Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population approaching 9 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru, and the fifth largest city in the Americas (as defined by “city proper”).
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as Ciudad de los Reyes. It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today, around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area.
Lima is home to one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551 during Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas.
In October 2013, Lima was chosen in a ceremony in Toronto to host the 2019 Pan American Games, winning with an enormous advantage over the other two finalist cities.
The urban area of Lima covers about 800 km2 (310 sq mi). It is located on mostly flat terrain in the Peruvian coastal plain, within the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. The city slopes gently from the shores of the Pacific Ocean into valleys and mountain slopes located as high as 500 meters (1,600 ft) above mean sea level. Within the city there are isolated hills which are not connected to the surrounding hill chains, such as El Agustino, San Cosme, El Pino, La Milla, Muleria and Pro hills. The San Cristobal hill in the Rímac District, which lies directly north of the downtown area, is the local extreme of an Andean hill outgrowth.
Metro Lima covers 2,672.28 km2 (1,031.77 sq mi), of which 825.88 km2 (318.87 sq mi) (31%) comprise the actual city and 1,846.40 km2 (712.90 sq mi) (69%) the city outskirts. The urban area extends around 60 km (37 mi) from north to south and around 30 km (19 mi) from west to east. The city center is located 15 km (9.3 mi) inland at the shore of the Rímac River, a vital resource for the city, since it carries what will become drinking water for its inhabitants and fuels the hydroelectric dams that provide electricity to the area.
While no official administrative definition for the city exists, it is usually considered to be composed of the central 30 of 43 districts of Lima Province, corresponding to an urban area centered around the historic Cercado de Lima district. The city is the core of the Lima Metro Area, one of the ten largest metro areas in the Americas. Lima is the world’s second largest desert city, after Cairo, Egypt.
As the major point of entry to the country, Lima has developed a tourism industry, characterized by its historic center, archeological sites, nightlife, museums, art galleries, festivals, and traditions. Lima is home to restaurants and bars where local and international cuisine is served. The Historic Centre of Lima, made up of the districts of Lima and Rímac, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. Some examples of colonial architecture include the Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral, Covenant of Santo Domingo, the Palace of Torre Tagle, and much more.
A tour of the city’s churches is a popular circuit among tourists. A trip through the central district goes through churches dating from as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, the most noteworthy of which are the Cathedral of Lima and the Monastery of San Francisco, said to be connected by their subterrestrial catacombs. Both of these churches contain paintings, Sevilian tile, and sculpted wood furnishings.
Also notable is the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas, the point of origin for the Lord of Miracles, whose festivities in the month of October constitute the most important religious event in Lima, and a major one of Peru. Some sections of the Walls of Lima still remain and are frequented by tourists. These examples of medieval Spanish fortifications were built to defend the city from attacks by pirates and privateers.
Beaches are visited during the summer months, located along the Pan-American Highway, to the south of the city in districts such as Lurín, Punta Hermosa, Santa María del Mar (Peru), San Bartolo and Asia. Restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, bars, clubs, and hotels have developed to cater to beachgoers. The suburban districts of Cieneguilla, Pachacamac, and the city of Chosica, are tourist attractions among locals. Because they are located at a higher elevation than Lima, they receive more sunshine in winter months, something that the city of Lima frequently lacks under seasonal fog.