A closer look at Lima: Magdalena del Mar
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be profiling some of Lima’s lesser-known neighborhoods. Go ahead, branch out!
This week: Magdalena del Mar
Magdalena was by far our favorite neighborhood in Lima, in part because of its great location (just a quick bus or taxi ride to Miraflores, the airport, or Downtown), and in part because of its quiet neighborly feel. Magdalena’s not a hopping place when it comes to nightclubs and sightseeing, but it’s the sort of place where your neighbors will greet you on the street, where old couples go out for an evening stroll, where neighborhood kids play impromptu fútbol games in quiet intersections.
The Magdalena Market (on the streets Galvez and Bolognesi, just west of Sucre) fills up in the evenings with young couples and families. If you’re looking for discounted clothes, shoes and movies, forget about overpriced, touristy Polvos Azules (near downtown): Magdalena’s Market is the place the locals get them. The market is open daily. The best time to go for fresh produce is in the morning, but the best time to go for people-watching and clothes shopping is in the evening when the rest of the neighborhood goes out to promenade in the market’s boulevard.
For traditional Peruvian handicrafts, try the numerous Artisanal Markets along Av. La Marina, just north of the neighborhood (technically in Pueblo Libre, which we’ll talk about next week). There are all the usual suspects of crafts from all over the country, and it’s a great place to go to get your last-minute gifts. The prices are slightly higher than they would be in a smaller town, but they’re lower than the artisan shopping area of Miraflores.
Visit metal artist Mario Torres Sánchez at his shop El Quijote (Av. Sucre 1198 – you can’t miss the whimsical front gate). Torres Sánchez has been making fantastical junk sculptures (go browse those photos a minute—we’ll wait) since the sixties. His store is stuffed full of sculptures both small and large, and he’ll take a break from grinding and welding new fantasies to come show you around. The sculptures are affordable, though a splurge on a backpacker’s budget. This would be a great place to visit right before you get on that plane—you don’t want to lug something that heavy all around Peru. If you go nowhere else in Lima, go here!
Iglesia Inmaculada Corazón de Maria (corner of Sucre and 28 de Julio) is the neighborhood’s main landmark. The church’s unique 5-story teal and pink dome is visible from most of the neighborhood, especially at night when the church’s facade is brightly lit. It is topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary by Ariquepeño artist Freddy Luque Sonco.
Magdalena’s Malecón is a work in progress, and although it’s not as beautiful as Miraflores’, it can be a pleasant place for a walk in the sunset—just avoid young necking couples and the kids on bikes, as it seems to be a popular place to go when you’re learning to lose the training wheels (take that how you will).
Lima is stuffed with old temples, and Magdalena has one of their own, the Huaca Huantille (at the corner of 28 de Julio and Castilla). It was closed the day I went, so if you’d like more information kindly step on over to En Peru, where Stuart as usual has put together a fantastic report.
There’s a lot of little places all through Magdalena, but these were some of our favorites:
Speciale Cafe – 1229 Jr. Libertad. This cutesy old-time ice cream parlor serves up almost 20 different flavors, including frozen yogurt, and has some of the best espresso in Lima. My tips: get a cup of coffee and a scoop of Cappuccino ice cream to go in it. Rob’s tips: try everything first and then try the Magdalena flavor (with figs, nuts, and chopped cherries) again. They also sell little frozen bonbons that are divine.
Chifa Brasil – Corner of Brasil and Junin. Chifa is chifa is chifa, but this place became one of our favorites, particularly for the zesty-sweet Chicken Limon Kai, the frozen beers, and the great prices. They’ve also got a couple big TVs that they’re happy to turn to whatever game you’re itching to watch.
Lorenzo – Corner of Sucre and Salaverry. They have both a set menu and a la carte items, and though their set menu is a few soles more than most it’s incredibly delicious and filling. These guys also provide some of the best table service in all of Peru (which was a rare treat to find).
Campos de Vida Natural Foods – Corner of Ugarte and L. Prado. A little cafe and grocery store serving up homemade yogurt and integral breads, as well as Peruvian health foods like quinoa.
Candy (corner of Brasil and Cusco) – This is the closest grocery store, although a quick taxi ride will get you to the posh Vivanda on Av. Javier Prado, or the small Plaza Vea on Av. Brasil. Candy is pretty bare-bones, but it’ll get you what you need. The produce section is a bit wilty, but why are you shopping for produce in a grocery store when you should be at the Magdalena Market?
Jr. Manco Capac 212, Magdalena del Mar
Tel: (+51 1) 261-6122 | Cel: (+51 1) 99714-5926
Has wi-fi, computer access, kitchen access, can arrange airport pickup.
Dorm – $7, single room $10, double/matrimonial $20.
For the record, this review will be totally biased. We stayed with Scott for about three weeks at the end of our trip, and he was amazing to us. We will forever recommend Tambopacaya shamelessly as the best hostel in Lima, and probably in the world.
Tambopacaya is like being at home. Our first morning there, Scott refused to let us leave without a cup of coffee and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. He speaks very little English, but he’s so expressive in his speaking that even those who are just learning Spanish (like Rob) can understand him. The hostel is really just a transformed home, with decent-sized rooms tucked into many different spaces, a Peruvian hairless dog (Daiya), a monkey living on the roof, and a radio that’s always playing Golden Oldies. Relax on the front porch with a beer, watch old Spanish Westerns on the shaky little TV, or pass the evening chatting with Scott. He’ll be happy to show you around the neighborhood, give you bus directions and recommendations, and just all-around be a gracious host.
Jr Ayacucho 778, Magdalena del Mar
Tel: (+51 1) 461 6768
Has wi-fi, computer access, can arrange airport pickup
Dorm – $6, single room $15, double/matrimonial $20.
Magdalen House is a more traditional backpacker hostel that was built actually for that purpose. It seems quiet enough, with nice common areas and clean, new rooms. The staff is quite friendly, and their website is well done and full of helpful information on the area. Magdalen House can also do airport and bus reservations for you.
Av. Sucre 175 (corner of Sucre and Diego Ferré)
Tel: (+51 1) 263-6081
Matrimonial room – $25-30
Megamar is a new hotel with a view of the ocean, and a great spot for an inexpensive splurge. For only a few dollars more than the average matrimonial room in a Lima hostel you can have a view of the ocean, huge, nicely decorated rooms with HUGE beds, a reasonably priced minibar, cute little tables and huge windows. The staff is extremely helpful and sweet. The hotel has only been open for one year, and they’re putting in a pool and a sauna, which should be open soon. They’re right above the Parrilleria Brisas & Brisas, a reasonably priced restaurant offering grills and ceviches. The service was pretty slow, but the food was tasty.