first-time traveller, Peru’s capital can feel like a metropolis with almost
infinite tentacles. Stretching from the beautifully-preserved colonial centre
to the coloured houses that cling to the hills around the periphery, it can be
hard to get one’s bearings – Lima is one of the world’s largest cities without
an underground transport system.
from the traffic and noise of downtown, the southern barrio (neighbourhood) of
Barranco is an instant reprieve, a place to breathe in a lungful of salty
Pacific air and enjoy the village-like atmosphere.
the fact that Barranco long ago segued into the metropolis, for years it was fiercely
independent of the capital, a seaside getaway for well-heeled urbanites seeking
a place to dip their toes during the baking hot summers.
end of the 19th Century, locals flocked to the seaside resorts of Las Sombrillas or Barranquito, and Barranco quickly became a favoured
hangout of poets, writers, painters and sculptors, inspired by the coastal
scenery and lapping waves.
the flurry of modern construction that has taken place in the bordering
neighbourhood of Miraflores, Barranco has maintained its many charms. It is a
great place to cover on foot – only about 10 square blocks in size – while
marvelling at the towering palms, prickly cacti and impressive
turn-of-the-century colonial mansions painted in bright hues of pink, orange
are also no fewer than 14 galleries in the neighbourhood, the most celebrated
being last month’s opening of the Mario Testino
Association, the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the
internationally-renowned fashion photographer in his hometown.
gallery – which is located in an exquisitely restored whitewash residence from
1898, a few minutes’ walk from the main square Plaza de Armas – collaborates
with international artists and helps promote Peruvian artists overseas.
is one of the most romantic districts in Lima,” explained the gallery’s director Martha Zegarra. “Although
Mario grew up in nearby San Isidro, he used to visit Barranco as a student,
just to walk around the parks with his friends. He always loved the area.”
when it comes to romance, the de rigueur meeting spot for lovers in Barranco is
the Puente de los
Suspiros, the barrio’s take on Venice’s Bridge of Sighs (albeit made from
wood) where couples congregate as the sun descends.
of the most emblematic slices of Barranco life, take a stroll down Cajamarca
street, the best place to see the full gamut of colourful houses. Here street
art is also in abundance, scrawled on walls and lovingly adorning the facades
of the hallmark low-storey residences.
212, one of the most eye-catching houses in the neighbourhood, is a large blue residence,
separated from the street by a heavy-set iron gate. It is also, surprisingly, a
renowned spot to buy handicrafts and artisan goods such as tapestries and ceramics.
Solari, the Welsh owner of Las Pallas
gift shop, has lived in Peru for 45 years. She moved here after falling in love
with a local – and never left.
moved here 27 years back, Barranco was very dilapidated,” she said. “It
certainly wasn’t fashionable, it was slightly artistic and had very much a
village and not a city feeling. [Today] we have one or two of the best art
galleries in town here. [And] people still talk to the neighbours in the
galleries may be may be well established, the neighbourhood’s nightlife is
relatively new. Tranquil Barranco wakes up with a startle at night and the area
is now one of the more popular spots to go out in Lima. The undisputed bar king
is Ayahuasca, another incredibly
well preserved colonial mansion that does a roaring trade in pisco sours. Inside,
a mix of creative types and travellers mingle among the brightly coloured fabrics
and modern artworks designed by local artist Maricruz Arribas, which give the
place a warm, bohemian edge.
Barranco, even drinking, it seems, is an art form.
are lots of small, pretty guesthouses in Barranco, including the understated
yet chic Second Home Peru. But as of
yet there are no standout hotels. Watch out for the area’s first boutique
offering, Hotel B, due to open next to Galería Lucía de la Puente in