Monumental Callao – the bohemian neighborhood of the port
Callao is not in the top 5 things to do in Lima, but for those looking for a unique Peruvian destination, Monumental Callao is the place to visit. And Peru By Bus is going to tell you exactly why!
The story of Callao
Callao is the chief seaport of Peru. Located 15 km west of the Historic Centre of Lima, the port district of Callao was founded in 1537 by Spanish colonists, and quickly became their main trade hub in the Pacific.
During the 19th century economic boom, Callao fluoresced with the construction of grand plazas, churches and wooden colonial balconies. It even saw the birth of the Real Felipe Fortress, which way key in fending of pirate attacks.
It began to decline in the 20th century. The Peruvian capital’s once-great port area suddenly fell into decades of abandoned historic buildings, trapped between places that speak of an ancient glory.
A couple of years ago, few foreign visitors to Peru would have set foot in Callao. Walking through Plaza Real Felipe, Plaza Grau and other streets were synonymous with being robbed or attacked. The constitutional province of Peru was directly related to insecurity, violence, prostitution, poverty, crime, and lack of social management.
But…the somewhat beaten image of this spicy neighborhood is changing! Where previously people only saw poverty and crime, someone saw potential.
Enter Monumental Callao, a project to recover an old neighborhood and turn it into a great touristic attraction.
From crime to art
The core idea behind Monumental callao is to recover the streets and convert Callao in a reflection of how community, art, and culture can coexist and go hand in hand with investment and private business. It began with the Fugaz Project located in Casa Ronald (an almost abandoned English-style building, built in the early 20th century, in the middle of Monumental Callao).
The final result went beyond the initial idea of creating a cultural space, and Monumental Callao ended up becoming a bohemian destination linking creativity and community. (90% of those involved are from the neighborhood).
Many buildings and nooks, abandoned for dozens of years, were recovered and rescued, and quickly became a new highlight of the port. Since the beginning of Fugaz project, crime in the area has dropped by more than 90%, and this formerly no-go barrio is now a trendy tourist place, becoming a great example of overcoming.
The community has begun to receive English lessons, art, and sports workshops. Children are developing their skills, principles and important links for social improvement.
Walking in and around Callao Monumental
A visit to Callao can be combined with a downtown Lima tour on the same day. Callao tour prices are only S/20.
Walk freely in the streets and you will find a boulevard with many restaurants and bars options. Sit for a drink, enjoy a good Peruvian dish at Cevicheria Mateo restaurant (it has two locations one block from each other). One has nice patio tables facing the church Matriz (Cathedral of Callao). Relax and have a good lunch!
Fill yourself with culture in the Casa Ronald, now restored by Fugaz and transformed into an art hub and gallery. In this historical place, first level artists offer us photography, painting, recycled art, furniture, clothing, and sculptures. Inhale and exhale art!
Callao Monumental adopted Graffiti culture as one of its attractions. In every corner, you can find spectacular murals fulfilled with colors and design, created by the hands of talented Peruvian and worldwide artists. While other districts erase it, Callao values it.
By the end of the day, you can go up Casa Ronald Rooftop terrace: the nicest spot to take a photo of Callao´s spectacular port view and watch the sun hiding in the sea.
On the weekends things get even better. There are a variety of activities such as live music and electronic fusion Dj´s. You can get more info about the upcoming events by entering the projects website.
But this boho-tour doesn´t end here…
La Punta – Sea lovers, this is for you!
There is another destination that turns a visit to Callao into a perfect well-spent day! Just a few meters walking from Casa Ronald you will reach La Punta or La Punta de Callao (Spanish for the corner/end of Callao). It is a historic paradise with rocky beaches, naval culture, islands, promenades, and fresh seafood restaurants.
One of the highlights is a boat trip to nearby Islands, home of penguins, sea lions, and seabirds. The boats depart frequently from the piers of La Punta and Callao.
Take a nice walk around this Peninsula avenues and appreciate the neocolonial and republican architecture. Take off your shoes and dip your feet on the Pacific Ocean sea.
Callao Monumental is definitely a space breaking Lima social paradigms. It is an excellent example of how art and community efforts can overcome violence and delinquency.
And, that deserves you pay it a visit thousand applause!