October 2, 2017
The Barranco district is the thinking traveller’s beach destination. Once, a seaside playground to Lima’s rich and famous, as the city expanded they vacated their beautiful colonial mansions for artists, poets and bohemians to move in. This cocktail of culture and architecture gives Barranco a palpable aura of cool. But don’t write Barranco off us a one trick pony, a stone’s throw from the arty cafes, galleries, bars, restaurants and theatres are the beaches of Barranquito and Los Pavos, home to the best surf breaks in the city.
The most striking allure of Barranco is the colour. It leaps out from the grey walls and skies of the rest of Lima and gives the neighbourhood the feel of a creative oasis. It comes as no surprise then that the district is home to some of Peru’s best galleries and museums. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo or MAC exhibits art from both Latin American and European artists, it’s a great place to spend a lazy morning with a coffee. MATE is a gallery dedicated to the work of fashion photographer and Lima native Mario Testino. Described as the most prolific fashion photographer in the world, he has photographed everyone from Hollywood’s elite to European royalty. Some museums demonstrate a more specific Peruvian history, the Museum of Electricity for example makes for a surprisingly interesting visit detailing the arrival and progression of electricity in Peru.
Even in brief conversation with a Limeño, talk of food is inevitable. Peruvians are incredibly proud of their cuisine, and with due reason; the flavours here are some of the finest in the world, let alone South America. With Lima’s proximity to the bounty of the Pacific ocean, this is where to find the best of the best. Isolina in Barranco was recently ranked in the top 50 restaurants in South America. It offers expertly prepared typical peruvian food at surprisingly reasonable prices. El Muelle is a great, quiet spot for ceviche, and has dozens of varieties to choose from. Another great locals spot for typical Peruvian food is Canta Rana. Here the walls are covered in old flags and Argentinian sports merchandise and the food is so good that you’ll often see people outside drinking beer, waiting for a table.
Barranco transforms once the sun goes down and there are plenty of options for a place to drink. Barra 55 is home to the city’s greatest selection of gins, and coupled with an effortlessly cool vibe, makes for one of Barranco’s most stylish haunts. For great atmosphere and great beer few have better offerings than Barranco Beer Company, try a flight or get a recommendation from a bartender for one of their brilliant seasonal brews. Be sure to check out Ayahuasca, a grand colonial mansion turned trendy bar with a great cocktail menu and food pairings to match. After a few drinks, head over to La Noche, where almost every night some of Lima’s best bands take up residence on the tiny stage for unforgettable shows.
Due to it’s quiet winding alleys adorned with vibrant street art and poetry, and the amazing sunset bayviews, Barranco has built a reputation amongst Limeños as the city’s romance capital. This is perfectly encompassed by Bajado de los Baños, a sleepy footpath lined by cafes and boutiques that extends from the heart of the district all the way down to the ocean. Spanning the Bajado de los Baños is the Puente de los Suspiros (or Bridge of Sighs). Perhaps Barranco’s most famous landmark, the 30m wooden bridge is, as it always has been, the meeting place for young lovers. Folklore has it that if you were to make a wish and cross the length of the bridge whilst holding your breath, then that wish will be granted. Slightly above the bridge is Parque Villarreal, a beautiful tree lined square filled with street food vendors and sculptures and even if you’re not the romantic type, the park makes for a brilliant vantage point for people watching. Make sure to stick around for sunset, a mirador behind the colonial Ermita de Barranco church offers the most breathtaking clifftop views of the ocean, or head up to the terrace of La Posada del Mirador for a pisco sour and the best sunset in Lima.