No one can accuse Lima of having a dearth of museums. In fact, the problem is more about choosing which ones to visit! There are many ranging from small to large, private collections to publically funded, historical to artsy, and many others. While the ultimate choice of museum will largely depend on your interests and time, there are three museums in Lima that I think are worth checking out.
Larco Museum (A private collection)
This is largely regarded as one of the best (or even the best) museums of Lima. It is located in an 18th-century mansion that apparently used to belong to a viceroy. There is also a large garden, bursting with flowers of all sorts of colours, making Larco Museum probably one of the prettiest museums you’ll ever visit. Tours are available but I preferred to read the placards on my own. The one downside to this place is the price – it is expensive…but worth the price if you tend to enjoy museums.
The displays within the museum are wonderfully presented, well planned out with detailed descriptions. The displays date back to 7000CE and come from various cultures around Peru. Items include pre-Colombian ceramics, gold and silver metal works, and textiles made with vegetable or animal fibres. The most famous collection at Larco Museum is a tucked away display of erotic ceramics. It’s a giggle fest but when you actually take the time to read the signs, you realize the ceramics had deeper meaning to the ancient Peruvians than we juvenile modern folks realize.
There is a gift shop and a restaurant on site. But my favourite bit was the storage room. Unusually enough, Larco Museum allows visitors to go into the classified storage area where you can see 45,000 historical objects not displayed within the museum itself. Items are neatly sorted and catalogued within shelving units. I had always wondered what museums have behind the scenes so it was awesome to finally get to see at one museum!
Pueblo Libre, Lima
National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History (Covers a broad spectrum of interests)
This museum has a large mouthful of a name but that means it has a crap ton of things to see. You can spend hours here, if you love museums. Bonus, it’s in an old colonial mansion so lots of arches and a cloister garden. This one was founded in 1826, making it Peru’s oldest state museum. Again, you can arrange a tour here but I preferred to just read the signs myself.
In this museum, you’ll find all sorts of things about Peru’s history (ancient, colonial, and republican times) and peoples – textiles, ceramics, metals, photos, paintings, dioramas, skulls, books, and items from people’s homes (ie. Bolivar). The one thing that disappointed me was the very minimal exploration of slavery’s impact on Peru and the Afro-Peruvian culture.
This museum is perfect if you’re looking for an overview of Peru at the start of your trip and/or you only have time for one and want something comprehensive. I went at the end of my trip and it was still good – a nice summary of everything I’d seen the past five weeks!
Pueblo Libre, Lima
Museum of the Central Reserve Bank (Quirky setting and free!)
Stumbling across this museum during a wander in downtown Lima with my sister, we didn’t really expect much from what looked like a bank. I enjoyed this one, though, and it was nice that it was free. Here, there are archaeological items (the usual metal works, potteries, and textiles), an art gallery of Peruvian works, a small coin display, and an exhibition of folk art. What makes this place quirky is that it still feels like a bank – some of the vault doors and employee grills are still up! So if you are looking for a break from the streets of downtown Lima, I suggest checking out this museum.
Did You Know:
For many cultures in Peru, gold and silver were seen as beautiful metals worthy of turning into adornments for themselves and as offerings to the gods. They didn’t necessarily assign economic value to these metals like the Europeans did.