We were welcomed to by a sign, seemingly erected in the 1960s. Nothing seemed terribly special about this stretch of busy main road leading to the centre of Barranco in the south of Lima; just an ordinary Lima suburb, neither especially clean and tidy nor particularly dirty and disorganised.
While Miraflores, where we were living, is known for being a modern, middle class neighbourhood with supermarkets popular with expats and plenty of Starbucks, we had heard that Barranco had a much more arty, independent, bohemian vibe.
It was once we turned on to a pedestrian street leading to a pretty plaza that we began to realise what all the fuss was about. We’d left the noisy, chaotic side of Lima behind and entered an artistic haven with pleasant tree lined streets populated by unpretentious middle class families, couples taking romantic strolls and the odd hipster teenager.
The neighbourhood was once a separate city from the sprawling metropolis of Lima, and centred around its own main square, the district has certainly retained its village feel.
During the 19th century, Barranco was the place to see and be seen by the beach for the aristocracy of Lima but at the beginning of the 20th century, the neighbourhood started to make a decline and during the time of the Shining Path, like many other parts of Lima, it was apparently a reasonably dangerous and undesirable area of the city to live.
There are delightful squares with well maintained colonial architecture as well as untouristy shops selling high quality Peruvian handicrafts like Las Pallas, run by Mari, a British expat who we interviewed.
Compared to other parts of Lima, Barranco is certainly much trendier in the old sense. If you’re after high end big name brand shopping, multiplex cinemas and shiny, shiny Apple shops, Barranco is not the place to go.
It is, however, pleasantly replete with cool, independent shops, cafés and bars, perhaps (to employ the cliché of comparing areas of one city with those of another) making it the Palermo, Neukölln or Stoke Newington of Lima.
- Barranco roughly covers the area from Avenida Francisco Bolognesi west towards the sea
- It’s one of the smallest neighbourhoods in Lima, so you could easily see most of it in an afternoon
- Estacion Bulevar is the closest station on the Metropolitano to Barranco’s main square and is 14 stops south of the central station
- For a café break, we recommend La Bodega Verde, Sucre 335A (just off Avenida San Martin)