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Lima Barrio Throwdown: Miraflores vs. Centro vs. Barranco

I have a confession to make.

Despite having traveled to over 35 countries, and experiencing the confounding of expectations over and over again, Peru completely unhinged me. I admit that I had fallen into traveler’s bias, believing that a country would be similar to the marketing of the country.

Where were the Peruvian women in traditional costumes and bowler hats? The men chewing on coca leaves? And llamas? Where were the llamas? And people in llama sweaters?

Certainly, not on the streets of Lima – our first destination in Peru. Instead, we were confronted with young women flaunting themselves in the shortest of shorts and skimpiest of skirts, and men with iPhones and cameras, cruising the whole scene. Add to that, a prominent McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks, and I felt like I could’ve been anywhere in the world, BUT Lima, Peru.

A ride on the Lima public bus

We visited Lima twice. First, for a couple of days before heading off to Lake Titicaca, via Arequipa, and again at the end of our time in Peru, before we departed for the second leg of our Colombian tour.

In our travels through South America, we have noticed that different barrios seem to have a markedly different feeling, perhaps due to economic status, the history of the location and the type of people that live there. Quite different than Canada, where usually one neighbourhood seems to blend into the next, without much noticeable difference.

So, to experience as much of Lima as we could in the short time we had, we stayed in different neighbourhoods or barrios on each occasion.

Miraflores

Miraflores is, what we in Canada, call a suburb. In Lima, it’s considered a very safe, and upscale area of the city, complete with shopping malls, parks and fast food chains.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but in short:

What we liked:
– Being able to walk around worry-free with camera and wallet in hand
– a big ole’ cup of Starbucks percolated coffee (brewed coffee is difficult to find in South America!!)

Not so much:
– it felt very suburban…one could even say boring…
– there was not much character to the area

Pedestrians can walk safely in Miraflores

Yes, we’re truly in the suburbs. On the patio of Starbucks in Miraflores.

La Lucha Sandwich Shop in Miraflores

Centro

We’ve noticed a strange similarity in large South American cities. The historic districts or old cities are almost always in the centre, very beautiful, and nearly always deserted at night or on weekends. The magnitude of this has varied from city to city, with Lima’s historical centre being busy and relatively safe-feeling, and Rio and Sao Paulo’s, which felt like dangerous ghost towns with boarded up buildings, and rather nefarious citizens.

The historic centre of Lima was designated as a World Heritage site in 1988, because of it’s high concentration of monuments constructed during the Spanish occupation.

We had a very pleasant afternoon, walking around enjoying the various public squares and buildings (of which there are many). We definitely used caution while wandering around, but from our experience, the whole danger element of South American cities has been over-exaggerated. Normal precautions are all that’s required.

Barranco

We only booked one night in the artsy district of Barranco, and it was a mistake. We could easily have spent many days exploring the atmospheric streets and sipping lattes in one of the many unique cafes (not to mention the delicious ceviches!)

We stayed at the beautiful Casa Nuestra, which is basically the home of a Italian/Peruvian couple. I was feeling pretty exhausted by the time we got there, so I just chilled out on the super comfortable bed, while the Bear had a great night chatting with the locals.

The pictures tell the story better than I can, but in case there was any uncertainly, Barranco is best!

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paola #

    you should try night life at centro de Lima, it’s as good as barranco’s night! (for me, even better) nice you liked our city! =)

    November 29, 2012
    • Shelley #

      Paola! Thanks for stopping by our blog and commenting. I hope you’ll continue to follow us around the world! We did enjoy Lima, and I still think about the food we had there. I am dying for some more ceviche…and more time in Barranco too! Guess we’ll just have to visit again. ๐Ÿ™‚

      November 30, 2012
  2. Allison #

    haha! nice to see this entry about my city (i was just surfing the net i guess). lovely pictures! i agree with you, regular precautions is all you need. People tend to exaggerate about how dangerous is Lima. Also, i do agree with the previous comment, the nightlife in el Centro is waaay better than barranco.

    I think that in order to enjoy Lima you have to keep a different perspective. I mean, is a chaotic city, but thats where i find it just so amazing

    Nice blog! ๐Ÿ˜€

    January 2, 2013
    • Hi Allison! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It’s nice to get the positive feedback. I do wish we’d budgeted more time for Lima…I feel like we really didn’t get a chance to explore the city properly. Damn those guidebooks sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Happy new year!

      January 3, 2013
  3. Tthanks a ton – I’m an older Asian lady visiting Lima alone and debated safer vs more interesting. You’ve swayed me to book in Barranco. I’ve been in pretty rough areas Alfama in Lisbon, southeast Carabanchel in Madrid and managed the risk of carrying a beeegass camera that screams “tourista!” with enjoying real people. So far, still alive! And switched to small camera.

    March 11, 2015
    • Fantastic! I’m glad you chose Barranco. I honestly found Miraflores to be so boring. It’s such a lovely part of the city, with wonderful cafes and restaurants. We had the absolute BEST ceviche there…I still dream about it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lima felt like the safest of all the South American cities we visited, even in the centre. There were streets in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo that definitely felt dodgy, but I honestly never felt that way in Lima. Normal precautions are all you need there. Lol…you might’ve even been okay with your beeegass camera! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enjoy your trip!

      March 12, 2015
  4. nattyalexandria #

    We also stayed at Casa Nuestra in Barranco! Barranco was a highlight of our trip to Peru and we still think of it often. We stayed in Barranco for a couple days at the start and end of our trip to Peru. Now I want ceviche!

    April 1, 2016
    • Don’t know how I missed this comment!! Sorry for the late reply. Casa Nuestra and Barranco were just amazing, weren’t they? I would definitely stay there again if ever we make it to Peru again. And lol…I always want ceviche!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

      May 9, 2016
  5. Ann #

    Thanks for this succinct, spot on appraisal! It has definitely helped me decide on Barranco, and quit my waffling. I can’t wait to read more of your stories and see if they help me figure out the rest of our Peru Itinerary.

    May 9, 2016
    • Hi Ann, glad it was helpful to you! Barranco was heads and tails above the other areas…and of course, you can still go and visit the other 2 barrios while you’re there. Peru had the best food we had in all of South America, so please make sure you indulge while you’re there. ๐Ÿ˜€

      May 9, 2016
  6. Mudd #

    Very soon I’m traveling to Lima for 5 days then on to Cuzco for 5 days where I’m meeting 4 other friends and then on to Machu Picchu by way of a 5 day 4 night hiking trip and your blog convinced me to stay in Barranco at exactly Casa Neustra instead of Miraflores and I’m so excited. The place looks amazing and I can’t wait! Thank you for this post.

    August 24, 2016
    • Oh fantastic! It really was the best area of the city, and they’ll be able to give you great resto recommendations at Casa Nuestra. Had the best ceviche there! Enjoy the trek to Machu Picchu – it is gorgeous! ๐Ÿ˜€

      August 24, 2016

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