Our Visit To Lima, Peru, The City Of Kings

Church of Saint Francis - Lima

Lima, peru, main square

After spending close to a month touring Peru, Bob and I returned to the capital city of Lima and spent our last day touring the city’s old quarter before flying back to Canada.

Basilica Catedral Metropolitana de lima

Having checked into our hotel in the district of Miraflores, one of the suburbs of Lima, we then made our way by taxi to the historic central area of Lima.  It was there, in this now bustling Colonial core, that Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded Lima on January 18, 1535.  Pizarro named it la Ciudad de los Reyes, or “the City of Kings”.

Blue building with Balconies in Lima

Today, Pizarro’s Colonial central core of Lima still exists, but very few of his original buildings have survived the severe earthquakes that have shaken this city since his time.

presidential palace, main square, lima, peru

As Bob took this picture of me standing on the edge of the Plaza Mayor (main Square) in Lima, the vehicular and pedestrian traffic moved constantly around us.  Behind me, with the Peruvian flag flying from its roof, is the Presidential Palace (Palace of Pizarro) .

Church San Agustin - Lima - Peru

Bob and I were very surprised to learn that, over the past 300 years, Peru’s wealthy and powerful rulers have worked very hard to make sure that Lima became a South American “Paris”.  During that time, Lima’s urban planners brought about the building of endless palaces, gardens, churches, and Romanized civic buildings.  We were blown away when we looked upon the baroque façade of Iglesia de la Merced with its ornate columns wrapped in carefully-carved grapevines.  It was amazing!

pizarro's castle, presidential palace, lima, peru

When Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, the first building he built was Casa de Pizarro (Pizarro’s Castle), seen here.  Unfortunately, Pizarro decided to build his Casa right on top of the former Inca ruler’s palace.  Over time, Pizarro’s castle became the central point from which the Spanish Empire enjoyed its 282 year rule of South America.  But even for all its supposed might, not much of Pizarro’s original castle remains today, a victim of past earthquakes.

presidential palace, lima, peru

As Bob and I walked about the Square and took in the view of Pizarro’s castle, it was interesting to consider that this building was built here by chance.  In fact, Pizarro had thought about building this palace in different locations in Peru, but in the end, he chose Lima because it had good access to the Pacific Ocean and gave him a safe means to load and transport all the gold and silver that he and his men took from the Inca in the sacking and destruction of their Empire.  Today, Pizarro’s former castle is now the official residence of the Peruvian president.  It is also now fittingly the central seat of the democratically-elected government of Peru.

presidential palace, lima, peru

From the south corner of the Presidential Palace, a peaceful urban setting spread before us, a mixture of people carrying musical instruments, mothers pushing strollers, and businessmen on cellphones – in general, life moving ahead.  After taking this picture, we crossed the street and spoke with one of the Palace guards, only to learn that tours of the building take place everyday for those interested.  With time running short, we opted to continue our walking tour of the streets and walkways of the district.

city hall, lima, peru

We made our way across the square from the Presidential Palace to this beautiful yellow building, the Palacio Municipal (City Hall).  The original City Hall from 1535 was again destroyed by an earthquake.  This present building was erected in 1939.  I really appreciate the work that went into the intricately-carved wooden screens on the balconies that grace the building’s exterior.

Blue building with Balconies in Lima

Many of Lima’s old colonial buildings feature balconies enclosed with ornate screens.  It is unfortunate that only around 1,600 of these balconies remain in tact.

Blue and orange buildings with balconies - Lima

Back in the 17th century, the balconies served a dual purpose.  Given the intense heat of the locale, their main function was to serve as a form of air conditioning by catching cross breezes that helped to cool the interior of the buildings.

a colonial building with balconies, lima, peru

The other purpose was more clandestine in nature.  Hidden by the wooden screens, the upper class women were able to secretly observe activities in the square with no risk of being seen themselves.

municipal palace, city hall, lima, peru

The City Hall’s exterior hallway provided a cool retreat from the sun with its stately arched columns and harlequin floor tiles.

city hall, lima, peru

The building houses an art gallery and also an important historical library that holds a copy of the original ‘Charter of Foundation of Lima’ signed by Francisco Pizarro.

central post office, lima, peru

Framed in the middle of this picture is the Central Post Office.  This European-styled building was first opened in 1897.  Over time, this building has played many key roles in the communication industry of Peru.  Beyond being Peru’s main Post Office, it also was Peru’s central relay station for the transmission of all telegraphs in the country.  Later, when the telephone came along, a portion of the building became home to Peru’s first telephone switchboard.  It only made sense, then, that Bob and I chose that spot to send an email via our cellphone.

convento de santo domingo, lima, peru

The next stop on our walking tour was at Convento de Santo Domingo, one of Lima’s most important religious sites.  The baroque base of the bell tower is another example of the ostentatious architecture of the day.

convento de santo domingo, lima, peru

This powder pink building was built by a Dominican Friar, Vicente de Valverde, who accompanied Pizarro on his conquest of Peru.  Ironically, it was Friar Vicente de Valverde who convinced Pizarro to execute the Inca leader, Atahualpa, who once owned all of this land where the massive structure now stands.

Church of Saint Francis - Lima

The Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of Saint Francis) is a stately and ornately constructed building with a buttery-yellow facade and is an excellent example of “Lima Baroque” style of architecture.  This church is the most visited church in all of Lima and for a very good reason.  Sequestered in a huge network of catacombs and galleries beneath this church are the bones of some 70,000 people.

Skulls in the Catacombs of Saint Francis - Lima

Since colonial times, those cool dark recesses had served as the city’s cemetery up until 1808.  The tour of the catacombs enticed Bob and me so we joined a group that was about to descend into the underground labyrinth of tunnels.

Skulls and bones in the Saint Francis Catacomb

What a shocking discovery when we emerged into the first catacomb housing almost a pretty arrangement of perfectly white bones.  Great care has been taken to stack the bones in tidy geometric patterns, but that did little to ease the disturbingly eerie feeling we both had.  The pictures can speak for themselves.

Plaza San Martin - Lima - Peru

After resurfacing into the bright sunlight and fresh air, Bob and I heaved a sigh of relief.  Somehow, the beautiful grand buildings surrounding Plaza San Martin seemed all the more spectacular after the sobering tour of the underworld.  One prime example of the stately architecture here is the Gran Hotel Bolívar.

San Martin statue - Lima - Peru

In the centre of the square is this statue named after José de San Martin.  Today, he is still considered a hero for bringing about South American independence from Spain.  After years of fighting Spanish royalist forces in South America, San Martin helped bring about Peruvian independence in July of 1821.  The city of Lima paid tribute to San Martin, naming him the Protector of a Free Peru.


And so our travels to Peru came to an end, but many memories will live with us forever.  Beyond the natural beauty of the country, and the cultural treasures we saw and experienced, the people themselves are a very big reason for why we hope to someday return to Peru.


Our Muddy Trip To Sandoval Lake In The Amazon

Our tour of Cusco the former capital of the Inca Empire

Our Tour Of The Ruins of Pachacamac

Our Travels To Puno On Lake Titicaca

Our Visit To Lima, Peru, The City Of Kings

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean


  • How lovely to read this on New Years Day.Thanks Bob and Jean for such a brilliant documented account of your trip. I so enjoy your photography.Happy New Year to you both.Have a look at my special moment 2012……… hazelmariablakeley.blogspot.com Happy photography 2013 x Maria.

    • thanks for the positive feedback. I guess I should say Happy Easter since it is just around the corner. I took a look at your website and must say that you have a beautiful photograph of a puffin there. When we visited Newfoundland, a province of Canada, we had planned to make a day trip to see some puffins, but the weather did not cooperate. They are such colorful and unique birds.

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