Machu Picchu and other sites in Peru hold a rightful space at the top of travel bucket lists and an increasing number of people are flocking there each year. To get to Peru, you’ll more than likely fly into Lima and spend at least one night there at the beginning or end of your trip. Peru’s capital city of Lima is large with about nine million people. It has much to offer visitors—particularly the fascinating Barranco district. This trendy, art district is eclectic and Bohemian, filled with boutiques and the off-beat, known for its street art and culture. So be sure to include the Barranco district of Lima while visiting Peru.
The Barranco district is Lima’s hip, artsy neighborhood. The highly walkable neighborhood is vibrant, with much to offer both visitors and residents. There’s the ocean-front, more than a dozen art galleries, three of the city’s best art museums, boutique shops selling artful gifts, objects, and furniture, along with fabulous restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Don’t miss a stroll through the residential side streets. There are fabulous renovated mansions (and some awaiting new owners looking for a great opportunity), as well as modern high-rises. Here are some of my favorite things to do when visiting the Barranco district of Lima, Peru.
Museo Pedro de Osma Museum
The Pedro de Osma Museum is housed in a century-old mansion full of colonial-period Peruvian artwork. The gardens and grounds are as beautiful as the artwork. The exhibit on art restoration was especially well-done and I learned a lot about this period of Peru’s history.
On the day I visited, attentive school kids were treated to a costumed guide who blended education with performance art.
Museo Mario Testino
Lima native Mario Testino, born in 1954, is one of Peru’s most celebrated living artists. Testino contributes to his city’s art scene with a museum—Museo Mario Testino (MATE)—devoted to contemporary Peruvian art and photography. MATE offers artist residency programs and hosts various events. It also houses a permanent collection of Testino’s photography.
You’ll recognize many of Testino’s fashion photographs, as well as portraiture of well-known cultural icons. His photographs have been published in top fashion and art magazines, and he’s shot for many of the largest fashion houses. Exhibits of his work are shown in museums and galleries worldwide. The museum is housed in yet another renovated 19th-century mansion in Barranco and I was drawn to spend way more time inside than I expected.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC)
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) opened in 2013 and includes two temporary exhibition halls and another for the permanent collection of the Instituto of Arte Contemporáneo (IAC). MAC frequently holds outreach programs and other events on the outdoor park grounds. The collection is from artists working after 1950, primarily from Latin America and Europe.
The museum is situated at the waterfront on the far end of Barranco, amid some of the newer high-rise residential buildings and the Barranco Tennis Club. Stroll along the clifftop waterfront bike and walking path to get there.
Here, I saw one of my favorite exhibits, by artist Gam Klutier, who works out of his studio in Barranco. The large exhibit featured one of his “cupolas” that measures almost 12 feet by 118 feet. The cupolas scroll around the large exhibit hall so that one walks inside. It’s very powerful. (Yes, I bought the exhibit book.)
Strolling and Shopping in the Barranco District
Wandering the city streets is still the best way to spend your time in Barranco. Enjoy the colorful murals, small parks and churches, shops and galleries and just walk, walk, walk.
Stop for a coffee, a pisco sour, or my favorite non-alcoholic drink, a chicha morada. Then start again—there’s much to see.
Shopping is great in Barranco district. Stop in at Dédalo and for artisan crafts and goods. La Zapateria’s shoe designs are unique and can be handmade from a wide selection of leathers and printed fabrics. Cooperative member Mano gave me a tour where the artisans were working in this small shop just off the window front retail area. Prices are affordable and the workmanship is gorgeous. Artesanos Don Busco has handmade furniture, stone sculpture, textiles, and crafts.
There’s more art to see at a number of private art galleries, including Lucía de La Puente, adjacent to Hotel B.
Fabulous Food and Drink in the Barranco District
The food throughout Peru is wonderful, and Barranco is no exception. Amor Amar is one of the city’s top restaurants and is special indeed.
One of my favorite meals on the entire trip was at Isolina Taverna, a hip but family-friendly tavern serving true homestyle Peruvian food. Front of house runs a tight ship dealing with people clamoring for a table. I ended up with a small bar-table and was invited to join a couple who lived in the neighborhood. We connected over ceviche, Osso Bucco, and fried chicken and a crazy number of side dishes.
Stop and have a cocktail at Ayahuasca; with excellent tapas and over the top décor that will give you a bit of a hallucinogenic trip without the nausea. Santas has a young crowd and great views. It’s near the grandly named Bridge of Sighs.
Where to Stay: The Stylish Hotel B
The Hotel B (pronounced “bay”) is an elegant 17-suite five-star boutique hotel in the center of Barranco district. The original Belle Époque mansion was built in 1914 as a private home, and a group of investors, each with a strong bend to the arts in their professional lives, turned this into a gorgeous hotel property.
There’s excellent concierge and other services (it was their tip that led me to Isolina) and their glossy walking guide was a wonderful neighborhood resource. Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast and complimentary high tea, borrow the hotel bikes and enjoy dinner and cocktails in the restaurant and bar. While my stay at the hotel was hosted, this luxurious property and attentive staff provide excellent value.
View the sunset from the rooftop garden or walk a block down the tree-lined boulevard to the waterfront. My stay at Hotel B was a wonderful base for exploring all of Barranco, and a cab ride away to other sites in other districts, and to the airport.
Enjoy all that Peru has to offer—Machu Picchu and the Andes, the Amazon River, the Altiplano of Lake Titicaca. But do also discover the sites and charms of Lima, including the vibrant Barranco district.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.