What is the Capital of Peru?

Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores
Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores

Lima is the modern capital of Peru. It is the country’s largest city, and home to nearly a third of its population. It is also the commercial and industrial center, and home to some of the most important cultural and historical attractions.

Lima sprawls across 1,089 square miles, and is counted as the fifth largest city in South America. While its population is growing, city expansion has been limited because it is surrounded by oceans and mountains.

Where is the Capital of Peru located?   

Where is the Capital of Peru located
Where is the Capital of Peru located

Lima is in the central coastal region of Peru, on a desert strip that lies between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is the second largest desert city in the world, next to Cairo, Egypt.

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Despite its barren location, Lima has an abundant water source. Three major rivers cut through the city: the Chillón, Lurín and the Rímac.

Lima is also next to the Pacific Ocean, which provided both food and trade in its early history as a coastal town. Today, the main metropolitan district flanks the Pacific Ocean for about 49.7 miles from north to south, and 24.8 miles from east to west.

What is the history of Lima, Peru?

Chorrillos, Lima, Peru
Chorrillos, Lima, Peru

Lima’s earliest settlements date back to the pre-Inca period (c. 200 BCE–600 CE). In fact, it was home to many important religious sites such as the Pachacamac. Historical texts also mention Inca tribes in that area, including accounts of their chieftains interacting with the Spanish conquistadors.

The Spanish city of Lima was established on January 18, 1535 by Francisco Pizarro. January 18 is the Day of the Epiphany, an important Catholic holiday that commemorates how three kings visited the child Jesus in Bethlehem.  Thus, Pizarro originally named the city Ciudad de los Reyes, or the City of Kings.

However, the city residents continued to use the old Inca name for the settlement, “Limaq”—a regional pronunciation of the river Rimaq, which was the area’s main water supply. This later evolved into “Lima” because the Spaniards had difficulty pronouncing the “q.”

The Spaniards chose Limaq to be the ViceRoyalty of Peru, because its location by the coast made it easier to travel to and communicate with Spain. As the conquistadors’ main headquarters and the seat of the high court, the city soon became the center of power and wealth.

When did Lima become the capital of Peru?

Panoramic view of the main square of Lima, Peru
Panoramic view of the main square of Lima, Peru

In 1821, General Don José de San Martín defeated the Spanish conquistadors and took over the city of Lima. In July of that year, he signed a Declaration of Independence and named Lima as the capital of the new Republic of Peru.

Why is Lima the capital of Peru?

Even after Peru gained independence from Spain in 1821, Lima continued to be the country’s main center of trade, business, finance, and culture.

Most of the country’s banks, universities, and commercial establishments were here, and naturally people flocked to the area because it provided better work opportunities. The location by the river and ocean also guaranteed a steady source of food and water.

Even today, Lima accounts for almost all of the financial transactions, industrial output, and consumer purchases. It is not just the recognized capital, but the center of Peruvian society.

What are important places to see in Lima?

Unfortunately, many of Lima’s historical and cultural monuments were damaged during violent earthquakes in 1586 and 1687. However, some of it has been restored and captures the life, culture and architecture of Peruvians centuries ago.  

Plaza de Armas / Plaza Mayor

This is Lima’s historical center, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bronze fountain dates back to 1651, and the buildings around it have been carefully reconstructed to hint at how it looked when it was the seat of Spanish colonial rule.

This includes the Archbishop’s palace, the Governor’s palace (Palacio del Gobierno), and the current official residence of Peru’s president. Every noon, tourists flock to the area to watch the ceremonial changing of the guards.

From Plaza de Armas, one can walk to Plaza San Martin—passing through restaurants and shops, and some cultural attractions like the La Merced Church, and the Casa de Aliaga.

Casa de Aliagia is a must-see. Built in 1535, it is one of the oldest and most well preserved colonial mansions in all of South America. Over 17 generations lived there, and some of their antique and furniture collections from the 16th to the 18th centuries are still there.

Convento de San Francisco

This ancient monastery houses a large catacomb with the bones of approximately 10,000 people. The tour takes one through underground passages, its walls packed with skulls and bones artfully arranged in geometric patterns.  

The monastery also has a massive library of antique books and a collection of religious art, notably a unique mural of the Last Supper where the devil hovers next to Judas, and Jesus and the apostles dine on roasted guinea pig.  

Circuito Mágico del Agua

Lima has its share of modern attractions too. Circuito Mágico del Agua (or Magic Water Tour is the world’s largest fountain complex. It has 13 fountains, and a tunnel of water which you actually walk through. The facility also has laser shows, where water jets and light are synchronized to different songs.  

Parque del Amor

The English translation “Love Park” says it all. The scenic spot along the Miraflores is one of the best places to watch the sunset.

The walkways and benches are beautifully decorated with tiny mosaic tiles and quotes from Peruvian poets. There are also shaded, flower-lined paths that circuit through the park and lead to the center monument: a sculpture of a couple in a passionate embrace.  

Huaca Pucllana

The temple of Huaca Pucllana is a pyramid-like structure with seven platforms. It dates back to AD 200, and is made of adobe and clay—which miraculously survived the march of time because of the Peruvian climate.  

Historians believe that it was used for religious ceremonies, with some areas marked for administration and trade.

Where life and culture blooms

While it is a desert city, Lima is anything but barren. It is a thriving center of business and trade, and has a rich culture and history. It is not only the country’s capital, but a celebration of Peruvian life.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!