I think the city of Lima generally has a bad reputation and many people simply pass through the airport en route to other destinations such as Machu Picchu. Those who do stay here tend to stay in the miraflores area and dont venture into the city itself. Now dont get me wrong, Lima's position as a culinary hotspot is no secret to those in the know, but there are also some very interesting historical sites in the city center that are often overlooked by the casual visitor.
Lima was the capital of the Spanish empire in South America (and all of the new world for that matter). As such, there are some very interesting and historical buildings in the older sections of town. The main cathedral was constructed in 1535 and houses the remains of the famous conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The Government palace and the Archbishops palace are other excellent examples of Spanish colonial architecture, all located on the same square as the cathedral - Plaza Mayor. A short walk away is the monastery of San Francisco. This is certainly another must see as it houses an amazing courtyard and catacombs which are hundreds of years old.
While i certainly would not venture out into the city center at night, i found it to be perfectly safe during the day as long as you stick to the same general precautions that smart travelers should take anywhere in the world - don't flaunt your valuables, don't leave your wallet in your back pocket, etc. If you want to experience some nightlife and dining i would suggest heading to Miraflores, a beautiful ocean front area complete with a very modern shopping mall and entertainment center.
One additional tourist attraction that i would recommend is Huaca Pullana, an adobe pyramid from the pre-incan time period located right in the middle of a residential area. The site also features a great restaurant.
During my 4 day visit I stayed at the Sheraton Lima Hotel and Convention center which is a great value as a category 2 hotel with award nights starting at 3000 points. As an SPG gold, i was upgraded to the club level which included breakfast and a light evening meal daily. The location isn't in the best of locations but this hotel did the job. There is a supermarket right next door, it is an easy walk to the old town center and there is a free shuttle to Miraflores. If I had Marriott Points to burn, I would stay at the J.W. Marriott, a beautiful hotel located in the heart of Miraflores overlooking the ocean
Overall, I found the food in Lima lived up to its high expectations. I had the best ceviche that i ever tasted and was also able to try some unique local dishes such as Guinea pig and beef heart. All in all a great trip.
|View from my hotel room|
|Government palace on Plaza Mayor|
|Monastery of San Francisco|
|Mangos Restaurant, Miraflores (see photo of food below)|
|J.W. Marriott in Miraflores|
|Dinner at Mangos|
|Interior of Sheraton Hotel|
|Dinner at Huaca Pullana. Beef hearts, Guinea Pig crab and ceviche|