Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lima, City of Kings

When the Spaniards arrived in South America, they renamed Lima "The City of Kings". However, its original name in the native language has prevailed until today.

lima header

When people think of South America's great cities they think of Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires. However, I think Lima is one of the undiscovered gems of South America. Lush green gardens surrounding the main square and buildings that recount the history of the city, the entire historic centre has been declared a World Heritage Site. Of course, like every city, not every aspect of the city is so golden. There are a large number of pickpocketers that operate in the area, the traffic is loud and impossible to navigate, so most tourists do prefer to book a hotel in Miraflores during their stay in Lima. Fortunately, Miraflores is not so far from the historic centre, so you can either take a cheap taxi or public transport. I've already written about a few places I really liked in the historic centre like Casa Aliaga and the Museum of Italian Art, but there is a lot more to see when you begin to wander about.

LIMA IS A CITY THAT BLENDS DIFFERENT EUROPEAN STYLES INTO ONE

As we approached the city centre the first thing I spotted was this large French style building. Many buildings have a reminiscent aura, like that from a different land.

lima french style building

MOORISH INFLUENCE

A unique feature of Lima is the Moorish balconies all around the city centre. They are so prevalent that there are 1600 in the city centre alone and the government spends considerable effort in maintaining them. Although today, people admire the balconies from the outside for their elaborate designs, the original function has been long forgotten in an era of old values. In the past, colonial women were not permitted to walk the streets, pertaining to a tradition that women were not to be seen. Only from their balconies, could they observe the street life.

moorish balcony in lima

RICH CULTURAL TRADITIONS

As we got closer to the city centre, we saw a marching band heading towards the government palace. We decided to follow them and realised that they were changing the palace guards, which happens in front of the government palace everyday at noon. It was a fun spectacle, something I didn't expect in Lima.

marching band in lima

IMPOSING GOVERNMENTAL POWER

Following the marching band, we made it to the central square and government palace. Erected over 500 years ago, security at the palace is pretty tight with guards and their rifles standing around the palace at all times. You can't really get up close and personal with the palace, the president does live there after all, but you can take a peek through the metal bars, and the gardens surrounding the palace are lovely.

government building and gardens in lima

RELIGIOUS DOMINATION

There are a lot of important buildings surrounding the main square, such as the Archbishop's Palace and the Cathedral. We didn't really have time to go inside, but it's nice enough just wandering all around the square. Since this square is the main area of political activity in Lima, it is prone to protests and terrorist attacks. All around the main square are guards and police cars like the one below - just to ensure that trouble is halted before it can start. Maybe it's a bit scary, but at least you feel safe here.

church and gardens in lima
lima police in city centre

THE CONGRESS OF PERU

The Congress of Peru is about a 10 minute walk from the main square. We took the free 1 hour tour which took us to all the most important buildings and gave us a small intro to the history of the congress. We've done a lot of free tours in Lima but this one was probably the best - and if you're a cheapo like me then this tour is a great way to learn about the city and not spend any money.

congress of peru
congress of peru

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

After dark we took a taxi to Lima's Magic Water Show at the recommendation of a friend of ours. Not far from the city centre, this place was PACKED! The park is enormous, but we still had trouble navigating the crowds. We walked through the park, admiring over a dozen large water fountains illuminated with music and lights. Childish? No effing way. Super cool, and kind of romantic, this place appeals to everyone, toddlers to adults. At times, I felt like I was having more fun here than the kids.

water park lima
water park show in lima

Image attribution:
"Arzobispado de Lima" by Art DiNo // CC BY-SA 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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