As the largest city in the country, with a population of immigrants from around the country and the most international flavor, Lima certainly has Peru's most varied nightlife scene. Whether you're into jazz, criollo, Latin, or rock music, you'll find it here. The best after-dark scenes are in Miraflores and particularly Barranco, which transforms from a sleepy artists' and writers' community during the day to party central at night. Although it has a number of high-octane clubs and discos, it also has some of the city's best peñas and bars, especially those with ocean views just past the Puente de los Suspiros, or "Bridge of Sighs."
Bars open at about 8pm, but discos and live-music clubs don't generally get started until 10pm or later. Many are open very late, until 3 or 4am or even later.
The Performing Arts
Lima's stunning Teatro Municipal, the pride of the local performing-arts scene and the primary locale for theater, ballet, opera, and symphony performances, burned to the ground in 1998. Since then, the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet Company have performed at the Museo de la Nación, Avenida Javier Prado (tel. 01/476-9875). The 1940s-era Teatro Segura, Huancavelica 265 (tel. 01/426-7206) has picked up some of the slack for opera and music concerts. Frequent cultural events, including films and music recitals, are held every week at the Centro Cultural Ricardo Palma, Larco Herrera 770, Miraflores (tel. 01/446-3959), and the British Council, Calle Alberto Lynch 110, San Isidro (tel. 01/221-7552). The Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano, at the corner of Angamos and Arequipa in Miraflores (tel. 01/446-0381), hosts theater, jazz, classical, and folk music. See the daily newspaper El Comercio (www.elcomercioperu.com.pe) for updated lists of live performing-arts events in Lima (in Spanish only).
Lima has a good theater scene, although, as one might expect, nearly all plays are in Spanish. Two of Lima's best theaters are Teatro Canout, Av. Petit Thouars 4550, Miraflores (tel. 01/422-5373), and Teatro Auditorio Miraflores, Av. Larco 1036, Miraflores (tel. 01/447-9378). Tickets are available at the box offices.
Bars & Pubs
Miraflores -- Freiheit, Lima 471, in front of Parque Kennedy (tel. 01/247-4630), is a warmly decorated bar, in the style of a German tavern, but with a separate dance area. There's a drink minimum on weekends. O´Murphy's Irish Pub, Shell 627 (tel. 01/242-1212), is a longtime favorite drinking hole with a small menu of pub grub. Expect a pool table, darts, Guinness on tap, and Brits and Irishmen hoisting it. They also host live music on Thursday. Son de Cuba, Bulevar San Ramón 277 (tel. 01/445-1444), is on the pedestrian street called "Little Italy" by locals, but the club focuses on Caribbean rhythms and drinks Tuesday through Sunday. Scena, Francisca de Paula 226 (tel. 01/445-9688; www.scena.com.pe) is a sleek modern restaurant with a good wine selection and lively bar scene; DJs spin tunes here in the evenings.
Barranco -- The area past the Puente de los Suspiros in Barranco has some of the coolest watering holes in Lima. My favorite is Santos, Jr. Zepita 203 (tel. 01/247-4609), a hip joint with an inventive decor, easygoing vibe and slender balcony with views out to the ocean; the place is packed on weekend nights. Right across the bridge is the slick, upscale bar and restaurant, Picas, Bajada de Baños 340 (tel. 01/252-8095; www.picas.com.pe), serving great (but pricey) cocktails to a well-dressed crowd. Nearby, La Posada del Mirador, Pasaje La Ermita 104 (tel. 01/477-1120) and Nuevo Acantilado de Barranco, Pasaje La Ermita 102 (tel. 01/247-2145) both occupy old houses overlooking the ocean and have spectacular verdant settings with indoor and outdoor garden seating. For a real taste of old-school Peru, stop by the legendary Bodega Juanito, Av. Grau 274 (tel. 01/994-96176), a former apothecary that sports a plain, if charmingly retro (aka Soviet Union) look, with fluorescent lighting, industrial fans, and walls littered with theater and film posters. There's a peculiar rule that men not accompanied by women have to retreat to the back room to down their pitchers of beer. Juanito's is a longtime hangout for Barranco's artists and intellectuals, who smoke, drink and devour the fantastic, locally famous ham sandwiches.
New to the scene is an old train car parked just off the main park: Expreso Virgen de Guadalupe Café Cultural, Av. Prolongación San Martín 15 (tel. 01/252-8907) is a charming 1920s vagón with gorgeous wood, stained-glass windows, and live piano music, specialty coffees, and cocktails. It's perfect if you're trying to escape some of the noisier joints in Barranco. One of the trendy bars drawing a younger crowd is Amnesia, Bulevar Sánchez Carrión 153, just off the municipal square (tel. 01/477-9577). It's open only Thursday through Saturday. Posada del Angel, Av. Pedro de Osma 164 (and 222; tel. 01/247-0341), is a baroque cafe-bar with two locations on the same street and occasional live jazz and folk music. El Ekeko, Av. Grau 266 (tel. 01/247-3148), once an atmospheric neighborhood bar with occasional live music, has become a rowdy sports bar full of fútbol-watching and beer-swilling patrons. One of the hottest, and biggest, spots of the moment is Ayahuasca, Prolongación San Martín 130, Barranco (tel. 9810-44745), a stylish bar in a stately colonial mansion with swank furnishings, art exhibits and great cocktails, including an impressive array of pisco sours.
Lima Centro -- There are two excellent pubs downtown owned by the same folks. One is Rincón Cervecero, a German-style bierhall, at Jr. de la Unión 1045 (tel. 01/428-1422). The other, Estadio Fútbol Club, Av. Nicolás de Piérola 926 (tel. 01/428-8866), is strictly for fútbol fans: It's a three-level bar (and disco on weekends) that amounts to a museum of the sport, and with dozens of big-screen TVs, it can get pretty rowdy when a big Peruvian or international game is on.
Barranco -- My vote for best live-music club in Lima is La Noche, Bolognesi 307 (tel. 01/477-1012). Despite its prosaic name, this sprawling multilevel club feels like a swank tree house, with a great stage and sound system and good bands every night that run the gamut of styles (although it's frequently jazz), plus a hip mixed Limeño and international crowd. Monday night jam sessions (no cover charge) are particularly good; otherwise, cover charges range from S/5 to S/30. There's also a La Noche outpost in Central Lima, at the corner of Jirón Camaná and Jirón Quilca. La Estación de Barranco, Pedro de Osma 112 (tel. 01/247-0344), is another nice place, housed in an old train station, with live music Tuesday through Saturday and a slightly more mature crowd (both locals and tourists); the music on tap is often criolla. The classic upstairs bar La Taberna de Barranco, Av. Grau 268 (no phone), schedules both live rock and pop for the youngsters (often early shows beginning at 9pm), and occasional peña and Afro-Peruvian shows late on weekends for a more sophisticated crowd. Bar Mochileros, Av. Pedro de Osma 135, Barranco (tel. 01/247-1225), is a cool pub that hops with exotic cocktails and young people spilling out into the courtyard; there's occasional live rock, from punk to electronica, on weekends.
Miraflores -- Satchmo, Av. La Paz 538 (tel. 01/444-4957), is a sophisticated joint with a variable roster of live bands, including jazz combos -- as the name would indicate. It's a good date spot. Cover charges range from S/20 to S/60. Another great spot for live jazz (as well as bossa nova and Afro-Peruvian evenings) is Jazz Zone, Av. La Paz 656, Pasaje El Suche (tel. 01/241-8139; www.jazzzoneperu.com). Crocodilo Verde, Francisca de Paula 226 (tel. 01/445-7583; www.cocodriloverde.com), has jazz on Wednesday and a variable program of live music on weekends.
You should check out at least one peña, a performance at a criollo music club that quite often inspires rousing vocal and dance participation, during your stay in Lima.
Miraflores -- Caballero de Fina Estampa, Av. del Ejército 800 (tel. 01/441-0552), named for one of the most famous Peruvian songs of all time, is one of the city's chicest peñas, with a large colonial salon and balconies. The cover charge is S/50. Sachún, Av. del Ejército 657 (tel. 01/441-4465), is favored by tourists and middle-class Limeños who aren't shy about participating with their feet and vocal cords. The cover charge ranges from S/25 to S/45.
Barranco -- De Rompe y Raja, Manuel Segura 127 (tel. 01/247-3271; www.derompeyraja.net), is a favorite of locals that's open Thursday to Saturday nights. Look for the popular Matices Negros, an Afro-Peruvian dance trio. The cover is usually around S/35. Peña del Carajo!, Calle Catalino Miranda 158 (tel. 01/247-7023; www.delcarajo.com.pe), is another cool peña with good live music, percussion, and dance shows Tuesday through Saturday starting at 10pm. Covers range from S/20 to S/45. La Candelaria, Bolognesi 292 (tel. 01/247-1314; www.lacandelariaperu.com), is a comfortable club celebrating Peruvian folklore. It's open Friday and Saturday from 9pm onward; the cover is normally S/30. Las Guitarras, Manuel Segura 295 (tel. 01/479-1874), is where locals go to play an active part in their peña. A cool spot, it's open Friday and Saturday only, with no cover charge and no credit cards accepted.
Lima Centro -- Brisas del Titicaca, Jr. Walkulski 168, the first block of Avenida Brasil, near Plaza Bolognesi (tel. 01/332-1901; www.brisasdeltiticaca.com), is a cultural institution featuring noches folclóricas -- indigenous music-and-dance shows -- that are some of the finest in Lima. Shows are Tuesday and Wednesday at 8pm, Thursday at 9:15pm, and Friday and Saturday at 10:15pm. You can even catch a dance show with lunch, Friday and Saturday from noon to 6pm. Covers range from S/30 to S/70.
Many of Lima's discos are predominantly young and wild affairs. Cover charges range from S/15 to S/50. The main drags in Barranco, Avenida Grau and Pasaje Sánchez Carrión (a pedestrian alley off the main square), are lined with raucous clubs that go late into the evening and annoy Barranco residents. Two very chic and popular discotheques, Gotica (tel. 01/445-6343; www.gotica.com.pe) and Aura (tel. 01/242-5516; www.aura.com.pe) face each other in the Larcomar shopping center, Malecón de la Reserva 610, Miraflores and feature interconnected open-air terraces, great sea views and dance music ranging from electronica to the Latin specialty, pachanga. Also check out Deja-Vu, Av. Grau 294 (tel. 01/247-6989); the decor is based on TV commercials, and "waitress shows" tease horny patrons. It's a dancefest from Monday to Saturday; the music trips from techno to trance. Café Bar Kitsch, Bolognesi 743, Barranco (tel. 01/242-3325), is one of Lima's hottest bars -- literally, sometimes it turns into a sweatbox -- with over-the-top decor and recorded tunes that range from 1970s and 1980s pop to Latin and techno. Tequila Rock, Diez Canseco 146, Miraflores (tel. 01/444-3661), is one of Lima's longstanding popular discos, although it's a bit of a meat (or hooker's) market.
Gay & Lesbian Nightlife
Although Peru as a whole remains fervently Catholic and many gay and lesbian Peruvians feel constricted in the expression of their lifestyle, Lima is the most progressive city in the country, with the most facilities and resources for gays and lesbians, including a significant number of nightclubs. Among the most popular are Gitano 2050, Berlín 231, Miraflores (no phone), probably the best-known gay disco in the city, with two cruising balconies overlooking the dance floor; Downtown Vale Todo, Pasaje los Pinos 160, Miraflores (tel. 01/444-6433), currently the most popular club with go-go boys, with occasional shows and strippers; Café Bar Kitsch, Bolognesi 743, Barranco (no phone), a funky and highly original bar/disco that's also very popular with straights; and Perseo Palace, Av. Aviación 2514, San Borja (tel. 01/224-3731), a lively disco with an eclectic soundtrack and large dance floor. A gay-oriented combination sauna/gym/bar/video lounge is Sauna Tivoli, Av. Petit Thouars s/n, San Isidro (tel. 01/222-1705). All are open Wednesday through Saturday (Gitano 2050 and Sauna Tivoli are open Sun as well); cover charges range from S/15 to S/35. Visit http://lima.queercity.info for more information on gay Lima and gay Peru, including all the latest bars, discos and saunas (bathhouses).
Most foreign movies in Lima are shown in their original language with subtitles. Art and classic films are shown at the Filmoteca de Lima in the Lima Museo de Arte, Paseo Colón 125, Lima Cercado (tel. 01/423-4732), and El Cinematógrafo, Pérez Roca 196, Barranco (tel. 01/477-1961). Commercial movie houses worth checking out include Multicines Starvisión El Pacífico, Av. José Pardo 121, near the roundabout at Parque Central, Miraflores (tel. 01/445-6990); Cinemark Perú Jockey Plaza, Av. Javier Prado 4200 (tel. 01/435-9262); and Multicines Larcomar, Malecón de la Reserva 610, Miraflores (tel. 01/446-7336). Most theaters in the suburbs cost more than the ones in Lima Centro, but they're more modern and better equipped. Several have matinee prices and discounts on Tuesday. For a list of films subtituladas (with subtitles), consult the Friday edition of El Comercio. Note that the term doblada means "dubbed." Tickets run S/12 to S/20.
Peruvians are big on casinos, and many of the larger upscale hotels in Lima have casinos attached. Some of the better ones are the Stellaris Casino at the JW Marriott Hotel; Grand Hotel Miraflores, Av. 28 de Julio 151, Miraflores (tel. 01/447-9641); Country Club Lima Hotel; and Sheraton Hotel & Casino, Paseo de la República 170, Centro (tel. 01/433-3320). Most casinos are open Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 2am, and Friday through Saturday from 5pm to 5am.