As far as tourist hubs in Lima go, Miraflores and Barranco are the two go-tos. Lima, as a whole, is a city that backpackers and other travelers tend to graze over en route to Peru’s sexier destinations. Like many capital cities across the world, it’s kind of a get-in-and-go destination. Everyone needs to go because that’s where the main airport in the country is, but once you’re in, you just kind of want to get out.
I can understand that kind of reasoning for travelers with time constraints. I’d definitely want to be gawking at Machu Picchu more than Lima’s traffic any day of the week. But there’s no reason to dismiss Lima without giving it a fair chance. I have been to Lima three times and each time, have grown to love it more and more. I’ve stayed all throughout the city, but I am not immune the draws of the gringo trail. Miraflores and Barranco are definitely the two places that you should be looking to stay at while in Lima.
But which to choose? I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they aren’t literally neighboring each other. A one sol bus ticket will get you from Miraflores to Barranco and vice versa. A 30-minute walk along the ocean will accomplish the same. But for convenience’s sake, let’s pretend that they are on completely different sides of the country and you can only pick one. So which is it?
I hate to be that guy who gives a long-winded answer only to say “both are good, it’s up to you.” You came here looking for answers, I’ll give you answers.
And my answer is Miraflores.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Barranco’s vibrant culture and hole-in-the-wall establishments. It is literally my second favorite neighborhood in Lima and I never go to Lima without paying it a visit. But let’s break it down, category by category.
Nightlife in Lima: Miraflores vs. Barranco
When I came to Lima after over a month spent trekking in the Cordilleras of Ancash, I knew exactly where I was going. I hit up Hostel Kokopelli right in the heart of Miraflores, spun the wheel to get my free drinks, and started throwing back chilcanos on their rooftop terrace. Just like I did three years prior on my first ever backpacking trip. That night ended with a 6 AM walk home from Bizarro where I bounced back and forth between the reggaeton dance floor and the house dance floor. An absolutely wild night that was much needed after being devoid of proper nightlife for much longer than ~ the partying traveler ~ should have been.
Barranco is great for cozy bars and quiet drinks with friends. There are also plenty of dance clubs and discotecas throughout Barranco but few with the production value of a Miraflores megaclub. You’ll have plenty of options for partying throughout Lima, but I have never went wrong with Miraflores.
Food in Lima: Miraflores vs. Barranco
I don’t remember where I read or heard this but for some reason, I have it in my head that there are like 600,000 restaurants in Lima or something. Don’t quote me, I could have completely dreamt that up. Regardless, it feels accurate. There’s no shortage of places to eat in Lima. Miraflores and Barranco are no exception.
And we are going to call it a tie. Miraflores overall probably has better restaurants, but it will also cost you a pretty penny. Barranco has some amazing restaurants that are pretty expensive, but there are more options for all types of people out there on any budget. Miraflores has a lot of gringo options, like McDonald’s and Subway and even a Popeye’s and Chili’s. Barranco feels significantly more local where you can eat somewhere new every day without the temptation of reverting to fast food.
Things To Do In Lima: Miraflores vs. Barranco
This is a tough call because if I’m being honest, there really aren’t that many must-do or must-see things in Lima. I love Lima’s vibe but I also don’t really do anything while I’m in Lima. I enjoy a nice coffee shop, a walk through the park, browsing through an organic grocery store, snorting coke off of a nightclub’s toilet seat, and reading by the beach. Just kidding about at least one of those things.
I think you can spend longer in Miraflores without getting bored but that if you’ve only got two or three days in Lima, Barranco will fill up your time with more uniquely Peruvian things. Miraflores boasts things like walking through beautiful, but touristy parks and walking along the cliffs and the beach. You can surf and paraglide nearby, as well. If you like to eat, drink, and shop, Miraflores can fill your time up for ages.
However, for a traveler just passing through, Barranco seems like the more sensible choice. Barranco feels more like you are in a foreign country, which is the whole point of traveling, I guess. I don’t think Barranco truly deserves to win this one but I’ll give it to Barranco just because.
Miraflores wins. This is my blog, I get to decide the winner. I even told you the winner at the very beginning of this post so you can’t be mad.
In short, what I’m saying is that if you are staying in Lima for longer than two or three days, then Miraflores is the clear choice. You can literally visit Barranco for a day, check out all the street art, go to a museum or two, and then come back to Miraflores. As much as I love traveling through small villages and remote parts of the world, big cities have always captivated me. The hustle and bustle and rush of Lima is at its best in Miraflores.