The Top 5 Neighborhoods of Lima, Peru
Lima is intimidating at first glance. It’s gigantic, noisy, and crowded; understandably most travelers want to leave the second they arrive. But if you know where to go and what to see, Lima can be one of South America’s best kept secrets. Let Breaking Borders take you through our top 5 favorite neighborhoods of Lima.
#5 Pueblo Libre
Pueblo Libre is an up and coming middle class neighborhood located a few miles west of downtown. The neighborhood is centered around Plaza Bolivar, with numerous lively bars and restaurants around it. A Limeño classic is Antigua Taberna Queirolo, a 135 year old bar that’s famous for it’s pisco sour with ginger ale and it’s old world charms. This is a great neighborhood for a night out on the town with Peru’s bohemian middle class. The famous Museo Larco and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, both featuring pre-Columbian art and artifacts, are located in the neighborhood as well.
#4 La Victoria
At first glance, La Victoria seems sketchy and run down, but give it a chance and you can find some truly authentic Limeño experiences here. La Victoria is one of the easiest places in Lima to get inexpensive ceviche. In the blocks surrounding the massive Polvos Azules market, street stands serve up some of the most delicious ceviche for as little as $3 USD. A man named Jose has upgraded his street cart to a restaurant, turning a rough corner of La Victoria into a foodie mecca. Barra Cevichera Jose y Juanita offers some of the freshest and spiciest food at bargain prices, it’s a must. Also located in La Victoria is Gamarra, a giant section of the city that has been turned into an open air market. Play it safe in La Victoria and you might find yourself returning again and again.
Miraflores is the most touristy neighborhood in Lima. It’s a nondescript, upscale shopping district. With that being said there are some great things to see and do. No lunch in Miraflores is complete until you’ve eaten at El Enano, a Miami style outdoor sandwich shop which serves up incredible toasted Chicharrón sandwiches with a jar of fresh juice. Chicharrón sandwiches are made with chunks of fried pork shoulder, red onions, and slices of sweet potato with a Peruvian salsa on a crispy french roll. La Lucha Sanguicheria right next to Plaza Kennedy also serves up a mean Chicharrón sandwich. The sweet chicha morada drink is a great compliment. Chicha morada is a traditional Peruvian drink made from blue corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. Monolo’s is a Miraflores classic, where old men discuss life and politics over espressos and warm, dulce de leche filled churros. A few blocks away is El Virrey, a modern bookstore that would be right at home on Rodeo Drive, where you could easily spend an afternoon browsing over books. Ultimately, Miraflores is about the Pacific Ocean. Spend some time strolling along the cliff banks at sunset and you might begin to consider moving to Lima.
#2 Centro/Barrio Chino
Centro is the beating heart of old Lima. While many of the big businesses fled to Miraflores decades ago, Centro has an energy unmatched anywhere in the city. Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin anchor Centro, with the former containing government buildings, beautiful architecture and plenty of history. Be sure to poke your head inside Galería Municipal de Arte Pancho Fierro for cutting edge contemporary art and photography exhibitions highlighting local Limeño artists, great stuff. Following Lima’s main pedestrian street, Jiron de la Union, you end up in Plaza San Martin, a Parisian style plaza where political rallies usually taking place. Many say the famous pisco sour was invented at El Bolivarcito, it would be a shame to miss it.
However, the most interesting area of Centro is Quilca, a long street with old school bars, graffiti covered walls, underground punk venues and character-filled record shops and more radical bookstores than you can count. Start off your Quilca adventure with a drink and some food at Bar Queirolo, a place where college students and political activists rub shoulders and discuss the worlds problems. In a somewhat conservative city, Quillca shows Lima’s more radical and underground side. Another part of Centro worth visiting is Barrio Chino, Lima’s 170 year old Chinatown.
Ah, Barrnaco! This is one of the coolest neighborhoods not only in Peru, but in all of South America. Once home to the famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, Barranco is a wonderful neighborhood full of cobblestoned streets, beautiful ocean views, and sophisticated restaurants experimenting with Peru’s new gastronomic boom. Barranco is a little slice of the Mediterranean in the heart of Lima, No trip to Peru would be complete without spending a day and night here. Start off the morning at Bisettis, a cool cafe that wouldn’t be out of place in the Mission District or Williamsburg. Have lunch at El Chinito, quite possibly the best Chicharrón sandwich shop in Lima. For dinner try Burrito Bar, a British owned Mexican restaurant which serves up tasty tacos and burritos; it’s surprisingly delicious. However, if you’ve come to Peru to spend some money on food, your money would be very well spent in one of the more upscale restaurants. To finish the night off head to Ayahuasca Bar, which was once a Barranco mansion and now has been turned into a labyrinth of different bars and lounges, with each room out-styling the next. This is where Lima’s rich and fabulous come to play, and a night out here is guaranteed to be a good time. Try one of the Ayahusca sours, which contain mashed coca leaves from the high Andes mixed with tropical fruits from the Amazon.