By Mike Gasparovic
Barranco is Lima’s version of funky. It’s also artsy, trendy, peaceful (during the day), verdant…and very romantic. Geographically the tiniest of Lima’s 30 districts, Barranco is long on history and personality, which is what makes barranquinos so fiercely proud of their neighborhood. Check out the following spots to sample its many charms.
Where to Go
Barranco is small enough that you can do a comprehensive walking tour in a day. Coming in from the north, after crossing the ditch that gives the district its name, get off at Av. Saenz Peña, a central boulevard lined with lovely republican-era architecture. Many of the houses here date back to the 1800s and beyond. From there, stroll down to the malecon (seawalk), which offers a view of the cliffs of Miraflores and Chorrillos in the distance.
The malecon’s southern end brings you to the Bajada de Baños and the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs), two of the most storied places in Lima. The Bridge has been the site of countless lovers’ trysts, and the lovely park that overlooks it is always full of young couples.
After checking out the historic Ermita church, walk down the bajada to the mirador at the end, to see the Pacific in all its savage beauty. From there, it’s back up to the Parque de Barranco, where you can see the historic Municipal Library, built almost 100 years ago and still open to the public.
Your last stop on your southerly stroll should be the Museo Pedro de Osma (Av. Pedro de Osma 423, tel. 467-0141), one of Lima’s little-known gems. The collection, housed in a turn-of-the-century aristocratic mansion, includes paintings, textiles, furniture, and gold- and silverwork from the 16th and 17th centuries, when Peru’s criollo culture was struggling to develop its own identity. The exhibits are well presented, but hours are irregular: be sure to call before planning a visit.
Where to Eat
Barranco is full of great eateries, many of which are guidebook staples. But it also has numerous huariques (holes in the wall) that are strong on ambiance as well as food.
Among the best is Javier (Pasaje Bajada de Baños 408, tel. 477-1320), a small local chain specializing in criollo dishes and seafood. It does all the Peruvian classics very well, but its Barranco branch is perfectly situated, with several lovely terraces that afford a lingering view of the Pacific sunset.
Equally charming, and more rustic, is Sabor y Tradicion (Jirón Sucre 315, tel. 252-8831), whose menu skews towards Italian and Peruvian comfort food, simply and lovingly prepared.
Finally, the homey tavern Songoro Cosongo (Jirón Ayacucho 281, tel. 247-4735) has walls lined with nostalgic photos of Barranco in bygone days. The pasta dishes are standouts, and there is musica criolla nightly from local musicians who drop by for impromptu concerts and jam sessions.
Where to Drink
Barranco is, with Miraflores, the center of Lima’s bustling nightlife, and the bars here are powerful magnets for the young, the hip, the bohemian, and the hard-partying.
At the top end, there’s Ayahuasca (Prolongación San Martin 130, tel. 247-6751), a trendy hangout for young professionals in a two-story refurbished colonial mansion. The lounge-style décor is gorgeous, the drinks delicious and imaginative.
More accessible but equally packed is El Dragón (Av. Nicolas de Pierola 168, tel. 715-5043), a slightly hipster-ish (by Peruvian standards) but still friendly joint with live music, a dance floor, trivia and painting contests, and other weekly events.
By contrast, the three branches of El Posada del Angel (Prolongación San Martin 157 and Av. Pedro de Osma 164 and 300, tel. 247-5544) are quiet, intimate places to talk and have a bottle of wine while listening to a singer crooning “La flor de la canela.”
But if you really want live music, head to La Noche (Pasaje Sanchez Carrión 199A, tel. 247-1012). This two-story concert hall is the place to hear Latin music in Lima, with free jazz every Monday night and one of the coolest, most progressive crowds in town.
Have you visited Barranco? What would you recommend for fellow travelers?
Mike Gasparovic is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. His great passion is Latin American culture, and he devotes most of his free time to studying the history, art, literature, and people of the Spanish-speaking world. He currently lives in Lima and writes on behalf of Aracari Travel, a provider of special interest and exclusive Peru tours. Images courtesy of the author.