Barranco – Lima’s Chic Bohemian District
There’s probably no nicer area to stay in Lima than in the Barranco district. It’s small, only around three kilometers, which means you can get around easily. It’s extremely safe: nightlife ends at three in the morning and you can happily walk around the streets till then. And it has enough people – about 45 000 – to offer lots to do, without being overwhelming. More than that, the city has its own micro-climate. It’s warmer and drier than many other districts because it is sheltered from the cold winds from the south by the cliffs of Chorillos.
It’s also one of the most cultured, atmospheric, arty and foodie places. Here are a few things you might like to do while you are there:
Take a long slow walk to the beach
The beach is one of the main attractions in Barranco, but so is just the walk to get there. A long walkway to the sea runs through the city, called the Bajada de los Baños. Take a stroll while admiring the beautiful architecture, flower-filled parks and streets, and art galleries.
Once on the beachfront
This area is one of the main surfing beaches so bring your surfboard and paddle out in the sea. If activity is not your thing, simply laze around on the beach before enjoying one of the excellent seafood restaurants. When in Barranco, you have to try the ceviche – no one does raw fish quite like the Peruvians!
Make a date with each other to meet at the Bridge of Sighs
This bridge, known in Spanish as Puente de los Suspiros, crosses over the walkway to the sea and is famous for lovers making appointments with each other. It was built in 1876, when making a date was simply beyond the scope of the current technologically possible, so lovers used to simplify things by meeting at a central point. Why not have a little fun with each other by recreating the atmosphere of meeting up in the late 19th century just to see how it feels. “See you at the bridge at 10.30”!
Buy local produce at the Sunday Farmer’s market
Lima has in recent times become one of the foodie capitals of the world. Every Sunday, between 9.00 and 15.00, there is a fantastic farmers’ market called the Feria Ecologica d Barranco. You’ll find it on Estadio Chipoco and Parque de los Heros. Here, you’ll meet farmers and producers of organic fare, eager to share their goods and stories with you. All the food is organic, sustainable and very fresh. Take it home for a delicious home cooked meal.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
This is the only museum in Lima that specializes in art dating from the 1950s onwards. Most if its works are Latin American and European, with examples of constructivism, conceptual art, geometric art, and pop art. The façade and the museum are fabulous. Not to be missed.
Buy or browse art in galleries
If you’re interested in taking home some art or even just browsing, there are incredibly interesting art galleries to visit. One of the most magnificent is the Galleria Lucia de la Puente. Even if you’re not so keen on art, go there just to see the magnificent house. The gallery is large, over 700 square meters, so you may want to break up your visit over several days. You’ll see works by prominent Peruvian artists as well as young emerging talents.
You may have heard of the famous fashion photographer, Mario Testino. He’s regarded as one of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of our times. His photographs have been published internationally in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. You probably didn’t know he was from Lima.
Well, after three decades of living outside his native country, he’s come home and brought a large collection of his famous photos with him, luckily for you, situated in the Barranco district. It’s called the Asociación Mario Testino (MATE).
If you love gardens, visit the Pedro de Osma museum. It’s an early 20th century mansion, with some stunning art. Seeing a ceramic head of John the Baptist may not be your cup of tea, so go forewarned. But the gardens are impressive.
Lastly, if you love textile sand ceramics, don’t miss the Lima Art Museum (MALI), which holds over 3000 years of Peru’s textiles, ceramics and furniture. Quite astonishing.
For the techno lovers amongst you, the Museum of Electricity is also very close by. It contains artefacts from years ago and is very interesting for the knowledgeable and the techno-challenged.
Take the funicular
Constructed in 1930 to link the houses at the top of Barranco with the beach area, this is a great way to get a view from top to bottom of the city and the sea. It leaves every half hour and can take 24 people at once.
Admire the architecture
This gorgeous neighborhood is a combination of spectacular architectural styles in myriad colors. Just walking up Grau Avenue or San Martin avenue, you’ll spot a range of styles, from art nouveau, to Victorian to Neo-classical. Don’t miss the Casa Rosell-Rios.
Enjoy the nightlife
There are countless bars to enjoy a drink, and many restaurants. We’ll talk about the best restaurants (or rather, the ones we like best) in our next article. For now, make sure you stop in at the Juanito bar. It’s next to the main plaza, in a beautiful house.
Of course, you cannot go to Lima without experiencing the beauty of salsa dancing. Join Luis and Marita every Saturday for a free Cuban salsa and Rueda de Casino class in a public park. A must go to place for either watching or learning this dramatic dance is Son de Cuba in Miraflores. Each night features a different band and a live show, including salsa. You will love it!
The nights end late in Barranco: be prepared to do nothing much to do the next day!