By Mike Gasparovic

Horns blaring, drivers shouting, street vendors at every corner: Lima’s crowded thoroughfares are chaos personified. But step off the main arteries of Miraflores and Barranco to wander the side streets, and a magical transformation occurs.

Here, just blocks from the noise and bustle of a thriving metropolis, one stumbles upon tiny oases of comfort and quiet: Lima’s cafés. Locally owned and oozing coziness and charm, these intimate meeting places offer a refuge from the uproar of city life.

So the next time you need to escape from the world for a few hours—to read, write, talk, or just sit and linger over an espresso—stop by some of these hidden hideaways. Your soul will thank you later.

La Bodega Verde
Jirón Sucre 335-A, Barranco
247-8804

This well-kept Barranco secret would be worth visiting for its setting alone (a leafy lúcuma tree dapples a quiet patio with shade; tables with umbrellas dot a flagstone path). Yet setting alone wouldn’t suffice to win accolades from the likes of superstar chef Gastón Acurio, who featured the café on his popular culinary TV show, if the food weren’t something special. Fortunately, the gourmet sandwiches and wide range of imported teas (some 50 in all) more than live up to the promise of the heavenly location. Try the bruschetta with smoked ham and Andean cheese, with a lúcuma milkshake to wash it down. And yes, the fruit is from the tree outside. If paradise served lunch, it would look like this.

Café Arábica
Calle Recavarren 269
715-2152

If you like your cafés eclectic and funky, Arábica is your cup of tea—or espresso, which here emerges from the counter’s steaming silver urns frothy and sprinkled with cacao. The narrow locale is divided into three cozy rooms decorated with thrift-store chic: think comfy couches and tables inlaid with subway maps from around the world. There are also board games, a small library with books in English, and plenty of work by local artists on the walls. If you like carrot cake, you’ll be in raptures over the version served here. If you don’t, Arábica will change your mind. A perfect sanctuary on a cold Lima night.

Sofa Café
Plaza San Miguel, San Miguel
717-6973

Av. San Martín 480, Barranco
719-4384

As the name implies, Sofa Café is about comfort: comfortable décor (plush divans piled with throw pillows line the dining room), comfortable service (the staff makes a point of accommodating special requests), and of course, comfort food, with a menu tailor-made for diners seeking to unwind after a long workday or -week. Go for the gourmet sandwiches (the lomo saltado is scrumptious) and the big mugs of tea and coffee, but if you find temptation whispering in your ear in the form of the extensive list of dessert waffles, don’t try to fight it. Succumb, and ask forgiveness from your trainer later.

Pastelería San Antonio
Av. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa 770, Miraflores
705-8885

Av. Libertadores 594, San Isidro
626-1309
Ca. Roca de Vergallo 201, Magdalena
461-7732

Founded in 1930, this bustling bakery and sandwich shop has grown into a small local chain and therefore lacks the intimacy of other Lima cafés. But success doesn’t always mean compromise: in the case of San Antonio, it has come without sacrificing quality or the personal touch. Moreover, the menu here is truly vast, offering a range of sandwich and drink options you won’t find anywhere else. The flauta española, Serrano ham with manchego cheese and olive oil, is ridiculously good. Try the fresh juices, and try also not to go overboard at the take-out pastry counter, where hundreds of sweets test the willpower of even the most disciplined dieters. The turrón de Doña Pepa, anise wafers topped with cane-sugar syrup, is especially dangerous.

Homemade: Hecho en Casa
Calle Revett 259, Miraflores
445-9913

This pink-and-pastel hole in the wall opened less than a year ago, but it already has a sizeable following among Lima’s hipster set. The owners aim to introduce the U.S. cupcake craze to Peru, and their lúcuma-and-fudge zambito is a worthy entry. The café also features waffles, muffins, all manner of hot beverages (notably frappés and hot chocolate), and a constantly expanding menu of sandwiches and platters, including one of Lima’s best burgers. Perfect for replenishing your energy after a long day of shopping or sightseeing.

Mike Gasparovic is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. He devotes his free time to studying the history, art, and literature of the Spanish-speaking world and learning about its people. He currently lives in Lima. He currently lives in Lima and wrote this article for South American Vacations, leaders in tours to Peru and throughout South America.

 

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