The setting of a sprawling desert is seldom used for a major city. However, Lima rests in just that, a desert clutching rusty cliffs. Peru’s capital was once the beating heart of Spain’s South American Empire. Today, Lima overflows as a giant metropolis. At first glance, the city may look passable, but hold eye contact a little loner with Lima and you will find the city to be crammed with culture. With a history that pre-dates the Incas, Lima clouds in gorgeous churches, museums, and Spanish colonial mansions UNESCO worthy. Don’t judge this Peruvian powerhouse by its cover.
Lima’s main meeting point lies in Plaza de Armas, also known as Plaza Mayor. Completed with gardens, colonial elegance and street lamps, Plaza de Armas also holds Palacio de Gobierno. Today the palace is home to the president, but Palacio de Gobierno used to serve as the residence to the king when Lima was a Spanish colony. Taking up space as well in Plaza de Armas is Lima’s Cathedral. The epitome of Spanish baroque, a church has stood on these grounds since 1550.
While Plaza de Armas locks in gazes, Palacio de Torre Tagle does the same. Don José Torre Tagle constructed the sparkling jewel of the city’s colonial architecture, Palacio de Torre Tagle in 1735. Used as a family home, the palace features carved wooden balconies, opulent and grand staircases, and a number of staterooms. With its mixture of Spanish and Moorish styles, Palacio de Torre Tagle is unlike any other in the city.
The city’s other architectural gems are apparent around almost every street corner. El Convento de los Descalzos radiates from within for its collection of Peruvian religious painting throughout its cloisters. The Franciscan monastery holds foundations in 1592. It even bears a funny name, meaning Monastery of the Shoeless. The name stems from the barefoot Franciscan friars that occupied this space.
Lima is proud of its many museums no matter how painful some of their topics may be. Museo de la Inquisición is one of the city’s most famous for the Court of the Inquisition was first held here in the 16th century. Within, visitors can view various torture instruments. On a brighter note, Museo de la Nación details Lima’s main anthropological and archaeological discoveries. The Museum spotlights Peru’s history, beginning with the earliest tribal cultures in the area. Many delight in viewing the traditional peasant costumes in Museo de la Nación, hailing from all around Peru.
Closing out Lima’s museum scene is one made of gold. Well, perhaps not literally, but within Museo de Oro del Peru, visitors can take in all the loot that made the country famous and Spain wealthy. Aside from hundreds of gold and silver artifacts from pre-Conquest to colonial times, the museum also holds weapons and uniforms.
Part of experiencing Lima comes through viewing some of its historic homes. Casa Aliaga is among the most famous, known for its colonial style furnishings and history. The Aliaga family has lived in the home since 1535. Casa de la Riva goes a little more over the top with is well-sized mansion and elegant porch. Many of the rooms within are relatively unchanged since the colonial days in Lima.
Beauty is often said to be only skin deep. On the surface, that may be true for Lima, a city seldom referred to as beautiful. Dig a little deeper and you will find Lima to actually be a beautiful mess, a collection of colonial and modern, a bitter sip with a sweet aftertaste. Put your judgments aside and look at Lima’s reflections with a magnifying mirror. It’s beautiful mess will surprise you.