catholic holy day of Epiphany: when the three kings were believed to have visited the baby Jesus. Now nearly 500 years old, Lima is a city that positively bleeds history, but it’s also Peru’s most modern marvel.

Home to more than eight million inhabitants, this is a city that’s lively, chaotic, and absolutely overflowing with things to do on any given day. The neighborhoods in Lima are distinct, offering enough variation to keep most visitors satisfied for years.

But whether you’re looking to stay in Lima for a short weekend or a few months, it’s important to prioritize what you want to do. There’s so much to see and do in the City of Kings that it can be utterly overwhelming to new visitors.

It’s home to both decadent street food and some of the best fine dining on the globe (Lima has two restaurants rated on the world’s top ten list). And while its ideal location right along of the Pacific makes it an ideal location for activities like surfing and paragliding, the city is equally notorious for its lively and cutting edge clubs and bars.

Historical landmarks like the sobering underground catacombs and the bizarre Museo Larco sit alongside compelling shopping destinations like the modern and gorgeous Larcomar outdoor mall and the bustling street market known as Bioferia.

And wherever you go, you’ll find plenty of beautiful buildings. Lima may be a modern city, but it wears its history on its sleeve, and its Spanish colonial architecture is some of the most gorgeous, opulent, and well preserved in all of the Americas.

Where to stay in Lima? Best areas to stay in Lima

Lima is an incredibly lively city, but that can be a hindrance when you’re trying to navigate its busy streets. Peru’s capital is notorious for its crowded roads and the aggressiveness of its drivers, so renting a car isn’t recommended for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with the city’s streets and its chaotic, impromptu rules of the road.

Getting around without a car can be equally intimidating. Rather than have rely on a public transit system, most Lima residents make use of a complicated ecosystem of private companies that consist of microbuses and taxis.

While the small vans known as combis can provide a cheap and effective way of getting around the city, getting where you need to go can have a pretty significant learning curve. There are two public transit options in the form of the Metropolitano Bus and the Metro train, but their access to Lima’s 43 districts is somewhat limited.

That’s why it’s so important to find somewhere to stay in Lima that’s central to where you want to be on a daily basis. While you’ll undoubtedly want to take transit to reach some areas in Lima, you want to be sure that your daily essentials are accessible by foot.

With that in mind, here are some of the best neighborhoods in Lima for visitors from abroad.

1. Miraflores

The density, traffic, and complexity of Lima ensures that most visitors from abroad will only end up seeing a few of its districts, but of all the areas in Lima, the one most popular where to stay in Lima with vacationers is likely Miraflores.

This is one of the most exclusive upper middle class neighborhoods in Lima, but it’s more than just stately homes and condos. It has also become the commercial heart of the city, stealing the title from the once prominent Centro district in the past few years.

It’s home to some of the most exclusive hotels in Lima, but it also houses a treasure trove of premium bars and restaurants. Compound that with the fact that there are plenty of shopping outlets in the area, and Miraflores becomes the top contender for best neighborhood in Lima.

While the streets of Miraflores are often quite congested, you should be able to reach anything you’d want in your day to day life on foot. Green space is prevalent in this neighborhood, and its close proximity to the shore makes it a great place to stay in Lima whether you’re looking to go parasailing or simply spend an afternoon lazing on the beach.

Those with the money to do so will want to set up camp as close to Kennedy Park as possible. As the social hub of Miraflores, it offers all of the shopping, dining, and nightlife you could want in a very compact area. It’s also a pleasant stretch of green space if you want to spend a lazy afternoon just people watching.

But as the most popular neighborhood in Lima for tourists and business travelers in the city, it also tends to be dominated by more expensive hotels. The superb infrastructure of this neighborhood means that most of the hotels are packed with amenities, and while there are a few cheaper options here, you’re unlikely to find much in the way of hostels or true budget options.

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2. Barranco

Miraflores may be the most popular place to stay in Lima for tourists, but that also lends the district a sense of artificiality. If you’re looking for something more colorful, lively, and tapped in to the artistic culture of the city’s residents, Barranco directly to the south is sure to scratch your itch. Once a quiet seaside village, it’s now become the most electric bohemian district in the city.

The hyper-modern sensibilities of Miraflores give way to more rugged and aging architecture as you head south, and what’s especially delightful about this neighborhood is how adeptly it blends modern sensibilities and classical tradition.

Aging colonial walls are decorated with colorful and innovative art from some of the best muralists in the country, and while Barranco is home to some of the oldest and most treasured landmarks in the city, it’s also increasingly becoming known for its art and nightlife. Cutting edge galleries and lively bars are abundant in Barranco.

The slower pace in Barranco means that it’s a great place for a leisurely stroll soaking up the culture, and its origins as a seaside village means that the beach is never too far away.

It’s also ideally situated. Miraflores directly to the north gives you access to some of the best high-end shopping and exclusive restaurants in the city, while a visit to nearby Chorrillos allows you to explore the natural majesty of the city’s swamps.

If Miraflores is the established spot for business travelers, older tourists, and families, Barranco is increasingly the place to be for the young, hip, and adventurous.

Lodgings are less abundant here (so you’ll likely want to book a place in advance), but there are a number of mid range hotels for your accommodation in Lima. Thrifty travelers will also find a decent variety of boutique hotels and hostels within Barranco.

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3. Historic Centre

The Historic Centre, also known as Lima Centro or Cercado de Lima, is a necessity to visit whether you’re looking to stay there or not. There’s no part of the city that better immerses you in its historical milieu.

During the colonial era, the Historic Centre was the seat of power for the colonial Viceroyalty, and while it may have been a dark time for many of the country’s indigenous peoples, the people of Peru have been diligent in preserving the stately architecture of this district.

This was once a place of tremendous wealth, and that’s clear through the opulence of the historical buildings that remain here. Over a half dozen traditional and immaculately preserved churches call the Historic Centre their home, and they have the weight and extravagance of classical cathedrals.

Then there are the majestic mansions which were once occupied by the most well heeled members of colonial occupation in Peru. You should also make time to visit the San Francisco: a massive complex that houses a worthwhile museum for religious artifacts.

The center of the district is also in close proximity to Barrio Chino – Lima’s take on Chinatown and the best place to enjoy the unique flavors of Chinese-Peruvian cuisine.

The Historic Centre is a little more quiet and stately than many of the other areas in Lima, and it understandably has a much more muted social scene and nightlife. It’s also considered a dangerous area at night, so hotels are understandably fewer and further between.

And while there’s a decent amount of choice that covers the difference from budget hostels to national hotel chains, you’ll have to hunt a little more to find lodgings that suit your needs. The central proximity of the Historic Centre might make it a tantalizing choice, but exercise caution in the evening if this is where you intend to stay in Lima.

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4. San Isidro

The upper class district of San Isidro is often seen as a sibling to neighboring Miraflores. These two neighborhoods in Lima have a lot in common, though San Isidro tends to be a little more upper crust than its neighbor.

That being said, the well-heeled Peruvians who call San Isidro home get a lot of value for the privilege of living here. It offers a class of art gallery that’s more respectable and mainstream than Barranco, and it also has one of the highest concentrations of fine dining restaurants and cafes in the city.

The nightlife here is the most elite around, featuring creative cocktail bars and exclusive social clubs, some of which date back to the days of colonial occupation. Luxury shopping is also plentiful, so this is a great place to stay in Lima if you’re looking to spend some money on top shelf items.

For many, the highlight of San Isidro is its density of green spaces. The parks here are truly phenomenal, but the real standout option here is the olive tree lined Bosque del Olivar. Then there’s the exclusive Lima Golf Club, a local institution that’s frequented by some of the biggest movers and shakers in Lima and Peru at large.

As you might have expected, there’s little to nothing in the way of hostels or even budget hotels in San Isidro. The hotel options are as exclusive as the housing, so if you’re looking to stay in this district, you can expect to pay a pretty penny.

But the luxury hotels in the neighborhood are ready to roll out the red carpet for anyone who’s willing to foot the bill. Just make sure that you come flush with cash, because everything’s more expensive in San Isidro.

In addition to being a high class neighborhood, it’s also the safest district in the entirety of Lima. If you are looking for an exclusive and safe district where to stay in Lima, San Isidro is an excellent choice.

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5. Pueblo Libre

The neighborhood of Pueblo Libre blends together a number of the best features of other areas in Lima, and it’s an ideal place to stay in Lima if you want a good cross section of everything this city has to offer.

Like Mariflores, it’s a relaxed residential district that’s safe to walk at all hours of the day, but it tends to be significantly less congested than that neighborhood’s crowded streets. Like the Centro district, it’s a place rich with historical importance.

The former home of Peruvian hero Simon Bolivar is readily accessible to the public and now hosts the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru. If you want a deeper look into the lives of the indigenous Peruvians that predated colonial occupation, you’ll find it at the Larco Museum.

But Pueblo Libre is more than just a time capsule into the country’s past. It’s also a neighborhood with a strong sense of community. The small town sensibilities of Pueblo Libre create an environment that feels outside of the city altogether, an illusion further complemented by the variety of colonial era buildings in the neighborhood.

This is a rooted community with residents that have often been here for generations, and some of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the city proudly call Pueblo Libre home.

It can be hard to find peace and solitude in the hectic streets of Lima, but Pueblo Libre is the perfect place for visitors who want to get away from the bustle of daily business and rowdy nightlife and meet the residents of the city on friendly terms.

That said, it can be a bit tricky to find a place to stay in Lima in Pueblo Libre. It’s a place that tourists often visit but where they rarely stay, so you’ll have to hunt around to find lodging. Your best option may be to rent a private residence through a resource like Airbnb.

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6. Callao

Despite being a part of the larger Lima metroplex, Callao is a city in its own right. It’s the main port of travel for Peru, home to both its largest seaport and its primary airport. That means you can get there easily upon your arrival, but if you want to explore everything Lima proper has to offer, you’ll have to make plans to travel. But you won’t find anything quite like Callao anywhere in Lima.

This city has the air of a beachside resort, and it’s a phenomenal location for travelers who want to get out and explore the natural beauty that Peru has to offer. Whether you’re looking to sprawl out on the beach or splash around in the water, the ocean is always within arms reach in Callao.

It’s also a city of historical importance. Real Felipe Fortress, which was used to repel pirates in the days of colonialism, is still intact and open for tours. And the variety of stunning plazas offer a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. Independence Plaza, Torre de la Merced Plaza, and Francisco Bolognesi Plaza are particular highlights.

If you want to explore everything that Lima has to offer, you likely won’t want to spend all of your time in Callao, but there are plenty of visitors who may want to spend some time here. It has a distinct feel from Lima proper, and all of the major historical landmarks can be visited in a brisk afternoon.

It’s also an ideal launching pad for adventures out into the natural habitats of Peru. Just don’t expect it to be the central hub for your explorations of Lima. Since Callao is a distinct city with its own economy and infrastructure, there’s a wide array of places to stay that range from luxury hotels to eminently cheap hostels.

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7. Santiago de Surco

The district of Santiago de Surco is more suburban sprawl than inner city district. As one of the latest districts in the city to be developed, it’s both significantly larger and significantly less dense than many of the other areas in Lima.

While there’s a decent range of socio-economic levels in Surco (as one would expect for such an expansive stretch of land), the populace here tends towards the upper crust. Both the United States embassy and a number of the more prestigious colleges in Lima are here, and it’s also an area with a great abundance of shopping malls.

There are a lot of green spaces as well. Parque de la Amistad is a particular standout due to its breathtaking Moroccan arch and the variety of activities for children. This is an area also known for its vineyards, and the Plaza de Armas de Surco hosts a winemaking festival every year.

Santiago de Surco isn’t a common place for tourists to visit. Most of the district is residential, and there are few if any hotels or hostels to be found here. But that doesn’t mean that it’s closed off to visitors entirely.

If you really want to isolate yourself from the hustle and bustle of the city and really just catch some rest and relaxation, you can always check online at sites like Airbnb for rentals. Just bear in mind that you’ll be largely sequestered away from some of the more walkable and historic parts of the city. This is essentially the ‘burbs of Lima, and you can expect to find the sort of lifestyle, amenities, and accessibility that denotes.

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8. San Miguel

Located just to the south of the downtown district and to the west of Pueblo Libre is the quiet district of San Miguel. While this area was once a major entertainment district for the city, in large part due to the fact that it abuts the beach, it’s now a sleepier residential district.

The unique topography of San Miguel results in a climate that’s distinct from the rest of the city. In San Miguel you can expect cooler temperatures, higher winds, and cloudier skies. But that same topography is one of the big selling points for this area.

While there’s plenty of urban space within the district, it’s most notable for its beautiful green spaces. And while many of these are traditional parks and squares, San Miguel is also home to the Parque de las Leyendas, or Park of Legends. While it’s ostensibly a zoo, it’s in reality a whole lot more. The park itself is located within a preserved ancient city dating back to pre-colonial times known as the Archaeological Complex of Maranga.

San Miguel is a squarely middle class district, so if you’re looking for a quieter residential area to stay in Lima, but Santiago de Surco is a little outside of your price range, this neighborhood may fit the bill comfortably.

But the same rules apply. There isn’t much in the way of hostels or hotels in this area, so you’ll absolutely have to do your research. Chances are that the only opportunity you’ll have for lodgings in San Miguel will be a house, condo, or apartment rental.

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This is our list of the best areas to stay in Lima. Read also:  Where to stay in Cusco, where to stay in Santiago de Chile, where to stay in Panama City, where to stay in Havana

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