Lima, Peru

Reference work entry


Lima is in the centre of Peru on the coastal desert, to the west of the Andean foothills. Its port, Callao, is 13 km to the East. The Rímac River transverses the city.


The area around Lima has been inhabited since 4000 BC. Pre-Ceramic Age farmers and fishermen lived in Chilca (circa 4000 BC) and Asia (circa 2000 BC), just south of Lima. After being inhabited by the Wari around 800 AD, the area was settled by the Chancay people before coming under the rule of the Inca Empire.

Two years after they entered the Rímac Valley, Lima was colonized by Conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Founded on 6 Jan., it was named Ciudad de los Reyes. Since the Inca capital Cuzco was too far from the coast, Lima was established as the capital of the new viceroyalty. Built from scratch, the city comprised low, solid buildings suitable for the earthquake-prone area. The city was the seat of the high court for all the viceroyalty and developed into a powerful capital. In 1551 the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos de Lima was founded, the oldest university in South America. The seat of the Inquisition for Spanish America was established in Lima in 1569. A thriving import-export trade developed with Spain.

Built in 1610 the Puente de Piedra spanning the Rímac, around which the city of Lima developed, was one of the first stone structures. Despite numerous earthquakes that in the seventeenth century (the worst being in 1746), the city continued to develop, although expansion was slow for the next two centuries.

Lima was a conservative city, loyal to its colonial tradition. Thus, Peru was the last mainland country to gain independence from Spain. After Independence (28 July 1821), much of the colonial architecture was destroyed including the city walls. Lima and its port were connected by the first railway built in Peru. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83) with Chile, Lima was taken on 17 Jan. 1881 when there was widespread destruction.

After Independence Lima remained a relatively small city until Pueblos jóvenes, or shantytowns, rapidly sprang up from the 1950s onwards. Former mansions were subdivided to house the influx of migrants. Poverty is wide spread and there is an absence of basic amenities in even the most established pueblos jóvenes.

Modern City

Lima is the dominant financial and industrial centre of Peru, manufacturing three fifths of Peru’s industrial goods and controlling the majority of financial business. Principal industries include textiles, oil refining, automobile production and shipbuilding. One third of Peru’s population is concentrated in Lima.

Traditional industries have recently been surpassed by smaller businesses, begun in the 1970s in an attempt to improve the economic situation of the poorest Limeños. In 1991 Lima was declared a UNESCO world heritage site to preserve the few remaining historical buildings threatened by an ever-increasing population. Lima’s Jorge Chavéz international airport is located at Callao. The Ferrocarril Central del Perú railway connects Lima to remote Andean highlands.

Places of Interest

The Cathedral is one of the few surviving examples of Colonial architecture. Although parts were destroyed in various earthquakes, reconstruction has followed original plans. Designed by the Spanish architect Francisco Becerra, construction began in 1598. The seventeenth-century Baroque church of San Francisco contains a library dating from the times of the Conquistadors. Lima’s museums include the Museo de la Nación for Peruvian archaeology; the Museo de Oro del Perú, containing gold artefacts; and the Museo de Arte, which has displays spanning 400 years of Peruvian art. The Palacio de Gobierno also known as the Casa de Pizarro was the Conquistador’s designated seat of government. The Plaza Bolívar contains a statue of Simón Bolívar built in 1851 by the Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini.

Archaeological ruins around Lima are centred on Pachacamac, 30 km south of Lima. Dating from the early intermediate period (200 BC–600 AD), it was a ceremonial site of proto-Lima people, the Maramba, whose god was of the same name. It was then the site of Wari pilgrimage before being settled by the Incas who converted it into the Temple of the Sun. It was one of the largest pre-Colonial cities in Peru.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Personalised recommendations