Lima is a city with many faces. From the ornate architecture of the historical centre to Barranco’s hipster scene, it is a place where anyone can feel at home. Before visiting Lima, I had heard plenty of people say that that two days is enough time to see everything. Wrong! I spent nearly two weeks in the city and was busy every day!
My visit to Lima coincided with the fourth month of my trip. As such, money was not in the abundant supply that it once was. With that in mind and having decided to splurge on a paratriking trip, Tim and I decided to fill our time in the city with some more budget-friendly things to do.
I was surprised to discover that there is actually loads of both free and cheap things to do in Lima. If you too are visiting Peru’s capital and looking to keep costs down, check out my recommendations of the best attractions to keep your wallet happy!
The best cheap and free things to see and do in Lima
San Francisco Catacombs and Convent – 15 soles ($4.50)
Your entrance fee will cover a tour of the monastery as well as the catacombs. There may be a wait for English speaking tours as they take longer to fill.
If you are not fluent in Spanish, do not make the mistake Tim and I did and order your tickets in Spanish. They will assume you are fluent and send you on a Spanish tour. As a result, I got far less information out of the tour than I had hoped and had to substitute my knowledge with ye old faithful: Google!
The tour takes around 45 minutes to complete but sadly only around 10 minutes is spent exploring the catacombs. Despite this, it is still a great thing to do in Lima as the underground tunnels are very eerie. No photos are allowed.
Kennedy Park (also known as Cat Park) – FREE
Located in the tourist district of Miraflores, this is a park with a depressing history. Locals say that for years, people would take their unwanted pet cats and dump them in this park in the middle of the city.
As a result, the area is now overrun with felines who have since decided to stay and live in the park. Rangers feed them and also contribute to the maintenance of the park. You can make plenty of furry friends here and even take a stray home if you are local!
Changing of the Guard – FREE
It is possible to see the changing of the guard daily at Lima’s Government Palace in the Plaza de Armas. The Palace is the residence of Lima’s President and the impressive changing of the guard ceremony takes place at noon every day.
The brass band plays a mix of music with anything from traditional Peruvian songs to chart toppers. If you’re lucky, the band may even treat you to a rendition of ‘Despacito’!
Free Walking Tour – Donation based
The first thing I do when I arrive in any new city is to check out a free walking tour. There are usually a couple to choose from so make sure you bag a good one by checking out the reviews on TripAdvisor. Mostly these walking tours meet in the main square and tend to last between 2 to 3 hours.
Free walking tours are a great way to explore the city on foot and also get some local recommendations about the best things to do during your visit.
Even though these tours are advertised as free, they are actually based on donations which give you the freedom to pay what you think the tour is worth. These tours tend to be very high quality as the guides know they have to work extra hard for their tips.
Pisco Tasting – FREE
Have you tried Peru’s national tipple yet? If not, why the heck not?! Pisco is a popular spirit made all over South America but it is the famous Pisco Sour drink that Peru is well known for.
The locals are desperate to convert visitors to the drink they hold so close to their hearts and will even water you for free. You read that right, they will give you free alcohol!
Tasting covers everything from neat Pisco to cocktails (your chance to try Pisco Sour) and also Pisco creams. These taste a lot like Baileys and come highly recommended by yours truly!
Local Cuisine – Your Choice
Lima boasts three of the world’s best restaurants. However, for budget conscious travellers, eating at one of these places is an impossible dream. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can sample some of Lima’s finest foods from street food vendors and in local restaurants, paying a fraction of the price. Plan your own self guided food tour to get the most out of the city!
Miraflores to Barranco walk – FREE
Lima’s cosmopolitan district Miraflores is a great escape from the chaos of the historical centre. Enjoy the hour long walk along the clifftop coastline to neighbouring hipster district Barranco.
To get there, just keep the sea to your right and the city to your left. Not only are the views incredible but it makes a change from seeing Lima through an Uber window!
You will pass through a couple of pretty parks along the way – make sure you catch Paddington Bear before he sets off on his long journey!
Artisanal markets – Your choice
The historical downtown of Lima is one of the best places to buy traditional handicrafts for a good price. Clothing made from alpaca wool is particularly sought after in the city but don’t forget to haggle! If you ask a vendor to quote a price for a particular item, they will over-inflate to allow for compromise.
Magic Water Circuit – 4 soles ($1.20!)
Every night at the Circuito Mágico del Agua, there is an impressive music and light show. This show documents some of Peru’s culture and history through a series of stunning visuals projected onto the water. It is possible to walk to the park from the historical centre and visitors staying in Miraflores can easily organise an Uber or a taxi for a small fee.
Lima’s street art – FREE
Prior to my visit, I had no idea that Lima had such an impressive street art scene. For many people looking to experience some of the capital’s art, they head to the hipster district of Barranco. This is a good place to check out if you want to see some street art but definitely one of the more touristy options.
Callao, Lima’s port district actually rivals the quality and frequency of street art in Barranco and is much less visited.
Although you should keep your wits about you when you visit (Callao was previously a dangerous district in the city), the recent gentrification is bringing more wealth into the area and crime is dropping as a result.
Despite this progress, it is probably still worth visiting with a local or a Spanish speaker. Don’t be put off though, Callao is one part of the city you definitely shouldn’t miss during your visit to Lima!
What are the best cheap and free things you’ve found in Lima?
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