Published on December 8th, 2015 | by Mark Chesnut
Barranco Travel Tips: 15 Things to Do in the Hippest ‘Hood in Lima, Peru
Many decades ago, the neighborhood called Barranco was a weekend getaway for the moneyed elite of Lima, Peru. Located on the craggy Pacific coastline, Barranco first became a hotspot in the late 19th century, as wealthy limeños built grand summer residences as well as permanent homes.
Urban sprawl, as well as improved highways and mass transportation, brought Barranco much closer to the rest of Peru‘s capital. Today, it serves Lima’s Bohemian heart, thanks to the wide variety of independent stores, art galleries, restaurants and bars, as well as a handful of noteworthy museums. It’s a quiet oasis just a few minutes by taxi from Lima’s busier neighborhoods, and a great place to stroll, shop, dine and imbibe. The historic architecture — although in places lacking some loving care — is ornate and beautiful (you can enter some buildings that have been converted to restaurants, shops and museums), and the central square is a lovely place to people watch. Also a must-see is the Puente de los Suspires (Bridge of Sighs), a wooden structure that spans a stone walkway that leads to the Pacific coast. Throughout the neighborhood, you’ll notice colorful wall murals and graffiti, a sign of the area’s current role as an artistic hotspot.
If you’re planning your next business trip to Lima or Peru vacation, Barranco is worth adding to the itinerary. I based myself in Barranco for five days recently, after moderating a couple panels at the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference. I loved the relaxed ambiance of Barranco, which led me to come up with this list of the best things to see and do in Barranco (subscribe to LatinFlyer.com so you won’t miss my upcoming gallery of travel photos of some of Lima’s most beautiful architecture, much of which is in Barranco).
Museums in the Barranco District of Lima
As a relatively small neighborhood, Barranco doesn’t have too many large-scale attractions — and that’s part of its charm. There are four museums, each of which has its own unique appeal.
Museo Mario Testino (Mario Testino Museum, also called MATE; Avenida Pedro de Osma 409): If you know fashion, you’ve likely seen the work of the most famous Peruvian photographer, Mario Testino. Even if you don’t like fashion, you’ve probably seen his work anyway, since he’s snapped some of the world’s most famous celebrities. This museum, set in a historic former home in Barranco, showcases some of his most impressive work. Most of the space is dedicated to a permanent exhibit of some of his most famous shots, divided by themes: one room is dedicated to Madonna, one to supermodel Kate Moss, another to Giselle Bündchen, and another to Alta Moda, a collection of not-often-seen photographs of residents of the mountainous area around Cusco, dressed in festive traditional Peruvian clothing. A separate gallery is devoted to his 1997 portraits of Diana, Princess of Wales, which appeared in Vanity Fair in 1997. The gift shop provides an opportunity to pick up copies of his photography in a variety of formats.
PERU TRAVEL TIPS: “My Lima” — Personal Favorites from TourGuidePeru’s Aaron Paiva Leyton
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Museum of Contemporary Art; Avenida Grau 1511): This small-yet-noteworthy museum, which opened in 2013, hosts temporary exhibits of artwork from Peru and beyond. Guided tours and art workshops are included in the admission price on Sundays. The outside garden is a pleasant place to sit and relax, and the small gift shop stocks interesting items, including photo books, bags, framed artwork and purses. Interesting finds include animal sculptures made from recycled rubber from a company called Rika, and “robots” made from recycled cardboard.
Museo de la Electricidad (Museum of Electricity; Agenda Pedro de Osma 105): Free admission helps to make this small museum worth a peek. Designed mostly for students and families, it nevertheless offers a glimpse of how electricity was introduced to Lima and how it’s changed the lives of limeños.
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Museo Pedro de Osma (Pedro de Osma Museum; Avenida Pedro de Osma 141): Set in a gorgeous, historic home, this museum displays the collection of the philanthropist Don Pedro de Osma. For most of his life, until his death in 1967, he collected art made in Peru during the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries, objects such as: paintings, sculptures, altar decorations, silverwork, sculptures in Huamanga stone, and furniture – originating from diverse centers of traditional Andean artistic creation – especially Cusco and Ayacucho. The home itself is as much an attraction as the collection; finished in 1906, it’s an elegant and eclectic piece of architecture.
Where to Shop in the Barranco District of Lima
The hip stores may stock more items than necessary with images inspired by Star Wars, Frida Kahlo and Día de los Muertos, but keep looking and you’ll likely find something interesting that can’t easily be found elsewhere in Lima.
Artesanos Don Bosco (Avenida San Martín 135): This not-for-profit store features massive, creative furnishings and other creations by Peruvian artisans. Carved wood furniture in a variety of interesting styles are among the interesting finds here (and visiting the store also gives you an excuse to enter a beautiful historic home as well). To save on shipping costs, however, if you live in the USA you may want to contact their Baltimore store.
ChocoMuseo (Central Square of Barranco): Chocolate lovers will want to stop here; it’s part of a chain with five locations in Peru and additional shops in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Colombia. Here, you can watch chocolate being made from Peruvian cocoa beans, attend workshops and enjoy samples. You can buy everything from chocolate liqueur to facial scrubs to jams.
Clandestina Unión de Universos (Avenida San Martin 678): An array of casual and sporty clothing and accessories, mostly for women, awaits here.
La Libre (Calle San Martin 144): If you read Spanish, you’ll find lots to love at this small, independent book store. A heavy focus on local authors, feminism, LGBT issues and independent literature, it’s also a good place to stop by to scan brochures about events in Barranco, and also to pick up books that document interesting moments in the city’s history (one book I found highlights the visit the Rolling Stones made to Lima decades ago).
La Zapatería (Avenida Pedro de Osma 185): If shoe shopping is your idea of heaven, you’ll be ecstatic at this small shop, which specializes in handmade, custom-designed shoes for men and women. You choose from a variety of styles, materials and colors, and they’ll make them to your order in about four days, with prices around the $100 range.
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Ojo de Pez (Avenida San Martín 156): This tiny little gift shop sells clever decor items like photo stands made from bent forks and lamps made from teacups.
Taller 961 (Avenida Grau 961): Here, you can get a men’s hipster haircut (think Brooklyn dudes with facial hair) and also some artsy gifts including decidedly non-touristy T-shirts, coffee mugs, decorative boxes and notebooks — with non-Peruvian themes like Star Wars, Day of the Dead and Frida Kahlo.
Wu Galeria (Avenida Sáenz Peña 129): Eye-catching work by Peruvian artists is the draw at this private gallery, with exhibits including drawings, paintings, sculpture and photography.
Restaurants in the Barranco District of Lima:
Hotel B (Saenz Peña 204): This luxury hotel is home to a splurge-worthy restaurant and bar that serves Peruvian-Mediterranean fusion cuisine like charcoal-grilled octopus and crostini with avocado and anchovies.
Sibaris (Jr. 28 de Julio 206-B): Handsome waiters in white T-shirts and jeans serve a healthy lunch special for about $7, amid creatively stylish decor that includes lamps made out of upside-down water pails. Choose from artisanal pizzas, tuna ceviche and Peruvian tacu tacu. Even the bill is served creatively here, arriving in a small metal box with a drawer.
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Lima Hotels and Other Places to Stay in the Barranco District:
Hotel B: For top-of-the-line luxury in the Barranco district, the only real choice is Hotel B, a member of Relais & Chateaux. Housed in a beautifully restored Belle Epoque building on a lovely, quiet block, it’s the best way to indulge in the neighborhood (rates start at about $382 a night).
Second Home Peru: Set in a 100-year-old Tudor home, this small hotel overlooks the Pacific ocean and has lovely gardens. Rates start at about $125 a night.
Airbnb: I needed something comfortable but at a reasonable rate, and in Barranco the best option for that was Airbnb, through which I found a well-located, one-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a modern doorman building with a tiny gym and an even tinier swimming pool, for less than $90 a night.