Lima Attractions – City Center of Lima

Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor, formerly the Plaza de Armas, is where for centuries the power of the new colony was concentrated, and it remains one of the city’s most active and attractive squares. At its center are rose gardens, a stone fountain and park benches that draw young couples looking for a place to chat, countless shoeshine boys and families in their Sunday best posing for photos.

Palacio de Gobierno

A favorite photo is one with the Palacio de Gobierno in the background. The foundation of this building is the same that Pizarro built, but its façade was changed in the early 1900s. When President Alan Garcia Perez took power in 1985, he eliminated the Prussian-style helmets and elaborate uniforms the president’s military guard had worn for years, calling them too showy. You can see their modern garb every day at 12 noon during the ceremonial changing of the guards, but visits have to be pre-arranged in the Oficina de Turismo of the Municipalidad.

Palacio Municipal

The best spot for viewing the ceremony is the wide front balcony of the Palacio Municipal. The original structure used as a city hall burned down in 1923, but its neoclassical replacement is impressive, with marble stairways, gilt mirrors and crystal chandeliers. Don’t leave without seeing the library. This small room with massive leather chairs, huge wooden tables and a smell of old books offers a calming respite from the traffic outside. Its circular stairway was hand-carved from a single piece of Nicaraguan cedar.

Archbishop’s Palace

Across the square, the Archbishop’s Palace has one of the most beautiful wooden mudejar style balconies in the city. Take a peek in the archbishop’s patio before heading next door to the cathedral, which contains Pizarro’s remains.

Museo Banco Central de Reserva

A block away is Museo Banco Central de Reserva, with a small but impressive pre-Columbian collection.

Palacio de Torre Tagle

Nearby is the splendid Palacio de Torre Table, constructed in 1735 now used as the Foreign Ministry.

San Francisco Monastery

A few blocks to the northeast is the jewel of Lima’s old churches, San Francisco monastery. Lovingly repaired after every earthquake that damaged it in the past four centuries, this cloister features fine mosaic tiles from Seville, frescoes discovered when an earthquake demolished portions of an outer wall, and an impressive collection of religious art. Most fascinating are its catacombs, which served as Lima’s cemetery through the colonial period.

Eastacion Desamparados

Behind the Palacio de Gobierno is Estacion Desamparados (railway station),the city’s first iron building. Brought in pieces by boat from England and rebuilt here in 1908, it was formerly the depot for all trains out of the capital, but is no longer in operation.

Plaza San Martin and Jiron de la Union

Lima’s most active square is Plaza San Martin, linked to the Plaza Mayor by the pedestrian walkway Jiron de la Union, once the most fashionable shopping district in the Peruvian capital. Plaza San Martin is where most of the money changing houses are located.

Museo de Arte

A few hundred meters south of the plaza, the Museo de Arte has an extensive collection of pre-Columbian and colonial relics.

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