Lima is a wonderful city with a huge variety of experiences for both the seasoned traveller or the first time visitor to Latin America. However, if you stay in Miraflores and Barranco, you’ll never see all it has to offer. Here are five of my local favorite spots, off the tourist path, that my Peruvian friends have shown me.
Clothes Shopping in Gamarra
Gamarra is a huge, several block mashup of shopping mall and street market in the center of Lima’s La Victoria district. Although this is a very crowded, and somewhat dangerous area at night, if you go during the morning or early afternoon, you will miss most of the crowds and the thieves that hide in them, and most of the stalls and shops will be open. Here you can find all kinds of high quality clothing, both knockoff American brands and local brands made with care and diligence, often nearby. Prices are reliably much lower than in normal malls and clothing stores, even in Peru, and the goods are as high quality as any.
The best way to reach Gamarra is by taking Lima Metro, the Electric Train, which has a stop right next to the Gamarra complex.
Tacos at El Amigo
What El Amigo calls “Tacos” are not tacos at all, but they are still one of the most delicious cheap meals I’ve had in Peru. Built much more like a loose, bowl shaped burrito, with a soft flour tortilla wrapped around beans, vegetables and your choice of meat, with a generous helping of whatever condiments you want. The chorizo is an amazing, if a little more mild than the more common mexican variety. El Amigo also serves a variety of sandwiches and burgers, which match the quality of their amazing tacos.
El Amigo is located two blocks north of Parque Mariscal Castilla on Tupac Amaru, across from Mercado Risso N⁰ 2.
Sushi at Centolla Restaurante
For something fancier, head to Centolla Restaurante in Jesús María. Despite not having the most Japanese name, Centolla serves excellent sushi at excellent prices, and the bartender makes a mean pisco or maracuya sour. They have an excellent all-you-can-eat deal on Sushi, S/. 40 for as much sushi as you want and can eat. With a huge variety of rolls, there is something interesting for every sushi lover. The restaurant also has an amazing ambiance, with fish tanks, a Japanese style bar, and fanciful restrooms.
Centolla Restaurante is located at Avenida José Arnaldo Márquez 1629 in Jesús María, two blocks down from the intersection of Avenida Brasil and Avenida Simón Bolívar.
Book Shopping in Quilca
Latin American literature and poetry has always been one of my passions, and one of the driving forces behind me learning Spanish and coming to visit South America. If you are also an avid reader, and can handle reading in Spanish, Quilca is practically heaven. It is full of small used book stores, selling everything from massive encyclopedias to local zines, political manifestos to self help books, and classic works of literature to obscure comics, and few items cost more than S/. 20. There are also stands and shops that sell various antique toys, discarded photographs, and old coins. At night Quilca come alive as a popular nightlife and music spot for Lima’s bohemian punk and indie crowd.
Quilca is a street of three blocks running between and connection Avenida Alfonso Ugarte and Avenida Wilson, about four blocks Southeast of Lima’s historic center.
Chifa Dragón de Oro
Dragón de Oro is a chifa (peruvian chinese restaurant) in Lince run by a recent immigrant from Southern China. Though it’s not well known outside of its neighborhood, Dragón de Oro is one of the best and most authentic chifas in Lima. The owner, Pakuy, is quite friendly and talkative, and the vibe is usually very quiet and relaxed. Dragón de Oro does both takeout and eat in, and is great for late night dining Peruvian style.
Chifa Dragón de Oro is located at the intersection of Jirón Sinchi Roca and Avenida César Canevaro, with a large sign you can’t miss
The best way to get into Lima from the airport is with the official airport bus, Airport Express Lima. Airport Express Lima is cheaper, safer and much more comfortable than a taxi. It has reclining seats, an onboard restroom, free wifi, and usb chargers in each seat. With six stops in Miraflores, each at a major hostel and hotel area, it is also the most convenient way of getting into town.
The best way to explore Peru is by booking a pass on one of Peru Hop’s hop on, hop off bus routes. Peru Hop is the safest, most flexible, and most enjoyable way to travel throughout Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia. You can get off at any stop along your route, spend as long or as short as you like there, then hop on the next bus following your route. With endpoints in Lima, Cusco and La Paz, and stops in Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno and Copacabana, Peru Hop is your ticket to the Andes.