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What to do when you visit Lima, Peru

Hermione Spriggs

Known alternately as “the City of Kings” and “the Garden City” Lima is a capital of contrasts. Located where the desert meets the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find ultra-modern business districts rubbing shoulders with Unesco World Heritage Sites, colonial architecture influenced by local craftsmanship, and world-class New Peruvian cuisine.

 

 

Take a trip back to 1920s Peru through the romantic interiors and eloquent amenities of Hotel B. Immersed in the leafy streets of Lima’s bohemian arts district Barranco, the original interiors and eccentric art collections of this Claude Sahut mansion offer intimate luxuries including a seasonal menu from acclaimed Peruvian chef Oscar Verlande.

 

Hotel B’s gracious and surreally flavored services include on-demand bubble baths in free-standing porcelain tubs (as if the sea breezes of the neighboring Pacific weren’t enough to refresh). Describing itself as a resting place for contemporary explorers, Hotel B’s personable rooms marry traditional touches and authentic histories with the chic, crisp textures of contemporary Lima.

 

From here take a stroll on the Bajada de los Baños, a walkway to the sea, and rest on the puente de los Suspiros or “Bridge of Sighs” so named – according to local legend – after a love-forlorn aristocrat’s daughter whose grand house overlooked the Bajada.

 

 

Walk a little further and you’ll encounter MATE, or Museo Mario Testino, a not-for-profit center matching Peruvian culture and heritage with international contemporary art. Nested in the glorious architecture of Barranco (once a fashionable beach resort for the Limeño aristocracy, now a flourishing cultural quarter) the museum invests in a diverse range of interests from endangered ancient and historic sites, to a critically informed exhibition program and the best of Peru’s contemporary performance art.

 

Visit MATE for a refreshing mix of temporary exhibitions, evening talks, and a permanent collection of works by the museum’s founder, Mario Testino, featuring photographic portraits of muses including Naomi Campbell, The Rolling Stones and Princess Diana alongside Alta Moda, a five-year project investigating Peruvian traditions and the history of photography.

 

 

Located in the Miraflores district of downtown Lima, avant-garde restaurant Central is perched 79 meters above sea level. This places it on its own tasting menu between “Marine Soil” (-20m: clams, sweet cucumber, and lime) and “River Scales” (180m: River Snails, Gamitana and Sangre de Grado). Central serves native ingredients sourced from a wide range of altitudes. Mountains, sea, desert and jungle are all represented on this culinary journey, which peaks at 3,900m with “Andean Plateau”.

 

Restaurateur Virgillio Martinez’ take on ingredients reflects a pre-Hispanic approach to harvesting nutrition from a varied landscape which – diverse and lofty as the Andes – reaches into the sublime. Fittingly, Central won the “Highest Climber” award in Restaurant Magazine’s 50 best, settling in 2015 at the world’s no. 4. The deep knowledge behind the restaurant’s identity and success owes much to Martinez’ “Iniciativa” research project, led by an interdisciplinary team of gastronomists, scientists, historians and anthropologists who travel Peru to investigate ingredients in their indigenous cultural and natural habitats. Sourcing local knowledge and previously untasted flavors, Central features ‘cushuro’, the caviar-like bacteria found in the mountains after a rainstorm, freeze-dried tubers that were used by the ancient Inca, and ‘airampo’, a bright magenta cactus grown in the Andes.

 

The place-name Miraflores means “to look at flowers”. Central remains grounded with its own city garden, allowing the team to stay in close contact with nature at all times. No signs of altitude sickness here.

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