The city of Lima can be daunting and confusing for first-time visitors. Was this really, once upon a time, the capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas? The sprawling city, among the biggest in South America, seems like a hectic mess in some areas, or a pleasant residential place in others. But going to the Plaza de Armas is traveling back in time and down to the historic heart of the Peruvian capital. The square was clearly planned with grandeur in the minds of the conquistadores: it is laid out very spaciously, with wide avenues on all sides. It is actually so big, that the buildings surrounding it look smaller than they actually are.
Lima was founded in 1535 by Pizarro ands de Rivera, the conqueror and first mayor of the city. As in all other colonial cities in the New World, the Spanish planned the city starting with a central square, from which a grid of straight streets fanned out in all directions. Where in Spain the central square is normally called Plaza Mayor, in South America the name is normally Plaza de Armas. The Plaza de Armas in Lima is considerably larger than the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, and it feels much wider than the rather closed square in the Spanish capital. Obviously, the Plaza de Armas also has a large number of important buildings surrounding it. The cathedral of Lima, the palace of the archbishop, the government palace and the municipal palace are among the landmarks defining the Plaza de Armas. Obviously, the buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas are of interest, but so is the square itself. Once used for the market, bullfights and hangings, it now mostly offers a place to rest for the limeños.
The bronze fountain in the middle of the square, erected in 1650, is the oldest part of the entire Plaza de Armas - the buildings we see now are not the original ones: they were either restored after earthquakes or replaced by newer ones. It is an elaborate work of art, surrounded by flowers and protected by a gold chain. From here, four paved stretches run in all directions, with plenty of benches where one can have a rest. Flowerbeds everywhere, giving the square a colourful look. The Plaza de Armas is also good for people watching. Here, you can see businessmen in their suits and with shiny shoes sitting on a bench, photographers looking for customers printing out their last shots on portable printers, young couples caressing each other, and vendors trying to sell something. Thus, the official function of the square is balanced by the everyday people using it. This combination is just another reason for a visit to the Plaza de Armas worth it.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Plaza de Armas (Peru). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Plaza de Armas.
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