Barranco is a cool bohemian neighbourhood in Lima. It is located on the coast just south of the tourist and business districts of Miraflores and San Isidro. It is the traditional poets’ and artists’ district of Lima. Here you will find out dilapidated and restored colonial mansions sitting side by side with art house cinemas, modern art galleries and graphic design studios.
Barranco was originally a fashionable seaside resort for the rich and famous of Lima, who build huge mansions here for weekend getaways during the colonial era. In 1870, the Bajada a los Baños was constructed – a walkway down to the beach – and in 1876 the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs). Later, it became home to writers and artists. It also withstood the Chilean invasion and subsequent looting, and an earthquake in 1940.
I found Barranco to be by far the coolest place to hang out in Lima. It is pretty safe and has good eating and accommodation options. You are right by the Malecon (seashore) with gorgeous views of the sunset and have access to the beach, where you can swim or surf in the polluted water. It is also a very romantic place – packed with couples on Valentines day. You can wander around the neighbourhood just soaking up the atmosphere and admiring all the colonial mansions, some of which have been restored to the former splendor and others lying derelict. Apparently they are all protected and hence cannot be demolished. So some owners are simply waiting until they fall down to clear the site and use the land to develop modern apartments blocks.
The Bajada a los Baños is now flanked by restaurants where you can enjoy Ceviche and admire the fabulous view. Note, this is the only safe way to get to the beach during the day. Don’t take any other route day or night or risk a mugging. There are usually some unwashed hippies along the way selling jewellery and weed.
Many guidebooks state that Barranco is a bar and entertainment area. This is actually not the case. There are some bars and restaurants just like in other districts, but generally it is pretty quiet. There is one famous and, in my opinion, quite pretentious bar there, called Ayahuasca. It has actually nothing to do with Ayahuasca – it’s a bar, selling alcohol. It is a beautiful old renovated colonial mansion with some cool art and furniture. Unfortunately, they have ruined it somewhat with sports bars and tv sets. Here you can find the rich and monied class of Lima – not really the bohemian atmosphere I expected.
For a great place to stay, I recommend the 3B Hostel. It’s a boutique hostel with a great atmosphere and a fantastic staff who really love their guests.