Historical Buildings in Lima

Historical Buildings in Lima

Lima, nowadays a bustling, little bit chaotic and quite noisy city, has a rich historical and architectural heritage. When Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535 on an existing indigenous settlement he had clear orders by the Spanish crown on how to create and organize the city. The design and layout of Limas historical Center was based on the model of cities in Spain, especially Seville. The same applies for the first Colonial houses in Lima. Initially the first mansions were all built block (Spanish = Cuadra) by block around Plaza Mayor in a chessboard style and with specific rules as determined by Francisco Pizarro (exact length of one block = 400 feet / 122 m and a precise width of the streets = 40 foot / 12.2 m). During the Colonial times the Spanish immigrants developed their own unique architectural style. The origins of this style were very similar to the typical Arabic-Moorish architecture in Spain. The settlers had to adapt to the local environment like earthquakes or the inferiority of building materials and so soon a very characteristic architectural style developed.

  • Good examples of unique architectural factors are the famous balconies of Lima; most of them closed balconies with jalousies, of Moorish origin but with an absolutely distinctive Lima style and character. Lima known as the "City of Kings" and "City of Gardens" was soon famous for these extraordinary balconies and known as well as "City of Balconies". Lima had so many balconies that nobody ever thought they would be some day something special. The main reason for building closed balconies was that the first immigrants thought it would be inappropriate for their women to be seen from a window, an open balcony or when going outside. Therefore closed balconies like in North-Africa were built, allowing the high society ladies of Lima to see what was going on outside but without being seen.

    Don't let yourself be scared off by good meant warnings that Limas City Center is very unsafe and dangerous. It's true that you should take precautions like in every capital city, don't show off (like carrying your 2000 US$ Digital camera on the belly), carry lots of cash, wear your Rolex (by the way you can buy pretty good replicas here...) and try to blend in, than you should be fine. Since the 1990s the Municipality of Lima "cleaned" the City Center in an effort to remove lots of persistent street vendors (unfortunately there a still quite a few left) and dodgy figures. Programs initiated by the government encouraged the citizens to be proud of their city, renovate buildings and "shape up" streets and parks in an attempt to recuperate the city's cultural heritage and of course to promote tourism.

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Fernandini House

If you are on your way through Limas streets anyway, don’t miss to have a glance at this impressive building. The two floor facade built in 1913 is beautifully decorated with a wrought-iron balustrade in the "Art Nouveau" style. Inside are wide salons decorated with stucco and glass paintings.

Larriva House - Marquis de la Riva

This remarkable Colonial mansion was built in the 18th century by the Larriva family. Typical for Lima and the time the house was built, are the two balconies and the large front door which grants you access to the amazing inner patio. The doors, windows, magnificent bars and the Andalusian style gallery are still the original ones.

Palais Concert

The Palais Concert was opened in 1913 originally as a confectionery, café and bar but almost immediately developed to the meeting place of the bohemian and intellectual world of Lima. Soon it was the most fashionable café, decorated in art nouveau style with magnificent chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, walls covered with mirrors and two rooms with over 100 seats.

Belen House

The Casa Belen on Lima's famous Jiron de la Union in the City Center is a beautifully restored mansion which origins date back to around 1606. Today the privately owned historical monument houses the Museum Andres del Castillo displaying the amazing personal collection of minerals, Chancay ceramics and ancient textiles of the "del Castillo" family.

Birth House of San Martín de Porres

St. Martín de Porres was born illegitimate in 1579 in this beautiful preserved building in Lima that belonged to his mother a colored freed-woman from Panama. His father was a Spanish gentleman. With fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary in Lima and spent his whole life there as a barber, farm labourer, almoner, and infirmarian. Today the Birthhouse of San Martin de Porres houses a social institution for seniors and women.

House of the Thirteen Coins

This single-story residence originally belonging to the López-Flores family dates back to the mid 18th century. Built in clear rococo style the excellent design fits perfectly to the architectural character of Lima in the 18th century. Still preserved are the original doors, windows and grills. Beautiful are the patio and the rooms with a classic Spanish influence. Today the Casa de Trece Monedas houses the Museo Nacional Afroperuano. 

Congress Palace of the Republic of Peru

The Congress Palace is bordered by two squares: the Plaza Bolivar in front and the Plaza Victoria in the back. When Peru became independent in 1821 there was no space for a legislative in Lima, because in Colonial times it wasn't needed. Therefore a decree from June 1822 determined the University of San Marcos with all its premises, back then located at today's Plaza Bolivar, as seat for the Congress until a new building was erected.

House of General César Canevaro

The original house on this property was built by Captain Villegas (governor of Callao) in 1752. In 1818 the building was bought by the Lobatón Laos family. Its current design dates back to the middle of the 19th century, when General César Canevaro, a war hero of the Chilean War (1879 – 1883) rebuilt the house in a typical Republican style with pure and refined lines and beautiful wooden balconies.

National School of Fine Arts

This beautiful preserved convent from 1603, used to be the "Centro de Estudios del Real Colegio Secular de los Agustinos de San Ildefonso" and the "Convent de las Monjas Recogidas" (the Convent of the "Quiet Nuns"). In September 1918 the "Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes" (School of the Beaux-Arts) was founded and after five months of restoration the school was officially opened in April 1919.

House of the Money

In April 1561 Diego Lopez de Zuñiga asked the Spanish Crown for the authorization to establish a "currency house" in Lima to bring order to the various currencies issued in the country. The permission for unified silver coins was granted by Felipe II in August 1565. The production began almost immediately in the Government Palace and other places, later then as well in the "Casa de la Moneda". Today it houses the amazing Numismatic Museum.

Justice Palace

The Justice Palace is a building characteristic for Lima’s modernization and remodeling process at the beginning of the 20th century. Inspired by the Justice Palace in Brussels, though much smaller and lacking the dome, works for the neo classical structure started in 1929 and were finished in 1938. Strategically located at the "entrance" to Lima's city center the Palacio de Justicia is an imposing symbol of the judicial power in Peru.

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