Wandering through the districts of Miraflores and Barranco it quickly becomes apparent that, when compared to the Historic Centre of Lima, they are much more affluent, tourist-centric, and set up as a hub for artists to show and sell their work. The streets in Miraflores are wider, cleaner and filled with large, modern buildings, while Barranco retains more of the colonial charm with its cobbled streets and impressive architecture.
The best way to get around Miraflores and Barranco is on foot. Both districts are relatively small, and the best sights are found when wandering through the maze of side streets and parks. The walk between Miraflores and Barranco takes around 45 minutes and there are a few different routes to choose from. Walk along the beach to watch the surfers riding the waves, visit the pier and enter Barranco along the Bajos de Banos, a pretty pedestrianised street surrounded by colourful colonial houses, small green spaces and numerous large murals, along with the multitude of vendors selling pretty trinkets and jewellery. Or walk the streets along either Avenue Miguel Grau or Bolognesi and see how much of the streets numerous murals and street art you can find. Going along Avenue Miguel Grau will also take you to a number of parks and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, while Avenue Bolognesi follows the route of the metropolitan bus, which can take you between the two districts in around 10-15 minutes at a cost of 2.50PEN each way.
Aside from on foot, the metropolitan bus is one of the easiest ways to get around Lima. The buses have their own lane so there’s never traffic to deal with, and after the initial cost of 4.50PEN for the metro card, each journey costs 2.50PEN regardless of how long it is. The one downside is how popular the metropolitan bus is; it is extremely busy regardless of the time of day. Don’t be afraid to push your way onto the bus with the locals, and don’t be surprised when you end up with several bodies pushed up against yours; it’s all part of the fun!
The Parks and Coast of Miraflores
Miraflores is full of green spaces, from its numerous parks to the small spaces on the walkways and roundabouts along the roads. My personal favourite parks to spend time in are the Parque de Amor (park of love) down by the coast, and the Parque Kennedy on Avenue Oscar Benevides.
The Parque de Amor and surrounding parks are full of benches to sit on and grass to lounge on, and provide ample opportunities to people watch. You’ll also be treated to the view of a large statue of a couple kissing which is worth taking a photo or two of. From the park you can either walk towards the lighthouse and then further on to the winding walkway down to the beach, or you can cross the bridge and walk along the Malecon de la Reserva, from which you can watch the paragliders take off and soar through the air.
Parque Kennedy stands out for two reasons: the art and the cats. A multitude of artists display their artwork for sale along the outside edge of the park, and sometimes installations are present as well; while I was there there was a display of artwork submitted by people around the world to the UNHCR the UN refugee agency, focusing on how war affects families and children. Inside the park you may be surprised by the amount of cats you see around you; Parque Kennedy is home to wild cats as well as abandoned domestic cats. There is a large problem with cats being abandoned here, and multiple signs outside the park warn people of the 4,000PEN fine for abandoning pets in the park. The cats in the park are very friendly and will happily interact with people in the park, and people have the opportunity to help them out by sponsoring or adopt them with the local cat charity set up specifically for the cats in the park. Also within Parque Kennedy you will find a small outdoor theatre space which is used for a variety of purposes, including early evening dancing for the older members of the community which we stumbled across one Saturday evening.
For those of you who feel like stretching your legs, you will find the park Bosque El Olivar about 30 minutes from Parque Kennedy, up Av. Arequipa. This park is full of olive trees, and in fact is one of the oldest olive groves in the area. It’s best to visit on a sunny day so you can fully enjoy a lazy day in the park.
There are numerous craft markets in Miraflores, all geared up towards attracting as many tourists and potential buyers as possible. Along the Avenue Petit Thouars you will find the Inca Market, the Indian Market and Artisanal Craft Market one after the other. Each of them is lovely to wander around, but in all honesty, they’re all selling the exact same stuff at a much higher price than will be found outside of Miraflores.
For a more local flavour, head to the Mercado Central across the Paseo de la Republica from Avenue Ricardo Palma. While nowhere close to matching the scale and madness of the Mercado Central in Lima’s Historic Centre, it nevertheless provides the opportunity to wander through a sprawling maze of stalls inside and outside the market building selling all kinds of food both ready to eat and to take home and cook.
Hunting For Street Art
While trying to find out about things to do in Miraflores and Barranco the one thing that came up again and again was the amount of street art to be found. When I tried to dig deeper and find out where I could see all this art, I couldn’t find anything beyond “walk around and look,” or “go on this street art tour.” I decided to hunt down what I could and map it myself to share with other travellers. This was hugely entertaining, and was easily my favourite thing to do, especially in Barranco where you can find art nearly everywhere – along the main road, in the parks, covering the walls along a stone staircase, and on the side of many buildings. The main plaza is also set up like Parque Kennedy with many different artists displaying finished pieces for sale while working on new pieces of work. If you’re pressed for time, you can refer to my map so you can make sure you see as much as possible, but if you have a day with no other plans, use it to explore the districts and find the artwork for yourself. If you’re a fan of Paddington Bear, be on the lookout for the statue of him, it’s somewhere in Miraflores.
Art in Barranco
As well as a multitude of street art in Barranco, there is art to be found all around the city; there are numerous small galleries dotted about, installations in the streets, beautiful architecture, and the insides of cafes are often also covered in local artwork. My personal favourite is the Centro Colich, which I stumbled into almost by accident because it was marked on the city map. Inside there are numerous rooms, some acting as shops for artist, while others act like miniature galleries for the work of resident artists. Other examples are the installations along Avenue Saenz Pena, the intricate wooden balconies on many buildings, and the inside of Tostaduria Bisetti, a café whose walls are covered in coffee-themed artwork (they also serve excellent coffee so worth a visit!)
Wandering Around Barranco and Chorrillos
In Barranco you can find a tourist information centre in the town hall at the Plaza de Armas where all the artists gather. Here you can get a tourist map of the city that highlights museums, galleries, craft shops, and other places of interest, as well as local metropolitan bus stops.
Barranco is a small district so would take about half a day to explore fully – not including food stops. The costa verde is definitely worth walking along, and you can pop into the various parks dotted along the way. There are multiple small streets and stairs winding off either side of the Bajada de Banos, leading to churches, bridges, and other roads to explore. The one place I was disappointed by was the official viewpoint of Barranco; a small litter-stained courtyard overlooking a small part of the bay with no full view of the coastline. The walk to the viewpoint however, passes numerous quaint restaurants and overlooks the city, giving you a glimpse of backpackers chilling out on hostel roofs, artists at work and clothes drying in the wind.
You can travel to Chorrillos from Barranco either by walking for about 20 minutes down the Avenue Pedro de Osma, or by hopping on the metropolitan bus. As I was pushed for time I mainly stuck to the coast and didn’t get a chance to explore more of the town itself. The walk along the coastline is lovely, overlooking the beaches and fishmarkets. Morro Solar Mountain is impressive with its “Christ of the Pacific,” war monument, observatory and illuminated cross, and is well-worth the trek up it. There is more street art to be found along the way, and the art continues down by the beach where you can see three statues of a couple in various poses. The beach was the one black spot of this excursion; while it looked absolutely beautiful when looking down from the top of the cliffs, walking along it, I was surprised by the amount of litter I saw everywhere along the beach. It smacks of neglect, and I hope that this isn’t the way it is all year round.
Attractions Worth Visiting
This Inca site is situated right in the heart of Miraflores, not far from Parque Kennedy and the markets. As you walk down Calle Ayacucho just off Avenue Arequipa, you will be taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of a large Inca wall rising up from the depths of the suburbs. Entry into Huaca Pucllana is 12PEN and includes a guided tour around the site, in English and Spanish. This site is worth visiting even if you have been other Inca sites because of how different it looks to other sites with its hand-made mud bricks, and also because of the story behind its discovery. Huaca Pucllana was buried under a large amount of dirt so that it looked like a large hill, but the ruins themselves were still known about for years by the people of Lima. However, no one cared about the site or ruins so it was left it as it was, and large sections were even destroyed whilst building roads and buildings. It wasn’t until 1981 that the Peruvian government decided it should be excavated and preserved as a heritage site.
The Magic Water Circuit in the Parque de la Reserva
While outside Miraflores, the park is easily reached on the metropolitan bus (the stop for it is the Estacion Estadion Nacional). The Parque de la Reserva itself is open daily from 6am – 1pm, but it is the Magic Water Circuit that is the real attraction. It holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest fountain complex in the world, and is open Wednesdays – Sundays from 3pm – 10.30pm. I cannot recommend the Magic Water Circuit enough, and if you can, go at night. Three times an evening (7.15, 8.15 and 9.30) there is a laser and light show put on at the Fuente de la Fantasia, which is amazing to watch. On top of that the rest of the fountains are beautiful, intricate, and some are interactive, including a water tunnel you can walk through, and a water maze you can “attempt” to get through without getting soaked. At only 4PEN entry, it is definitely worth every penny.
Food and Drink
Miraflores and Barranco are full of places to eat, from cafes to restaurants, cheap eats to expensive meals. Here are my top eats from my time in these districts:
- La Lucha ($$): this is a sandwich and juice/milkshake place by Parque Kennedy. Their pollo al lena (smoked chicken) sandwich is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had – I would highly recommend adding bacon, onions and avocado. If you’re feeling very hungry get their chips, you won’t regret it!
- Republica ($$): until I realised what the name of this restaurant was I just referred to it as “the place that looks like La Lucha, but isn’t La Lucha.” While their décor is very similar, their menus couldn’t be more different; Republica is all about big plates of hot food, normally based around rice/pasta with meat. Their aji de gallina tastes amazing, and it’s always fun to try out their dish of the day.
- Saltado ($): this is a fast-food sit-in place that serves up freshly made to order bowls of Chifa style food. They have set dishes to choose from, or you can go wild and build your own dish from their choice of rice/noodles, meats, vegetables and sauces (Lima Lime is my personal favourite).
- Manolo ($): I recommend this for one reason only: their churros are delicious. After a long day of exploration, there is nothing better than stopping off at Manolos for a coffee and some churros – plain, with chocolate for dipping, or filled, the choice is yours.
- Tarboush ($): This restaurant specialises in Arabic food and they do it well. Make sure to get the falafals. The chicken swarma is a good choice too.
- Kulcafe ($$): This is a cosy café tucked in a side street off Calle Berlin. The interior contains an eclectic mix of furniture and artwork, and the coffee is delicious
- Homemade ($$): My favourite place to sit is out the back in the conservatory area with its bamboo ceiling and plants growing on the wall. The coffee and cake is very tasty, and I would recommend going for breakfast one morning.
- Movement Café ($$): This is a very chilled-out café that does very nice coffee, and some of the nicest black tea I’ve had in Peru. Wouldn’t recommend the pastries as they are ridiculously overpriced.
- Burrito Bar ($): This hole in the wall bar is a bit tricky to find (there’s no name outside, so look out for the blackboard inside the door), but worth the search. The fish tacos are delicious, and the burritos are big enough to fill you up for the day.
- Tostaduria Bisetti ($$): One of my favourite cafes. The coffee is delicious, and I could spend hours staring at all the artwork decorating the inside.
- Barranco Beer Company ($$ – $$$): This is a huge craft beer brewery that doubles as a restaurant. The food is reasonably priced but the beer is expensive, so this could get expensive if you get the taste. Great place for a pizza and a beer or two, and it also features the largest club sandwich I’ve ever encountered in my life!
Bonus Treasure Hunt!
Below are pictures of some of my favourite things that I spotted around Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos. Feel free to hunt specifically for them, use them as a starting point for your own personalised walking tour, or as inspiration to get out and explore the city!