Barranco: Lima’s coolest district
With a population of almost 11 million, Lima is Peru’s biggest and busiest city. It is also seen as the gateway to the country, with regular flights coming and going each day, often used as a quick stopover on the way to other places. However, with the development of Barranco, among other factors, this is quickly changing.
After an hour’s car journey – passing some Peruvian drivers that rival the Italian roads – we arrived in Barranco, one of the 43 districts that make up Lima. An array of bright colours flood this area, making it incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike. Historically, the neighbourhood was a beach spot, with most wealthy Peruvians owning a beach house to escape to in the summer months. Over the past 15 to 20 years, these somewhat derelict mansions have been restored, giving this area a huge injection of life and personality, and making it extremely cool.
What to do
There is plenty on offer in this one small, safe and very walkable suburb. We spent half a morning with a chef who took us to her local market – where she knows everyone – to pick out all the ingredients we needed for lunch. We then returned back to her apartment, which overlooks the sea, to cook a three-course lunch, which we then ate all together. Born and raised in Lima, she explained how both Lima and Peru have changed – and what’s next. She was an incredibly welcoming host with an infectious laugh, so three hours passed and we had no idea where the time went. This was a brilliant introduction to Lima, which is known for its gastronomic prowess.
We then spent a lovely afternoon walking off that lunch! Our guide took us around the quaint streets, weaving in and out of boutique shops, where we picked up locally produced textiles and ceramics, which were quite damaging to our pockets and luggage allowance. We were introduced to some of the most sought-after museums, including Museo Pedro de Osma, which displays an enormous collection of 5th- to 18th-century paintings and sculptures, all presented within a stunning 1920s mansion. Next, to bring it right up to date, we headed to the nearby Museo Mario Testino (MATE), which is the celebration of photographer, Mario Testino. Showcasing his pop culture photos and including his world-famous Princess Diana exhibition. He was the last person to photograph her, just two months before her passing in 1997.
Where to stay
There are several boutique properties, but one of our favourites is Hotel B. It’s more of an art museum with a hotel than the other way around. Impressively curated in what was once a very derelict summer house, it’s a wonderful place to rest your head. The staff can’t do enough for you, and make you feel like part of the family in this 17-room home. Before dining out, you must enjoy one of their gin cocktails from their extensive list. This is the perfect start to an evening as well as being a good spot for people watching.
Where to eat
The options are endless. Lima is home to the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Latin America. Simply put, you are spoilt for choice.
A new kid on the block, situated beside the famous Central, Kjolle serves unfussy, exquisite food among a very chic and minimalist decor. Here, you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with Lima’s hippest crowds. Chef, Pía Leon, takes inspiration and uses ingredients from Peru’s mountains, ocean and the Andean valleys. A must-try on their menu is the cured duck with squid, onion and kaÃ±iwa. It can only be described as ‘melt-in-your-mouth delicious’.
A c+l must
If time allows, we would recommend a visit to Museo Larco. Although it isn’t within the Barranco district, it is only 25 minutes from the airport, so we would recommend stopping by before or after your flight. It is the largest privately owned, open-to-the-public exhibition of pre-Inca art and artefacts in the world.
Going to Larco accompanied by one of our private guides is an absolute must, as they completely bring it to life and explain the intricacies that, without previous knowledge, one wouldn’t understand. There is a permanent exhibition, filled with gold, silver, art and textiles, as well as a ‘storage’ area, housing more than 30,000 pottery artefacts, all available for viewing.
The final aspect that makes Larco so beautiful is its gardens, where bougainvilleas decorate the walls and sweet, floral aromas fill the air. In my opinion, there are very few spots in Lima that could rival this for a long, lazy lunch.