Callao is the principal seaport in northern Lima, Peru. During Spanish viceroyalty times it was a popular business center, many pirates tried to enter the city through there. Sir Francis Drake, one of the history’s most famous pirates, tried to rescue fellow privateers who were imprisoned in Lima in 1579. As a response to these attacks, viceroys built the Real Felipe Fortress, one of the most expensive buildings in Spanish colonies, now turned into Peru’s military museum. Legend has it that this place is haunted and that cries can be heard during visits.
City of Kings
Lima was founded on January 18, 1535, by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro where he decided to call Lima Ciudad de Los Reyes, or “the City of Kings,” but it may not be for the reasons you’re thinking of. The newly named City of Kings was not named after the Spanish king, but because the founding of the city fell on the day of a religious holiday. Pizarro chose the name because Lima was founded during the Catholic holiday of Three Kings Day. One excuse that the Spanish had for colonizing Peru was that they wanted to achieve the salvation of the people by bringing them the word of God, so it made sense to name their city after a Catholic holiday.
Origin of Chifa
Chifa is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese ingredients brought by Chinese immigrants to Lima, Peru in 1849. The Chinese introduced ginger and soy sauce, to Peruvian cuisine. They came here to work in coastal sugar plantations and mines, to construct railroads, and to extract guano for fuel. Chifa restaurants serve typical Chinese food made with South American ingredients such as pineapple and aji amarillo (a paste made from Peruvian yellow chili peppers).
You can visit South America’s most important Chinese colony at the Capon neighborhood located in downtown Lima, where you’ll find authentic Chinese food and you can even have your name carved into a hexagonal tile.
Many don’t know but Paddington is Peruvian. He was sent to London from Peru by his Aunt Lucy who could no longer look after him as she had to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima. He was found by the Brown family at Paddington railway station but because his Peruvian name Pastuso was too difficult for them to pronounce, they instead named him after the rail station they found him.
Paddington Bear is based on the Spectacled Bear, which according to Michael Bond’s famous story is in Deepest Darkest Peru: more specifically, in the North of the country, close to the border with Ecuador. You can visit his statue at Salazar Park in Miraflores, near the Larcomar Mall.
Inca Trail in Lima
The Inca trail known as Qhapaq Ñan (the Beautiful Road) is 6,000 kilometers long that connected to the five Incan empire countries. It’s mostly known for being the perfect route to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu but Qhapaq Ñan also reached Lima. When Spanish conquerors arrived, they found a very urbanized area, with roads that connected the highlands with the coast. Some of the remains of Qhapaq Ñan can be found at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Most of it was replaced with Lima’s main transit roads and avenues like Camino del Inca, that means “The Inca’s Road.”
The Spanish Inquisition was a gruesome event that happened in the Americas that tortured anyone who did not believe in God. In some cases, people were burned alive at the stake. Although it was abolished by royal decree in 1834, the Spanish Inquisition museum is open for visitors who want to explore their dungeons and more than 30,000 torturing tools. It is located in downtown Lima, right next to the Legislative Palace.
Black vultures are common
Black vultures are pretty common in the city if you look up you will see them circling or watching over the city from a rooftop. Despite having a bad reputation (trash eaters, bad omens), black vultures also known as “gallinazos” are responsible for cleaning up the city. Last year, a campaign was implemented to strap GoPro cameras onto black vultures to keep control over waste dumping areas.
Lima was built over a desert
Lima is the second-largest city built on a desert after Cairo in Egypt. It gets 80 percent of its water from the Rimac river that runs across downtown Lima. Civilizations from 2,000 years ago before the Spanish conquest built water canals that are still being used today. Despite Lima’s three main rivers, only 92 percent of its citizens have access to drinking water.
Oldest University in the Americas
The oldest and longest continuously operating university in the Americas is the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru, established in 1551 by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and King of Spain.
Founded 85 years before Harvard University (1636) in North America, the University of Peru continues to be a leading university today, with over 30,000 undergraduates and 4,000 graduate students. When the Peruvian republic was established in 1821, the Catholic university was closed. It was re-established as an autonomous secular university in 1874.
The smallest church in South America
Nuestra señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) in the Rimac district in downtown Lima is considered the smallest church in the world! It was built in 1550 with adobe, thatch, wood, and brick, singular for its size 16-feet wide, 39-feet long and 32-feet tall. There is a high altar, an oratory, and two side altars. This is unknown to Lima in general. It was possibly the first temple that rose after the Cathedral. However, it has everything that tends to have a large church. This Chapel belongs to the parish of San Lazaro, whose Church is two blocks away and is part of the historic center of Lima, Cultural heritage.
The presidential palace was built on top of ruins
Before Lima was taken over by the Spanish empire and became the most important viceroyalty. The territory was controlled by a lord named Taulichusco who oversaw it all from his home exactly where the current presidential palace stands. In 2011, the then-president Alan García made public the remains of a 2,000-year-old temple under the presidential palace. To visit the Presidential Palace, you must book your tickets in advance at the Palace Tourism Office, which is located right across from the palace.
Three Peruvian restaurants are among the world’s top 50
Lima is one of the world’s best cities for foodies where Peru’s capital has three restaurants in the top 50. The acclaim goes to Central (No. 4), Maido (No. 13), and Astrid y Gastón (No. 30). Each restaurant shows off different aspects of Peru’s diverse culture and culinary creativity. Compared with many other entries on the list, they also represent a (relative) bargain.