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10 things to do for free: Lima, Peru

Exactly 100 years after the rediscovery of Machu Picchu, it's a good time to peruse Peru. And you needn't spend a single sol exploring its colonial capital

Eternal lovers in the Parque del Amor (LollyKnit)

1. Peer around a palace

The super-organised can join a free 45-minute tour of the Palacio de Gobierno, which includes watching the daily changing of the guard (12 noon); register with the Departmento de Actividades at least 48 hours in advance. www.presidencia.gob.pe/index.asp

2. Expect the Spanish Inquisition

The Museo del Congreso y de la Inquisición was the HQ of the Spanish Inquisition from 1570 to1820. Prisoners were tortured in the basement; now you can take free tours of the dungeons where creepy, life-sized figures are tortured still.

3. Absorb the Orient

Stroll through the ornate oriental gateway into Barrio Chino, Lima’s Chinatown, to take in the exotic sights and smells of the many chifa (Chinese) restaurants and foodstalls.

4. Spy the best view in town

Casa de Osambela, Lima’s tallest colonial building, was originally built so its owner could see over the countryside to the port, to spy on merchant ships. A free tour is available from the Casa’s current caretaker (tip appreciated); ask to see the roof terrace, from where the sea can still be seen... Just.

5. Loll in the Love Garden

Parque del Amor sits on the cliffs of Miraflores, a massive sculpture of a kissing couple at its soppy heart. Sit with your sweetheart on one of the winding mosaic benches, which are littered with hearts and romantic writings.

6. Watch out for hummingbirds

Head to San Isidro to wander amid the Bosque El Olivar, an olive grove first planted in 1560. It’s developed its own ecosystem and is home to over 30 different species of bird including doves, flycatchers and hummingbirds.

7. Promenade along La Punta

Come sunset take the bus to La Punta, a crumbling but atmospheric peninsula jutting out into the crashing Pacific. The views are spectacular, across to outlaying islands and over the endless ocean.

8. Hike the cliff-tops

It takes 45 minutes to walk along the coast from Miraflores to Barranco; from up here the surfers braving the cold Costa Verde waters look small indeed. At the Iglesia de la Ermita (Church of the Hermit) in Barranco, wander across the secluded Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) to the ocean lookout.

9. Join a free tour

Every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 12.30pm you can join Lucid Lima on a 90-minute tour of the UNESCO-listed colonial town. No booking required, just show up at Plaza Peru by the small fountain.

10. Catch a performance

The well-tended Parque Kennedy in Miraflores has a small open-air theatre that often holds free entertainment, Thursdays to Sundays. There's also a craft market most evenings for a bit of browsing.

And one to break the bank

The 70m-high cliffs and Pacific winds of Miraflores make it an ideal spot for paragliding. Take a tandem flight with a pro (S/150 – around £35) or learn to do it for yourself: a six-day course costs around $600 (£365). www.perufly.com

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