When I visited Lima as a child from my hometown of Tacna, located just to the south, it was my
first encounter with a true metropolis—an energetic cityscape whose rich history could be
felt on almost every corner. I’m a New Yorker now, but every year I make the 10-hour flight
back to the city where I spent most of my youth. And each time I return, I’m surprised by how
this urban landscape continues to change, while at the same time remaining committed to its past.
There are classic centuries-old hotels still standing and new ones sprouting up in stately
buildings, innovative restaurants with cutting-edge chefs, and jewelry and clothing boutiques
merging traditional materials with modern techniques. I keep a list of my favorite spots in the
city, which you’ll find on the following pages—they’ll lead you from the posh San
Isidro neighborhood to bohemian Barranco.
My father used to take me to the 1927 Country Club, where France’s former president
Charles de Gaulle once spent the night. The colonial-style building has been converted into the
83-room Country Club Lima Hotel (
art from Lima’s Museo Pedro de Osma, brocade-covered chairs, gilt mirrors, and mahogany
armoires. Along the nearby malecón (boardwalk), the oceanside Miraflores Park Hotel ( doubles from $544) has one of the city’s best rooftop infinity pools and panoramic views
of the Pacific from the private in-room balconies. The 33-year-old Miraflores Cesar’s Hotel
was the place to stay in its heyday, but a much-needed makeover transformed it into the
more modern Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores (
doubles from $219). Despite its
new look—bold artwork; a palm-fringed indoor pool—the hotel hasn’t completely
done away with tradition: Wood-beam ceilngs and Peruvian ceramics decorate the rooms, and you can
still hear boleros in the lobby lounge.
Over the years I’ve had my most memorable meals at the intimate, 15-table Rafael Restaurant (
dinner for two
$55), housed in a 1940’s mansion. Don’t let the traditional atmosphere here fool
you: The Asian- and Mediterranean-inflected Peruvian dishes, such as lomo saltado made with
rice vinegar and pisco, are exquisitely prepared by the chef-owner Rafael Osterling Letts.When I
want to taste Lima’s most daring culinary offerings, I head to Astrid y Gastón (
dinner for two
$75), in a rambling villa in Miraflores. Lima-born chef Gastón Acurio’s menu is
full of surprises: a “shot” of sea urchin emulsion mixed with cappuccino; spicy rabbit
spring rolls. Plus, it has the city’s best selection of Latin American wines (try the
Uruguayan Pisano Tannat). You can’t come to Lima without sampling Peru’s most famous
dish—ceviche. And La Mar Cebichería (
dinner for two $35) is the best place to try it. The bamboo-roof restaurant is a
hot spot for Lima’s beautiful people and doesn’t take reservations. But it’s
worth the wait for the house specialties, such as tuna, sesame, and tamarind, or sea bass and
octopus with chile.
When I’m in town, I always swing by All Alpacato stock up on colorful and reasonably-priced
sweaters, knee-length coats, and scarves, all made from downy-soft Peruvian alpaca wool sourced in
the Andes. One of my favorite new jewelry designers is Anna Dannon, who creates the imaginative
silver baubles sold at Ara Joyas , on the lively Álvarez Calderón.
You’ll find everything from sculptural cube-shaped necklaces to thick, gold-dipped arm cuffs.
Mario Testino’s sister, Giuliana, is one of the most talked-about designers in town. I love
her hand-crocheted clothes at Giuliana Testino . If you
don’t like your dress hems short (and these are short), there are also plenty of
delicate cardigans, shawls, and capes. In southern Lima’s up-and-coming Barranco
neighborhood, Las Pallas
carries traditional Peruvian crafts collected by British-born owner Mari Solari. The intricately
designed Ayacucho pottery and Andean retablos are the perfect gifts to bring back.