Some of Lima’s finest mansions were built in Barranco, once an elite seaside resort town. Now, the small district next to Miraflores is a hub of creative activity — in no small part thanks to Lima-born photographer Mario Testino, who opened MATE, his own gallery in Barranco, in 2012. Adopt the famed shutterbug’s style by visiting these fashionable spots in the area:
Where to soak up art: MATE
VIPs and celebrities gaze from the walls of this kaleidoscopic photography gallery, which is easy to explore in an hour. Owner Mario Testino’s favourite muses all appear: the gallery features portraits Kate Moss, Giselle Bündchen, and Princess Diana — the late royal gets her own room of portraits — among others.
There’s also a series of images of women in traditional Peruvian dress, and a narrow terrace café for post-gallery espressos. Afterwards, pop into the Pedro de Osma Museum, which is next door, to ogle paintings from the 16th century.
A joint ticket to both galleries costs 32 soles and also includes entry to the MAC contemporary art museum; entry to MATE costs 20 soles.
Where to souvenir shop: Puna
Connoisseurs of art and design will want to visit this mansion-turned-boutique, which showcases all that’s great about modern Peruvian style. Amongst the geometric cushions, ceramic skulls, and original graffiti-themed artwork, there’s a decent choice of unconventional souvenirs, such as art prints and ceramics. Ring a doorbell to enter.
Where to clink glasses late night: Ayahuasca
Psychedelic in look and feel, this bar — which, like Puna, is a converted mansion — is one of the last stops on the local party circuit (luckily, it closes at 3 a.m.). Order a couple Ayahuasca sours — which contain macerated coca leaf — from the bar, and settle into the garish green interior, which ranges in hue from glorious emerald to creamy pea soup.
Where to pose for the perfect selfie: Bajada de los Banos
Get a sense of Barranco’s connection to the sea by ambling along this stone walkway, which was once used by fishermen to reach the Pacific. Climb steps to cross the wooden Bridge of Sighs for an elevated view, and continue to La Ermita, a canary-yellow chapel built in 1750, which marks the spot where a glowing cross would supposedly appear during bad storms to guide fishermen safely back home. Destroyed and rebuilt after earthquakes and fires, the collapsing chapel has been listed by the protective World Monuments Watch.
Where to dine out on home cooking: Isolina Taberna Peruana
Chef Jose del Castillo named this relaxed modern restaurant in honour of his mother, who once owned a ceviche restaurant. Classic dishes like escabeche (fish cooked with pimentón), chicharron (pork crackling) and higado encebollado (fried liver) are given a slightly modern makeover. In keeping with tradition, plates are overwhelmingly large and of good value. Pull up a wooden bar stool or sit at simple tables. If you haven’t booked ahead, arrive early for lunch (around midday), or risk queuing.
Where to dress to impress: Hotel B
A grand, gleaming white mansion, this belle époque boutique hotel is worth a snoop even if you’re not staying there, not least of all for its art collection, several pieces of which are on display in the hotel’s communal areas. Enjoy a drink in the dark, clandestine bar, then disappear for a detour en route to the bathrooms to discover sculptures and paintings in hidden corridors.
G Adventures runs a number of tours to Peru that will bring you to Lima and beyond. We're excited to show you more of this big, beautiful planet. Check out our itineraries to Peru here.