Lima, the City of the Kings, has changed a lot during the last 10 years; it has more and better hotels, more tourist destinations, more restaurants and shopping malls, more nightlife... but also more options for everyone to have fun: Lima attractions have options for everyone and for every lifestyle.
However, keep in mind that Lima, former capital of the Spanish Vice Royalty of Peru --which was by far the wealthiest in the continent-- still maintains many of its colonial splendor: no wonder it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Center, due to the large number of artistic and architectural monuments found there.
Lima, the city we know today, was founded in 1535 by Syanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro: the word Lima reminds of its ancient past, since it comes from the words limacc-huayta, an Aymara name for a local yellow flower, and also the Quechua name of the river, Rímac, that means "speaker."
The village that Pizarro founded on the former lands of the native chief Taulichusco has become a modern, growing city: according to the census of 2007, Metropolitan Lima has 8.5 million residents, that is, 30% of the total population of Peru, a fact that makes Lima the largest city in this country, the fifth most populous city in Latin America and one of the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the world.
Limeños proudly preserve their traditions and are usually very friendly to foreign visitors. In recent years gastronomy has earned more relevance, so one of the first things that Limeños will ask you is: Do you like the food? and thus they will be eager to recommend you any restaurant they consider good and worth visiting.
To start getting familiar with Lima, Main Square, or Plaza Mayor, and its surroundings, located at the heart of Lima Downtown, will keep you entertained for several hours, offering an impressive trip to the old colonial times: some of the most notable landmarks are, for example Lima's Cathedral, the Government Palace, the Municipal Palace, all of them in the Plaza Mayor; or the ancient Casa de Aliaga, built by one of the families who founded Lima and still inhabited by their descendants, very close to the Plaza Mayor, and the Palacio de Torre Tagle, that serves now as office for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another must-see in Lima Downton are the Church and Convent of San Francisco, a unique architectural complex that has witnessed four centuries of history and still can make us glance at those times via all the objects and rooms it carefully preserves, including of course the famous catacombs.
But it's not only Lima Downtown.
Try visiting the traditional district of Barranco, which presents a singular contrast between its historical buildings and its bohemian and nightlife-oriented businesses. Some spots you have to visit are the Bajada de los Baños (Slopes of the Baths), full of typical restaurants aand with a stunning ocean view; the Puente de los Suspiros and the nearby Parque Municipal. Remember to grab a ham sandwich at Juanito's Bar.
Miraflores, very near from Barranco, has also a very active nightlife, and concentrates most commercial activity and entertainment options: shopping malls, cinemas, hotels, cafes, discos and a public park with free wi-fi connection. The most notable addition during the last 10 years , however, is the three-level shopping complex, Larcomar, built below Parque Salazar, at the edge of Miraflores' cliffs, with a wonderful view of the Circuito de Playas Costa Verde (Lima beaches) and lovely, nice and classy restaurants as well as a very affordable food court. Larcomar also offers video games and arcade rooms, and if you like going to the movies, Larcomar offers very good options too. And Miraflores nightlife is considered also as gay-friendly.
Another notable district is San Isidro, the current financial center of the city, and where most banks and financial institutions have set their headquarters; this is the reason why San Isidro is now full of very tall and stylish buildings, a trend that seems to be growing. San Isidro used to be a residential district, and many areas still keep the old glamor and elegance of former colonial and republican elegant mansions surrounded by large parks like the Olivar de San Isidro, or the Golf Club. The Olivar is actually a little wood in the middle of the big city, and its ancient olive trees and beautiful ponds hide many local and migratory bird species, so with lots of patience and a little luck you will have a busy day enjoying birdwatching.
Callao district not only hosts the Callao Port and Lima International Airport, but is the starting point for some maritime excursions. Remember, though, to visit the Fortaleza del Real Felipe, an colonial fortress built by the Spanish conquerors, the Museo Naval, and maybe the Isla San Lorenzo. La Punta neighborhood is nice for a stroll by the sea, and there are many options for enjoying delicious, fresh seafood nearby.
Wandering by other Lima districts, other spots that are a must-see are the Museo de la Nacion, showcasing the country's history; the Museo Larco Herrera and its amazing collection of ancient erotic art, and the great collection of pre-inca textiles at Museo Amano.
It is also worth paying a visit to the Gran Parque de Lima and its varied cultural offer, and the Circuito Mágico del Agua (Magic Circuit of Water) with its several huge fountains featuring a colorful show with music and lights every night.