Entering the Barranco neighborhood of Lima is sort of like entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. No, there isn’t a chocolate river or edible flowers and trees, but it’s a lively respite from the moody skies and gray clouds lurking above Lima. Known as the SoHo of Lima, Barranco is one of the city's hippest neighborhoods, with colorful street art, tucked away bars and coffee shops, vibrant old mansions and summer houses, beautiful museums, delicious food, and plenty of bohemian vibes. Here, a guide to some of the best treasures in the neighborhood.
Where to See Culture in Barranco
A great start to the Barranco neighborhood is making your way across the Puente de Los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. One of the most famous landmarks of the neighborhood, this wooden bridge comes with a legend that states that if you make a wish and hold your breath for the entire time you walk across the 100-foot bridge, then your wish will come true.
To see some incredible street art, simply start wondering through the neighborhood for murals. These vibrant displays are everywhere and constantly changing, with whimsical, realistic, and graffiti-style displays. Wear comfortable shoes and make sure your phone is charged, as you’ll find yourself snapping photos constantly.
One of the coolest museums in the city is in Barranco. The MATE, founded in 2012 by famed photographer Mario Testino, is a museum full of stunning images from Testino himself. A native of Lima, Testino is one of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of our time, and is known for his portraits of Princess Diana, Madonna, Gisele Bündchen, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Moss among others. The museum is housed in a gorgeously restored 19th-century mansion filled with wall-to-floor portraits in an impressive display.
For shopping, head to Dédalo Arte y Artesanías, a shop and gallery combination where you can roam the halls and bounce from room to room for Peruvian crafts, modern fashion, jewelry, décor, furniture, and recycled objects. The temporary exhibition hall displays works from artists and rotates every three weeks.
Where to Eat in Barranco
Ceviche — a seafood dish made from fresh, raw fish that’s cured in citrus juices and seasoned with spices, salt, and onions — is a must try while in Peru. Head to El Muelle, a laid-back cevicheria that offers ceviche-making lessons and some of the freshest ceviche in the city. Sample some other local favorites here, like causa, a cold dish of mashed yellow potato packed with layers of filling of the chef’s choice. Common causa ingredients are chicken, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, and avocado. Wash it all down with a glass of chicha morada, a Peruvian, non-alcoholic drink traditionally made from purple corn, pineapple, and spices like cinnamon and clove. It tastes like autumn, and you can thank me later.
For an authentic drinks like a pisco sour or chilcano, head to Juanito de Barranco, a beloved 1930s bar reminiscent of a New York City Jewish deli. The space is small, with walls covered in posters advertising local art shows and theater performances, but it’s always full of locals cheering on Peru in a soccer match or raising their glasses after a long day at work. For a hopping nightlife scene, sip cocktails at Ayahuasca, a bar and restaurant located in the 19th-century Berninzon Mansion. Wander from room to room upstairs and down, each decorated with unique décor.
You cannot go to Barranco and skip a meal at Isolina, a tavern-style eatery celebrating home cooking and forgotten recipes from generations past. Chef José del Castillo named the restaurant after his mother, and fans have formed a loyal following to his cuisine. Come early, as the line outside forms quickly. Order the papa rellena — stuffed potato with minced meat, criolla salsa, and Peruvian red pepper cream; the jalea de pejerreyes — a deep-fried Peruvian white fish; escabeche de bonito — bonito fish brined in vinegar, spices, and ají chili pepper; and costillar de cerdo a la chorrillana — crispy pork ribs with stir-fried onions, tomatoes, and boiled potatoes.
If you’re looking for some sweet treats to take home for souvenirs, head to El Cacaotal, a Peruvian chocolate house that specializes in bean-to-bar, fair-trade chocolate. Join in a chocolate-tasting class, or simply chat with a staff member to find the best Peruvian chocolate. (Long story short, fair-trade chocolate isn’t always fair.)
Where to Stay Near Barranco
In the Miraflores neighborhood just north of Barranco, the AC Hotel Lima Miraflores is a contemporary oasis with ocean views and rooftop dining. The hotel has a great location at Malecón de la Reserva with an easy walk to Larcomar, the seaside shopping center next door with numerous dining and retail selections.
Also in Miraflores, the JW Marriott Hotel Lima is located within walking distance to the beach and offers modern amenities, Asian and Peruvian cuisine at two on-site restaurants, and ocean views.
For sweeping city views, stay at the Westin Lima Hotel, where guests can peer out their windows at night to see the beautiful city twinkling below. In the San Isidro district, the hotel is surrounded by restaurants, shopping, and city living. The hotel has the largest urban spa in South America, and excellent Peruvian fine-dining cuisine at Maras, a great option for those wanting to sample some of Lima’s storied gastronomy.