Tonear, hacer la juerga, parrandear, chupar, chelear, ser jaranista: The list of Peruvian slang for “drink” or “party” is seemingly endless. And with good reason. In Lima, the festivities start on Thursday night, with “after office” (i.e. happy hour) gatherings in bars and restaurants, and continue into the early hours of Sunday morning, when the bedraggled jaraneros stumble home to sleep off the night’s excesses. This means those looking for la vida loca have a bewildering variety of options (Disco or dinner club? Dive bar or quiet cabaret?) in this sprawling capital of Peru.
The following are some of the best Lima establishments for drinking, dancing, hearing live music, or just hanging out. Vibes range from hip to heavy metal, reggae to reggaeton. Wear your dancing shoes, and try to make it home by 6 a.m.!
Calle San Martín 400
This popular lounge manages to be upscale and friendly at the same time. Tucked away in a residential Miraflores neighborhood, on the top floor of a refurbished mansion, it features efficient bartenders, a small dance floor, an excellent DJ spinning Latin dance pop, and a clientele that hails from all the sectors of Lima. Many come here to celebrate birthdays or other occasions; the vibe is open and welcoming. A favorite haunt for limeños in the know.
Pasaje Sanchez Carrión 199A
This intimate, two-story club is considered by many to be the place to hear live music in Lima. Featuring a surprisingly eclectic mix of genres ranging from salsa to Latin rock to tribute bands and a laid-back crowd aged 20 to 60, it has something for almost everyone. Visit the club’s Facebook page to see the monthly concert schedule. Especially recommended are the free Latin jazz shows every Monday night.
Playa Barranquito (in Rustica restaurant)
This high-energy disco looks directly out onto the Pacific from the beach in Barranco, making it especially popular in summertime, when the terraces and patios are crowded with young people meeting up with friends after a long workweek. Salsa, reggaeton, Latin pop, and American rock make up the playlist here. You can avoid the cover charge by going to the club’s website (www.antiquadiscoclub.com) and adding your name to the reserve list.
Av. Nicolás de Piérola 168
This neighborhood hotspot features two large bars, a dance floor, and a 20-something crowd that’s slightly hipster, slightly yuppie, but always friendly. Those who like their bars with trivia games, wall-painting contests, and the like will feel right at home here. Also welcome are the Wednesday-night parties, as most other bars in Lima are dead during the week. One caveat: the cover charges have crept up inexorably over the past year, at times to $10 or more, and the sound system can be deafeningly loud. Bring your earplugs, just in case.
Carabaya 815 (Plaza San Martín)
When government workers and working-class limeños want to empinar el codo, i.e., toss back a few beers after work, they head to the Plaza San Martín. This historic square in downtown Lima is flanked on all sides by cheap, loud, and essentially identical dive bars. Etnias, however, stands out for its strong rasta flavor and ethnic-music shows: here reggae and tribute bands abound, liberally spiked with 70s and 80s rock. Colorful, unpretentious, and cheap.
Av. Petit Thouars 2161
Voce is one of the largest discos in Lima, with dance floors on two levels and a crowd that’s truly representative of the city’s diversity. It’s cheap and raucous and pulsing with energy. The Facebook page lists frequent special events, including live shows and modeling contests; check too for promotions that feature free admission before 1 a.m.
Catalino Miranda 158
Imagine a huge megaclub with comedy acts, traditional dance contests, several dance floors, and a nightly show of musica criolla, the Afro-Peruvian folk music made famous by the likes of Eva Ayllon and Susana Baca, and you have an approximate idea of what goes on at a Peruvian peña. Lima sports several such venues, but Del Carajo! more than lives up to its rep as the best. For an entrance fee of about $12, you can experience a party that is truly world-class, among Peruvians aged 15 to 50. As always in Lima’s peñas, audience participation in the singing and dancing is key. For an authentic cultural experience, this place is not to be missed.
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 and wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, specialists in tours all over Peru.