With a population approaching 10 million, Lima, the country’s capital, is the largest city in Perú and the fifth largest in the Americas. Founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as “Ciudad de Los Reyes,” or “The City of Kings,” Lima was the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Perú. In colonial days, as the center of government, politics, trade, commerce, and culture, Lima was the seat of power for a vast area that extended from present-day Ecuador to central Chile.
Not a point of pride, between 1570 and 1820, Lima was the South American headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition, for which there is now an entire museum dedicated. Proudly, however, Lima is also home to The National University of San Marcos, which established in 1551, makes it the oldest officially established university in the Americas, and amongst the oldest in the world.
Ancient adobe pyramids called Huacas still remain throughout the city giving us a glimpse of the times well before the arrival of the Spanish. Most notably within the city limits are Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, and Huaca Huallamarca in San Isidro. Both sites are actively being restored and are open to the public for guided tours.
This is a historically and culturally rich city filled with museums and cultural centers, as well as historic plazas, churches and beautiful colonial homes featuring “Lima Balconies.” These distinctive, closed wooden balconies of Moorish origin can be seen in colonial styled buildings all over Lima.
Throughout the centuries, earthquakes, and more recently Real Estate developers have sadly destroyed many of the beautiful public buildings and gorgeous private homes of colonial times. Fortunately, however, several of the original buildings in the old city center, “Cercado de Lima,” have survived as a result of this area having been landmarked as a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site.
A walking tour of old downtown is a real step back in time and not to be missed by tourists and new residents alike. Of special note is Casa de Aliaga, a private home that sits directly across from the Governor’s Palace, continuously occupied by the Aliaga family for 17 generations. Francisco Pizarro himself gave the land on which the house sits to Jerónimo Aliaga in 1535, the same year as the city’s foundation. You may even meet some of the members of this legendary family during the available privately arranged tours.