11 best free (and almost free) things to do in Lima

With its prime location on the Pacific Coast and a wealth of gourmet restaurants, metropolitan Lima should be mega-expensive.

Yet the glamourous Peruvian capital, known locally as the City of Kings, has plenty to do on a pauper’s budget. From museums to mountains, pre-Inca pyramids to panoramic views, there are plenty of free things to do in Lima. These are the best.

Tourists walking through a room at the Museum of Art, Lima
Visit Museo de Arte de Lima on the free or discounted days © Peruphotart / Shutterstock

1. Visit Museo de Arte de Lima on a Tuesday

Home to more than 3000 years of Peruvian art, Lima’s Museum of Art (MALI) is one of the city’s top galleries. Expansive collections of pre-Columbian textiles, Colonial paintings, Republican furniture, and contemporary art can be admired Tuesday through Sunday.

Savvy travelers can take advantage of the free admission offered on Tuesdays, as well as the two-for-one offer on Sundays (entrance is S/30 or $7.95). 

2. Discover the local art scene at free galleries

There always seems to be a new gallery opening up in Lima, a clear sign that the coastal city is nurturing new generations of creatives. Nearly all the local galleries offer free admission and are a great way to discover rising talent. 

You can even enjoy a self-guided tour of neighboring galleries. For example, Impakto and Revolver are two galleries located within blocks of one another in the San Isidro district.

Meanwhile, in Miraflores, the culturally inclined can hop from various galleries in the district, including Ginsberg Galeria, Galería Forum, and the Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano showroom. 

The free malecón boardwalk follows the clifftops in Lima © Lonely Planet

3. Soak up picture-perfect views on the malecón 

Stretching along Lima’s clifftops for some 6 miles (10km), the malecón is the stunning coastal pathway you’ll see on every postcard and accompany every travel article about the Peruvian capital.

Winding its way through a handful of districts popular with tourists, it offers grand views of the Pacific Ocean, often dotted by a community of surfers. Best of all, it’s completely free. Locals will spend hours wandering its footpaths and it has a designated bike lane if you’ve hired wheels.

4. Stroll through Bosque El Olivar

Imagine walking in the presence of over 1500 olive trees, breathing in the oxygen that they continue to release after having been planted some 400 years ago.

Strolling through the natural and historical beauty that is Bosque El Olivar (Olive Tree Forest) is a privilege, and yet it is entirely free.

Follow the brick pathways from one end of the park to another, passing a large pond with koi fish along the way, before choosing on a patch of grass to laze upon. 

Located in the swanky San Isidro neighborhood, Bosque El Olivar is surrounded by the municipal library, the San Isidro Cultural Center, and the lesser-known Museo Marina Nuñez del Prado. 

5. Climb San Cristobal for a panoramic view of Lima

Cerro San Cristobal may have nothing on the great mountains located in southern Peru, but this 400m-high hill is the tallest in the capital city.

A trek up this hill presents visitors with a panoramic view of Lima – if you head up on a clear day, that is. 

Downtown Lima, the National Stadium, and the Plaza de Armas are just some of the landmarks you can try and spot from up above. For safety reasons regarding theft, avoid visiting Cerro San Cristobal at night. 

View of paragliders over the Park of Love and tourists mingling by the El Beso sculpture
It’s free to watch the paragliders from the iconic Parque del Amor (Love Park) in Lima © IRYNA KURILOVYCH / Getty Images

6. Get that loving feeling at Parque del Amor

Parque del Amor (Love Park) is an iconic public park in Miraflores frequented by couples who have no issue showing some PDA. Located along the malecón, it can’t be missed thanks to El Beso, a rather large sculpture of a couple in a loving embrace. 

Grassy lawns and an undulating wall covered in colorful mosaics make this park a must-see even for solo travelers. Nearby is a small stand offering coffee, fresh juices, and sandwiches. Enjoy a picnic with or without a loved one as paragliders pass above. 

Street scene of colourful, street art on the walls and tunnel in the hip district of Barranco, Lima
Lima’s hip Barranco district  © fotonio / Getty Images / iStockphoto

7. Museo de la Electricidad

Located in the hip district of Barranco, the Museo de la Electricidad (Electricity Museum) is a small yet interactive stop that the whole family can enjoy.

Pulleys, buttons, light switches and more help travelers understand the history and generation of electricity in Peru. As there is no entrance fee, you can spend your saved pocket money at the neighboring gelateria. 

The Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores district of Lima is available for tours
Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca pyramid that served as a ceremonial center in ancient Lima © saiko3p / Getty Images

8. Tour Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca pyramid

As modern as Lima may seem, the metropolitan capital can’t hide from its historical past. Take, for example, Huaca Pucllana.

The adobe pyramid was constructed around 400 CE as an administrative and ceremonial center for the ancient Lima culture. With an accessible location in the Miraflores district, you can tour this historical site and its incredible museum for S/15 ($3.97).

9. Visit Casa de la Literatura Peruana

Located in a former train station in the Historic Center of Lima, the House of Peruvian Literature is filled with books that are illuminated by colorful stained glass.

A vast collection of books takes visitors on a journey in time of important national authors. The beautiful space is free to enter and is a relaxing respite from the urban center. 

While in the area, walk to the neighboring Presidential Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) to witness the changing of the guard, which takes place every day around noon.

Bones laid out geometrically in the catacombs beneath The Monasterio de San Francisco, Lima
See the remains of around 70,000 people at the San Francisco Monastery and Church Catacombs, Lima ©DouglasDepies/Shutterstock

10. Delve into the catacombs of the Monasterio de San Francisco 

Lurking under the Historic Center of Lima is one of the oldest and largest catacombs in South America. Serving as the first makeshift cemetery in Lima, some 25,000 crypts rest beneath the 16th-century San Francisco monastery.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the winding pathways (which were discovered less than a century ago) for S/20 ($5.27). Spend a macabre afternoon admiring the intricate patterns in which the bones have been organized. 

Water fountains lit up with bright colors at night in the Magic Water Circuit Park, Lima
Water fountains lit up with bright colors at night in the Magic Water Circuit Park, Lima ©jirivondrous/Getty Images

11. Magic Water Circuit

Inaugurated in 2007, Lima’s Circuito Mágico del Agua is a large open-air park that is popular with families and couples. By day, children can ride a small train that tours them through the park, passing a number of the 13 active water fountains.

During summer months, walking beneath the series of arching fountains is a refreshing and playful way to cool off. But the real show begins at sunset when colorful lights reflect on the splashing water. 

Open every day of the week, entrance to the Magic Water Circuit is just S/4 ($1.06).

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