A former beach resort and home to Peru’s most affluent residents in the early 19th century, Lima’s Barranco district has more recently transformed into a creative hub favored by the country’s leading artists.
The streets of Barranco are awash with art and brightly colored buildings – no wonder this vibrant barrio, where talent flows freely, is known as Lima’s most romantic area. Barranco gets its particularly stunning looks from its location, on the cliffs – south of central Lima and the high-end Miraflores neighborhood. With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the bohemian hotspot is home to trendy cafés, eateries and lively bars, many of them overlooking the beach. And while Barranco is fairly quiet during the day, the atmosphere becomes much livelier in the evening. After all, it is known as the Soho of Lima.
Located in Miraflores – Lima’s entertainment district, just north of Barranco – AC Hotel Lima Miraflores is a sophisticated hotel with an elegant interior. The hotel, part of the Marriott group, is ideally situated by the Malecón – a 2-mile-(3km-)long promenade beside the Pacific Ocean. Swanky Miraflores is a favorite amongst tourists, boasting a large number of restaurants, bars and shops, including Larcomar, an outside mall set on the ocean cliff. Luxury meets comfort at this contemporary hotel, which is designed with an elegant neutral color palette. Step inside and you’re introduced to a suave space with 139 rooms spread over 17 floors and an impressive rooftop bar – the only one of its kind in Lima – with stunning views of the Peruvian capital. Enjoy dinner with a view here, as well as the hotel’s signature drink, ACGT (A Custom Gin Tonic). If you prefer to stay inside, head down to Saladero, the onsite restaurant that serves up a fusion of European and Peruvian dishes.
Begin your visit at the main square, the heart of Barranco. Here you’ll find charming colonial buildings, a beautiful park and multiple statues and fountains, but the plaza also provides entertainment. As a meeting point for local residents, many artists gather here to share their passion with bystanders: musicians come out to play their latest tunes, painters display their work, designers sell their craft and actors put on a show.
A short walk away, you have the iconic Puente de Los Suspiros, also known as Barranco’s Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1876, the historic wooden bridge has become one of Peru’s most famed landmarks, and offers beautiful views of Lima – it’s particularly romantic in the evening when the quaint area is illuminated. Legend has it that if you hold your breath and make a wish while crossing the bridge, your wish will come true.
Barranco’s transformation has established the territory as an important hub for Lima’s art scene, with many of its museums and shops paying homage to Peruvian culture and heritage. A short walk from the main square is one of Lima’s prime museums, MATE, which showcases the best of the city’s contemporary art. Set in a 19th-century colonial building, the gallery was founded in 2012 by Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino. The museum exhibits some of Testino’s most famous photographs, including a room filled with portraits of the late Princess Diana. Collections are presented in themed rooms that display Testino’s diverse range of photography. In Alta Moda, for instance, the room features striking high-fashion images of indigenous women wearing traditional garments from the Andes region of Peru.
A pioneer, Dédalo Arte y Artesanía was one of the first artisan hubs in Barranco. The part-gallery, part-craft center has helped shape the district since the early 1990s and is still considered one of Lima’s go-to spots for shopping nearly three decades later. But the venue is more than just an art exhibitor. Set in a 20th-century building, visitors are taken on a creative journey through themed rooms that feature contemporary Peruvian craft, everything hand-picked by owner Maria Elena Fernández. A prime spot for souvenir shopping, visitors are able to take a bit of Peru with them by purchasing original pieces made by native artists. Celebrating Peru’s heritage, one can expect to find everything from Peruvian tchotchkes to unique accessories to eclectic jewelry.
Peru’s gastronomy scene has evolved through the years, turning Lima into a must-visit foodie destination. And what better way to discover the country’s traditional foods than to visit one of Lima’s bestmarkets? Just a short walk from Barranco, Miraflores’ Mercado de Surquillo is your introduction to Peruvian cuisine. Upon arrival, you’ll probably spot the fruit vendors first, with their wide range of brightly colored and unique tropical fruits like lucuma, cherimoya and pepino. Taste of some of these local treasures before moving over to the meat and fish section, to see what’s arrived fresh that morning. Be sure to stop and indulge in traditional dishes such as ceviche and tiradito. A walk around the market stalls will allow you to see and smell your way through the country’s most loved foods.