Most visitors to Lima's Colonial Centre get a tantalizing glimpse of a district that starkly reflects Lima's contrasts. Visible just north of the Presidential Palace and San Francisco Monastery, across the natural boundary of early Colonial Lima, the Rimac River, is the district of the same name.
Being so close to Peru's post-Conquest heart, the area has a number of interesting and historic attractions, but it is also evidence of the rapid, chaotic, urban growth that characterizes much of Lima from the 1960s onwards.
Geographically, it is dominated by the river and Cerro San Cristobal, a 409 m (1,342 ft) high hilltop, with a giant crucifix which is illuminated at night, that overlooks the city from the northeast. There are 14 crosses in total on the hill, representing the Stations of the Cross, but most of these have been subsumed by very rudimentary housing, erected by recent arrivals to Lima, desperate for land. There are currently some 3,000 people living on the slopes of the Cerro.
Nonetheless, there are regular buses departing from the Plaza de Armas taking visitors up the narrow, winding road to the small museum and lookout at the summit. Here they are rewarded with great views of coastal and suburban Lima during the hot, clear days of summer. During the misty months of winter, the views are more obscure, but intriguing nevertheless.
Aside from the Cerro San Cristobal, two sites of interest lie in Rimac. The Convento de los Descalzos (Descalzos Friary) is named after the descalzos (bare-footed) Franciscan friars who founded it in the late 16th Century. It boasts several hundred Colonial paintings of the Cusqueño, Quiteño, and Limeño schools, many in excellent condition.
More interesting for many visitors is the kitchen, where 17th century wine-making equipment is displayed, as well as an infirmary, apothecary, refectory, and the monks' cells. The friary is rarely visited, owing to its location.
The Plaza de Toros de Acho is the oldest bullring in the Americas and the second-oldest in the world after La Maestranza in Spain (not counting the Roman Empire-era Arles Amphitheatre in France). It was built of adobe and wood, in 1765, and has only undergone one major refurbishment, in 1944. Now classified as a National Historic Monument, with a capacity of nearly 14,000, it is undoubtedly the most prominent of Peru's 56 official bull rings.
Originally corridas (bull fights) in Acho were arranged to coincide with Carnival, in February or early March, but now the season is held in honour of the Señor de los Milagros festival in October and November, with toreros (bull fighters) coming from overseas - most notably Spain - to compete.
Adjoining the ring is the Museo Taurino, a bullfighting museum. It displays famous toreros’ costumes and other memorabilia, and exhibits artwork celebrating this dangerous - and often controversial - sport by famed taurine enthusiasts, such as Goya and Picasso.