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A closer look at Lima: Magdalena del Mar

by Jessie Kwak | 22 March 2010 17 Comments

Most tourists who come to Lima stay in the Miraflores district, and for good reason. With its cliff-side mall, high-end shopping, skyscraper hotels and British pubs, Miraflores tries to have all the comforts of home. And while that can be fun, sometimes it’s nice to stay in a neighborhood that resembles, well, Lima.

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

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.

Empty streets in Magdalena.

Shopping

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.

Lima: A Cultural History (Citiscapes)
by James Higgins
Powells.com

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!

Sights

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.

Iglesia Inmaculada Corazón de Maria

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.

Good Eating

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.

Ice scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!

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).

Lorenzo's

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?

Backpackers Accommodation

Tambopacaya Backpackers
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.

Tambo Pacaya

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.

Magdalen House
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.

Megamar Hotel
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.

Written by Jessie Kwak

I am a farm girl who moved to the big city, and then just kept right on moving. I love camping, hoppy beer, and good conversations. See all posts by

17 Comments »

  • Kelly said:

    Hi,
    I have enjoyed reading this blog entry, and had two questions for you. I was wondering if you knew how long it takes to get from Magdalena to the center of Lima? Also, do you know how much a bus ride and taxi ride cost from Magdalena to the center of LIma? I will be interning in Lima this summer, and I am looking for a good place to live. So far I really like Magdalena del Mar.

    Thanks,
    Kelly

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Hi Kelly–Magdalena is a really cool little neighborhood, I’m glad you’re interested in it. It takes about 15-30 minutes by bus (depending on the time of day and traffic). It’ll be quicker by taxi because they can fit into some frighteningly small spaces. Taxi should cost you S/.10-15 ($3.50-5.25) (many will try to charge you more, just keep asking until you get the price you think is right. It helps to check with a local first to see what the going rate is so you know you’re not getting ripped off.) The bus will be S/.1.20 ($.40).

    Taking the bus is super fun. :)

  • Kelly said:

    Thanks! This really helped a lot!

  • letty said:

    Hi, My name is Letty. I will also be interning in Lima but have found a great little place to live in Magdalena del Mar and I’m happy with it, but recently I heard somebody say Magdalena was unsafe….violence and drugs. Is this true? For long term stays, where can one look for housing?
    Thank you.

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Hi Letty–I haven’t heard anything about Magdalena being unsafe, although since it’s such a diverse neighborhood I could see how there would be parts you wouldn’t want to go after dark, etc.

    Have you tried talking to your internship program about housing? I know that some people have done homestays and really enjoyed them. You might also try looking / posting on Living In Peru’s classifieds.

  • Sandro Torres said:

    Hola y vivo muy ecrca de esos lugares, buenas fotos saludos desde Magdalena del Mar – Lima – Perú

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Gracias, Sandro! Nos encanta Magdalena, es uno de los sitios mas bonito de Lima!

  • Victor M Del Carpio said:

    Hola Jessie: Magdalenas es mas grande de lo que tu conoces probablemente you should ask for the northern side of Magdalena del Mar around the park called La pera del amor it’s located close to Salaverry avenue and El ejercito avenue. That part is still Magdalena the border side to San isidro. Is quiet and safe but the traditional area where you stayed has republican architecture and looks better. If you go again to magdalena ask for yuyachkani’s house. It’ s the house of one of the best theater group in Latin America tthey would like to show their activities and maybe you’d be lucky the see them performing. One more thing try to go to Pueblo libre Queirolo Bar is a very tradtional bodega where you will try their pisco wines and piqueos. They also run a comida criolla restaurant located around the corner of Queirolo’s bar. If you have time closeby you’ll find the anthropolical museum and the house where Simon Bolivar and Jose de San martin stayed wh

  • Victor M Del Carpio said:

    Hi me again I made many typos the restaurant is called El Bolivariano and the museum is called museo antropologico. If you go again to La punta callao try to go the cemetery Presbitero Maestro but do it morning time because that part of the city is not safe at dark. A tip to Letty if she want to live in an unexpensive and safe part of that side of Lima ask for Valle Riestra neighborhood pueblo Libre it’s located close to Magdalena but is quiet. Magdalena is not a dangerous district but there are some spots not safe. Close to the huaca or to the market during the evening.

  • Jim said:

    Hi all…i lived in Magdelena for about a year now and actually to take a taxi from there to central Lima dont pay more than 7 or 8 soles or they know that they are taking advantage of a tourist…buses are ok but once you get to central Lima that is where buses are more unsafe…more rateros..good chance of being robbed…in Magdelena if you want to get around locally take a mototaxi…1-3 soles. Also the Mercado Magdelena is nice but gets a little crowded so I like mecado La Marina..still close but smaller and the peopl are very nice…good food in the little cafes and there is a great little tienda that sells chicharrones next to the meat butchers..and the little fruit vendor closest to the front entrance is aesome…some of the best fresh fruit i have ever had…and they always give me new samples to taste each day i shop….if you’re wanting to buy fresh pork..go to Candy the supermercado..the specialize in fresh cut pork everyday…they butcher their own and it is sooo cheap..even less than the open markets…enjoy Magdelena…i think it is a cute and quiet place in Lima

  • Jeff said:

    This is the most informative blog we’ve come across. We’re looking at visiting Peru for one month in March. We love to backpack and are looking at the most inexpensive way of doing so. Can you make any recommendation. We noticed you stayed at an apartment for a really good rate. Was it close to hiking (2 hours on a bus is fine) thanks alot. You can post here or email me back.

    Cheers

  • Antonio Reinoso Delboy said:

    Hello: I was born in Magdalena del Mar,few years ago when it used to be an aristocratic bathing resort or “balneario” I live in USA(New York and Miami) for over 50 years now but I always have fond memories of Magadalena,my parents house still there where I was born and I am going to sell it now to build a condominium,Magdalena used to be a charming quiet little town where every body knew each other,my mother used to say Magdalena has the best weather in Lima,it was very european ethnically and very old and established families live in the district as I recall,everything was near by since we lived in Jiron Bolognesi now Llosa,it never developed like Miraflores but always mantained it residential and peaceful atsmosphere,La Parroquia,el parque donde nuestras mamas hacian Kermeses beneficas,la plaza del mercado donde vendian deliciosos tamales los Domingos y el mejor pan con chicharon que vendia un chinito en una esquina,los cines Gardel,Broadway y Brasil por supuesto todo eso ya cambio pero los lindos recuerdos quedan Saludos!!!

  • alfredo said:

    hello friends i live in magdalena del mar alone and i read all the comments and im happy that my district like it too much.

    well if you are interested to visit lima and stay in magdalena del mar just tell me and i can help you, i can recommend nice cafe bar or some places to visit or maybe you want to share my apartment with me, we can talk about it, magdalena del mar is a nice place to stay its cheap, and warmy near to the ocean, etc.

    please send questions or something you want to know not only to my neighborhood magdalena del mar , also lima city or what place you want to visit when you will be here in lima city.
    ciao
    adeu
    bye
    adios
    alfredo salvatierra.

  • Cesar said:

    Hola,

    Una pregunta, sabes si el Hotel Megamar que mencionas tiene un area suficientemente grande como para organizar una fiesta? O sabes de algun otro hotel o restaurante en magdalena que tenga vista al mar donde se pueda organizar una fiesta? Muchas gracias y saludos, Cesar

  • Yunus said:

    Hostel Maras is also a good place to stay in
    When touring M D Mar keep your eyes glued to the pavement ( Dog Poo)
    Strawberries ( Fresia ) are extremely cheap and tasty from the market (Mercado)
    Laundry is cheap (Lavanderia)

  • Amarjit kumar singh said:

    hi
    jessi
    I am Amarjit kumar singh from indore india I have one girlfriend from lamagdelana dell mar lima peru ru I love haer mucho and I want to goin.magdelena from india but I want to know information. about magdelena and I wwant to know information about what is the of travel from india to lima peru .. I love so I want to know inform ….. please give me some information. help me… bye..

  • Carlos G. said:

    Hey man. Just surfing on the web I found this blog and I love it. I’m glad u like the place where I have lived mi whole life. Thanks for sharing this to other people out of mi country. Best regards!

    Carlos