Barranco Street Art 2 1 One Day in Lima on a Budget: How to Enjoy Lima in 24 Hours Without Breaking the Bank
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One Day in Lima on a Budget: How to Enjoy Lima in 24 Hours Without Breaking the Bank

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The city of Lima is one of the largest cities in South America. With a rich history dating back to the 1500s, there is so much to see and do in this bustling metropolis. If you only have time for one day in Lima, you need to make the most of it and pack in as much as possible!

We visited Lima as part of our Van Life Peru adventure. However, we didn’t stay long, selecting the absolute best things to do in the city before continuing north along the coast.

From exploring different barrios (neighborhoods) to cultural experiences and of course, sampling some of the delicious Peruvian food, we have crafted the perfect Lima one day itinerary to make sure you get an authentic and affordable experience discovering Lima in 24 hours.

How to Get From the Airport to the City Center of Lima

If you are visiting Lima on a stopover and travelling from the airport to the city, it’s easy to reach the center. To make the most of your one-day trip in Lima and to stay on a budget, I recommend taking the Lima Airport Express. The Lima Airport Express offers a direct route to Lima’s San Isidro and Miraflores districts. Located just outside baggage claim, you can purchase your ticket right inside the airport for only USD $8 each way. Each bus is comfortable and equipped with air conditioning, charging stations, and WIFI.

How to Get Around Lima

You probably aren’t going to want to spend all of your time in one district in Lima. Luckily, Lima has an excellent public transportation system, the Metropolitano, that will connect you to plenty of great attractions, and it is pretty easy to use.

To ride the Metropolitano, you need a transit card. You can either purchase one at one of the stations OR you can simply ask someone who is passing through with you to add funds on their card (that you supply) to allow you to pass. It is marginally cheaper than buying a card that you will not use, however, it will save you the headache of trying to figure out how to actually purchase the card.

We took public transportation twice and never had any issues finding a helpful local to load money onto their card for us and buzz us in.

What to Do in Lima Peru in One Day

Our list of things to do in Lima may keep you busy for one day, or maybe it is a bit too much to see all in one day, depending on how fast or slow you like to travel. And that’s the beauty of it. You can pick and choose what to do in one day in Lima to suit your travel style.

This itinerary aims to pack in as much as possible in one day before you head off to catch a plane to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu or another great destination in Peru!

7:00 AM | Head to the Beach for a Surf

A great way to start the day, Lima is renowned for its surfable wave and sheer number of surf schools. The beach just below the Miraflores Promenade is full of surfboard rental stands and surf instructors, so if you want to start your day with a surf, no matter your experience you won’t have any trouble finding just what you need here.

9:30 AM | Grab a Sandwich at La Lucha Sanguchería

There is a lot to see and do in just one day in Lima Peru, so an on-the-go breakfast is just what you need.

Before you set off for your morning walk along the Miraflores promenade, head over to La Lucha Sanguchería. There are several locations throughout Lima (and even in other cities in Peru), so you are bound to find one nearby. And if you are staying in Miraflores, there is one in the center of the district near Parque Kennedy and one at the Larcomar Mall along the promenade.

And why should you ditch your typical breakfast for a delicious sandwich you might ask? It is because La Lucha Sanguchería may be the best sandwich in South America. Period. The signature sandwich is amazing. Thinly cut steak. Carmelized onions. Melted cheese. Freshly baked bread. Need I go on??? It is absolutely to die for and I am craving one now as I write this! Trust me on this one, there is a reason why there are so many reviews on Google!

Bonus: There is even a La Lucha Sanguchería in the Lima airport if you skip them in the city center!

8:30 | Stroll Along the Miraflores Promenade (or Malecon)

sunset parque chino
Parque Chino on the Miraflores promenade

After your breakfast, start your morning off right with a stroll along the stunning Miraflores promenade which is easily one of the best things to do in Lima. The promenade is set high on the cliffs of the Miraflores district overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Because of its stunning views, the Miraflores boardwalk is always full of locals and tourists alike. From cyclists to skateboarders to runners to paragliders, the promenade is always full of life!

For a unique view of the area, consider a Paragliding Experience in Miraflores District in Lima. Affordable and highly rated, Travel Adventures Peru offers scenic flights over the Costa Verde for just $75 USD.

The Miraflores is also home to some of Lima’s most famous sights such as the Faro la Marina (lighthouse) at the north, Parque de Amor (the park of love) with the famous El Beso (the kiss) statue, and the glamorous Larcomar Mall.

The Larcomar Mall is a popular location drawing local and international visitors alike. With trendy restaurants, shops, a cinema, a bowling alley and more, you can easily spend a couple of hours here if you like, however, the Larcomar Mall lacks a true Peruvian feel.

10:00 AM | Head to Barranco in Search of Street Art

Street art of a boy with his face in the shape of a heart in his hand and a bird in the outline of the hear where his face is.
Exploring the street art is one of the best things to do in Lima

It’s now time to switch districts and head over to Barranco. The district of Barranco has become the home to the hippy, artistic Peruvians. Here you will find trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes. And amongst these establishments, you will find a collection of fascinating street art, particularly near one of the district’s most famed attractions the Bridge of Sighs.

One could easily spend hours wandering around this vibrant neighborhood, but as it is only a one day trip in Lima, you will have to keep moving onwards.

11:00 AM | Grab a Coffee in an Old Train at Cafe Cultural Restaurant Expreso Virgen de Guadalupe

A boy sits at a desk working on a computer at a cafe in Lima, Peru
Working from inside the Cafe Express Virgin de Guadalupe on a one day trip in Lima

If your feet are tired (or “if your dogs are barking” as my dad used to say) from all of the walking, then stop in at the Cafe Express Virgin de Guadalupe in Barranco for a cup of coffee. This cafe may not have the best coffee in the area or be the trendiest, but it might be the most original! Set in an old locomotive, this unique cafe is the perfect photo op for all of those Instagram followers you have out there!

The Cafe Cultural Restaurant Expreso Virgen de Guadalupe is no longer open, but there are heaps of other options to sample Peruvian coffee culture including:

1:00 PM | Eat a Second Lunch of Ceviche in Surquillo

Sliced Vegetables in White Ceramic Bowl
No one day trip in Lima is complete without tasting delicious Peruvian ceviche!

To be honest, we spent more than a one day trip in Lima as we drove through the city on the way north to Colombia and back down south to Chile. But the main reason that I am telling you this is because I cannot pick just one ceviche restaurant for you to try! They are all just so good, so you can decide based on where you are where to have ceviche (or maybe even choose a place that we do not recommend), but if you do one thing… eat ceviche in Surquillo!

Cevichería Bam Bam Y Sus Conchas Negras

If you are looking for a more traditional restaurant, but still would like to keep it somewhat local, head over to Cevichería Bam Bam Y Sus Conchas Negras. Located in the Surquillo district of Lima, this restaurant is an excellent option for ceviche in Lima. Packed full of locals and a handful of knowledgeable tourists, I knew immediately that we had landed the jack pot. Try the sampler platter which includes four different types of traditional Peruvian dishes which included a traditional ceviche, leche de tiger, chicharron (fried fish), and arroz can mariscos (or rice with seafood).

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Mercado de Surquillo

Another great ceviche in Lima option that is 100% local is the Mercado de Surquillo. We don’t always recommend eating lunch in a market given that eating at the San Blas Market in Cusco left Eddie sick for days, but the Mercado de Surquillo is an exception. Grab a table inside at one of the ceviche stands, it really doesn’t matter which one, and order up! Some of the freshest ceviche that we had in our entire time in Peru!

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Al Toke Pez

Last but not least, we recommend trying the ceviche from Al Toke Pez. A ten seater hole in the wall, it is difficult to grab a table. But when you do, you will realize that it was worth the wait. Watch the chef prepare your ceviche right in front of you and admire the simplicity and deliciousness of this Peruvian dish!

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3:00 PM | Embark on a Walking Tour of the Historic City Center

Now it is time to change directions and head north to the historic city center as you seek to make the most of your one day in Lima. We find free walking tours to be one of the best ways to learn about the history and development of the city. And a free walking tour of the historic city center is no exception and is easily one of the best things to do in Lima.

Start your Lima free walking tour at the La Merced Church. The tour will take you pass the Plaza de Arms in Lima known as the birthplace of Lima before heading over to the Presidential Palace and Cathedral of Lima. You will visit sights such as the House of Peruvian Literature, Santo Domingo Church and the San Francisco Church.

Free walking tours are available each day with the exception of Sundays and there are a wide array of operators with a variety of time options available.

6:00 PM | Grab Dinner in Chinatown

As your last meal to complete your one day in Lima, head over to Chinatown. In the 1900s, there was an influx of Chinese immigrants to Peru who brought with them the traditions of the Chinese people, particularly with food. Unable to find all of their traditional ingredients, the Chinese turned to the local produce resulting in what Peruvians now know and love as Chifa.

Chifa can be found throughout Peru, however, some of the best restaurants are located in the historic Chinatown. We recommend going hungry as there are so many great dishes to try and the portions are large.

8:15 PM | Catch a Show at the Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit)

Fountains colored in pink and purple against the night sky at the Circuito Magico del Agua a staple on any one day trip in Lima
Do not miss this colorful display on your one day trip in Lima!

Every night at the Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit), there is a light show, the Fuente de la Fantasía Water Show. The Fuente de la Fantasía Water Show was one of the most elaborate fountain light shows that I have ever seen. A water show, a light show and a 3D movie clip about the history and culture of Peru. It is defintely one of the best things to do in Lima, even for adults!

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9:00 PM | Experience Peruvian Culture and Tradition at a Peña

Two Peruvians dancing at the pena of Don Porfirio, one of the best things to see on a one day trip in Lima
The traditional dance at the pena Don Porfirio

If you have enjoyed every one of the things on our list to do on a one day trip in Lima, then you may be tired by now. But if you can hold out, you will be in for a real treat.

The last thing we recommend for you to do to round out your complete one day trip in Lima is to go to a peña. A peña is a bar and restaurant with a house band that plays traditional folk music with traditional folk dancing. It is a place where locals come to enjoy good food, good booze, and great company. It is at the heart of the Peruvian nightlife and an experience that anyone visiting Lima should partake in. The most popular and well-known peña bar is Peña Don Porfirio located in Barranco.

When a restaurant and bar can have its doors open only one night a week from the hours of 9:00 pm – 3:00 am, you know it is a good thing. So make sure not to miss a cultural and entertaining evening at Peña Don Porfirio!

A peña is also a great place to try the Peruvian national drink, the pisco sour!

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Where to Stay in Lima

If you are only going to be on a one day trip in Lima, you should treat yourself right? My mother and I stayed at Casa Azul in Miraflores only a stone throw away from the lighthouse along the Miraflores promenade. A lovely home converted into private rooms, each includes a small kitchenette, comfortable beds, and friendly staff. It is a great home away from home experience.

We realize Casa Azul may not be entirely “budget-friendly”, but there are countless of places to stay in Lima particular in the Miraflores and Barranco districts which are the two disticts we recommend. Check out what’s available in the map below!

Our one day trip in Lima itinerary may seem like a lot, but there are so many great things to do in Lima! And even if you do not manage to see or do all the things that we recommend, you are sure to have a great time in this stunning coastal town.

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