I (Amanda) decided at the last minute to hop on board a trip that had already been planned by my friend Katie, her friend from college (Leslie), Leslie’s boyfriend (Christian) and their friend Sutton. I flew in on the same flight as Katie and Leslie, 4:30pm from Houston IAH airport, we left on time and arrived in Lima, Peru 6.5 hours later with NO time change required (so convenient!). There was almost no wait in customs and we were being greeted by Christian and our pre-arranged taxi driver within 10 minutes of disembarking. Leslie had booked an Airbnb for the night and the host had a driver he regularly uses for guests. It was helpful to have a reliable taxi waiting for us with a set price so we knew we would make it straight to our requested destination without getting swindled (we’d heard horror stories of cabs driving tourists to ATM and demanding a lot of money, so a safe option was wise for our midnight arrival) The Airbnb was in Miraflores, about 35 minutes drive from the airport; the 4 of us stayed in one room of bunk beds first night. We were all pretty exhausted and went straight to bed.
Day 1 (Saturday) – We were very excited to begin exploring Lima. We had read about tons of markets in the city and decided on Mercado Surquillo No. 1 and No. 2 which are about 8 minutes walking distance from each other. We started at No. 1 and it had everything food. There were a few different buildings to this market and an outdoor square. The back building had mainly market items like fresh fruits, veggies, rice, flour, and spices rather than prepared food; though there was one Cevicheria called “Claudia’s“ which was swamped with what appeared to be local market stall owners quickly scarfing down a ceviche breakfast served up by Claudia herself. This seemed like it was the most authentic ceviche in the market but, sadly, I didn’t have proper change or Spanish language skills to assert myself into this local swarm. We entered into the main arena of stalls where there is food of all types – prepared, preserved, spices, nuts, fruits and veggies, raw cuts of meat and dangling organs, candies, cakes, variety of sit down restaurants, tons of food. This market was pretty much all food, no other goods or crafts to speak of. We decided to head to Mercado Surquillo No. 2 with the intent to return to No. 1 for lunch. On our walk to Mercado No. 2 we passed a stall selling a variety of coconut treats so we got a patty type conglomerate of shaved coconut mixed with plenty of sugar and fried like a pancake to hold it all together. It was sweet and delicious, just a bite or 2 was plenty but we all really enjoyed it.
Mercado No. 2 was a combination of food and goods. We had read that there were lots of local crafts, furniture, clothing and bags at this market; however the stalls that were open seemed to be more tourist oriented with screen print tees and cheap machine made items. We were here during the holiday weekend – July 28th is Peruvian Independence Day and we were informed that most natives take a week long holiday during this occasion so that may have contributed to the lack of authentic, local stalls at this market. There was plenty of food here as well, though not nearly as wide a variety as Mercado No. 1. We sampled some local Cusquena beer from a promotional group outside the market and then were ready to head back to No. 1. We opted for El Cevichano within the market for our first taste of ceviche. I got the mixed seafood which had scallop, octopus, squid, shrimp and fish; the seafood was very fresh and delicious, but the dish was SO salty and acidic from tons of citrus fruit it got difficult to eat after a while. Our Airbnb hostess later told us that there is lots of MSG used in the foods in Peru and that is likely what was so biting about the dish – she recommended requesting no MSG in any future dishes. After ceviche, Christian had to head to the bus station as he was taking a 22 hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco while the rest of us were taking an hour long flight on Sunday.
With it just being the girls now (myself, Katie and Leslie) we decided to continue walking through the city toward Parque Kennedy though we never really made it to the park, we passed by La Emolienteria Bar and went in to check it out. This bar has TONS of infused pisco options so we each opted for a different pisco cocktail. I requested something spicy so the bartender directed me toward the Pika Pika, it was wonderful – not pepper spicy but instead a gingery spice that was fantastic. There was a lemongrass infusion which the bartender said was her favorite, it sounded wonderfully refreshing but turned out to taste so strongly of alcohol it was hard to sip for long. There were 4 young guys (maybe 17-20 years old) mixing the drinks, they spoke no English but were very eager to interact with us, take photos and make jokes; there was one girl around our same age who spoke pretty good English and was very helpful in deciphering the extensive menu. I highly recommend this bar for the bright and fun decor, the wide variety of pisco options, and the friendly staff.
After La Emolienteria we continued walking and ended up at the Choco Museo which turns out to be just a tourist trap selling mediocre chocolate, not recommended. We continued on to find some churros that Katie had been craving, they were across town at Churrisimo so we enjoyed walking through the center of Miraflores again. We selected a variety of churros to share, we really enjoyed the lacuma filling which is a local Peruvian fruit flavor though it tasted similar to a spiced vanilla pudding. The churros were dipped in melted chocolate (white – dark, your preference) and coated in sprinkles, nuts, brown sugar, whatever you like. If you’re really into churros this may be a fun place to visit but I wouldn’t call it a “must-do.”
We were running a little late to meet our Airbnb host so we rushed back to our first accommodation (it took a few tries to find the proper building as we didn’t have the address and were working from memory – we may have tried to enter the same, incorrect condo complex 3 times, much to the doorman’s dismay, before realizing that we were staying a few blocks away on the other side of the street); Katie and I packed up our backpacks and strapped them on for the 2.5 mile trek to Barranco (a separate district of Lima which is known for vibrant street art and a young, hip vibe). We opted to walk along the boardwalk for the coastal views; it was winter in Peru, so a bit chilly and overcast along the coast but still very enjoyable with plenty of people watching and beautiful blooms. We went through the Parque del Amor which really did have many, quite intimate, couples strewn about. I would recommend stopping through this area as it is nice to see visitors and locals alike enjoying the coastal park. As we entered Barranco, we passed the contemporary art museum which looked neat but we did not end up having time to enter. We also passed by a busy street market before reaching our accommodation, Casa Nuestra.
Casa Nuestra was very eclectically decorated with a variety of bright color and art, in a totally hip location. The hostess, Tess, was European and had come to Peru on holiday a few years prior with her boyfriend – they never left. Now they tend the B&B while the owners are working on readying another accommodation in Northern Peru. Tess had great recommendations for food, bars and places to check out in Barranco. She also arranged a taxi to get us to the airport in the morning and put out breakfast items for us even though we were leaving prior to the scheduled breakfast hours. I would recommend staying here for the location, decor and great host, though the beds weren’t the most comfortable.
We headed back to the craft market we had passed on our way into town, this was much different from the type of markets we’d seen in the morning as there was no food and all goods, clothing, bags, trinkets and art work. It was fun to check out all of the stalls; we spent about 45 minutes enjoying the market before heading down to an alternate market location recommended by Tess. La Feria de Barranco, was VERY cool, plenty of handmade goods, art, prepared foods and a stage scheduled for live music. It seemed there were many locals here grabbing a bite to eat and waiting for the band to come on. We shopped around and then sat down as the soundcheck was ending, we were hoping to see some of the performance but we ended up having to leave for dinner before they came on – we wanted to have plenty of time for dinner and the recommended bar before Leslie had to head to the airport to pick up her friend. So we left the market and headed to Arlotia Restaurante which Tess also recommended when we told her we wanted seafood with Peruvian flare. I had a seafood and squid ink risotto which was rich, delicious and fresh. Katie had a variety of croquettes which were very rich but tasty, and some bread with tomatoes. Leslie had a grilled cheese which she really enjoyed. The adorable decor in this restaurant set a great vibe and we were all glad we had been directed here for dinner.
Ayahuasca Restobar was our next stop for some after dinner drinks…if you find yourself in Lima, go here! This bar is a mansion with every room decorated in a different theme. Really fun place to walk around and so hard to choose which room to enjoy your cocktail in. We opted for regular Pisco Sours at this bar and they were decent, not spectacular but we wanted to give the traditional cocktail a try, this bar is really more about the decor than the drinks anyway. Leslie had to leave pretty quickly after we arrived to Ayahuasca so we made sure to quickly run through all of the rooms before she took off – only for me and Katie to find out later that there were a few additional rooms we hadn’t found on that first pass. After we finished our cocktails and took photos in the most eccentric rooms, Katie and I walked home to Casa Nuestra (5 minutes walk) since we had to leave early for the airport to catch our flight to Cusco the next day.