Sightseeing around Quito
- The Old Town -churches, government, squares and shopping. The
historic old town of Colonial Quito is the jewel in Ecuador's
crown. The city was designated the first UNESCO World Heritage City in 1978 in recognition
of the importance of its colonial architecture (ahead of cities
like Bath and Venice).
- Nonetheless, for many years
the tightly packed streets of the old town became increasingly
run-down and over-crowded, suffering from traffic problems and
pollution. However in the late nineties an extraordinary transformation
took place with most buildings being restored and traffic management
measures being put in place. The street merchants have been accommodated
in their own markets, the streets re-paved and the many beautiful
churches are floodlit at night. I do recommend that you visit
the old town after dark, perhaps with one of the walking tours
now available or alternatively following your own agenda.
- The churches to see in the old
city include San Francisco, La Merced, El Campanile. You could
couple this with a visit to El Panecillo to see the Statue of
the Virgin of Quito that looks down on the city (do not walk
to the summit as thieves have been known to waylay tourists en
route -if you take a taxi make him wait to take you back).
- A very good walk is around the
area of Plaza Independencia, surrounded by the alleys
and courtyards of the Archbishops Palace, with its numerous shops
and restaurants. The square is bordered by the four key buildings
-the Cathedral, the Government Palace, the City Municipality
and the Archbishop's Palace, and has been the adminstrative and
social heart of the city since the sixteenth century.
- The Government Palace is very interesting
-rules for entry seem to vary -last time we were there the simply
required a letter of application to arrange an appointment -I
suggest you ask at the entrance. Outside the building is guarded
by soldiers in traditional costume; inside look out for the Moorish
Architecture around a central courtyard.
- Opposite, the Municipality is
a somewhat dreary modern building, but do go inside to see the
mural by the artist Guayasamin of Orellana discovering the Amazon,
and the rather unusual floor finish.
- Facing the Cathedral is the
arched colonnade of the Bishop's palace -you can sit and have
a shoeshine here before exploring the myriad alleyways of the
Archbishops palace with its shops, galleries and restaurants.
On the corner of the square is also one of the best suppliers
of denim jeans in South America, Jeans Imán. Nearby restaurants
include Cueva del Oso, Mea Culpa and Rincon de Cantuña,
and the Hotel Patio Andaluz is not far away too.
- At nightime the square is beautifully
illuminated and is the feature of a number of walking tours,
or you can ride the area in a pony and trap.
- Another favourite location nearby is
the Plaza San Fransisco, dominated by the venerable old
church of San Fransisco. In the cellars beneath the church you
will find the Café Tianguez also sells an interesting
range of ethnic products. In fina weather you can sit at the
tables outside and take in the activity around you.
- Calle La Ronda
is an important historic street comprising a substantially complete
set of old colonial houses -these have recentlyundergone a major
restoration by Fonsal
-Fondo de Salvamento del Patrimonio Cultural.
- One the best best views of Quito
can be had from the restaurant Mosaico which overlooks the city
from the east -see restaurants
for more on this.
Quito's latest attraction, the Teleferiqo takes
visitors almost to the top of the Volcano Pichincha. It
is worth putting aside a few hours for the trip, and day or nightime
is equally interesting. The cable cars will take you up to almost
14,000 feet and the views are stunning. Just remember that at
this altitude the air is thin and it can be extremely cold and
windy. Ideally you should not do it unless in good health and
you have already acclimatised to Quito's altitude. Wrap up well
too. Once at the top there is a range of restaurants, and you
can also hire ponies for treks around the summit.
- Tempting as it might be, DO
NOT climb the wooded slopes of the Pinchincha that overlook the
city -there are stories of robbers that take advantage of the
cover and difficult terrain to rob climbers here.
- The Mariscal -to the north of the old town you will find the
modern part of town, including the area known as the Mariscal.
This is the most touristic area with a wealth of hotels, restaurants,
internet cafes, shops and galleries. The Avenida Amazonas is
the centre of the tourist area -you can buy high quality souvenirs
here at prices to match. However for for more interesting shops
and restaurants go to Juan Leon Mera -the street running parallel
to Amazonas one block east. At the southern end of Amazonas and
Juan Leon Mera you will find the Parque El Ejido and the Casa de la Cultura.
Here on Sunday mornings a range of painters lean their paintings
against the railings to sell them to tourists -come early!
- Further north is found an increasingly
modern area with many well appointed apartments and hotels. The
three main shopping malls are located here -Quicentro, El Jardin
and El Bosque, where you can buy everything from Italian designer
suites to electronic goods. If you are self catering then the
Megamaxi near Quicentro has just about everything you could ever
need. More on shopping in Quito.
- Sports -adjacent to El Jardin Shopping Mall is the Parque
Carolinas where there are football and basketball pitches, a
small boating lake and a botanic garden. If you get the chance,
why not go along to see the national soccer team at the Estadio
Atahualpa near Quicentro or Liga at their huge stadium to the
north of the city, Casa Blanca.
- Cinema and fast food -for young people in Quito, the place
to hang out is the Plaza de las Americas (Avenida Naciones Unidas
y República), where you can find a vast array of fast
food outlets, cinemas and shops around a covered courtyard. See
theatres and cinemas for more
on entertainment and eating out in Quito
- From Ave Orellano near Hotel Quito you can follow the road
out of the city and snaking down into the historic village of
Guapulo. At the top take in a beer at the Mirador de Guapulo,
with its stunning views, before following the road down to the
historic village. Here you reach the Sanctuary of Guapulo -Quito's
oldest colonial church. The area has a bohemian feel and is home
to many local artists, with a number of bars and restaurants.
- Cultural buildings, galleries
and Museums -
- Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana -Spanish language diary of what is on
at the centre adjacent to Parc El Ejido.
Cultural Abayala -runs
the Museum Amazonica in Quito at 12 de Octubre 1430 y Wilson.
- Centro Cultural Metropolitana -museums and expositions (in Spanish).
- Centro Historical de Quito -guide, events and map to the old city (Spanish).
- Colonial Ecuador
-art, architecture and culture of Quito.
- Fundacion Guayasamin -the Foundation dedicated to Ecuador's
best known artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin.
Viteri -gallery exhibiting
the works of ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Viteri.
- International Council on Monuments and
Sites in Danger -article
on Quito's heritage at risk.
- Museo de la Ciudad -the City Museum in the heart of the historic
centre of Quito.
- Quito Distrito Metropolitano -the official website of the municipality
-carries information on many of the sites of the city -churches,
museums, El Panecillo, parks and fiestas -spanish language.
- Teatro Bolivar -first built in 1933, the theatre is being renovated
after a disastrous fire in 1999 in the adjoining Pizza Hut.
Sucre -the National Theatre
is worth a visit but performances can be expensive.
- Other useful sites:
- See our page on day
and weekend trips further
afield in Otavalo, Pasachoa, Papallacta, Cotopaxi, and Mitad
- Search this site with Google:
Extract from the brief description
of Quito from the UNESCO World heritage List:
Quito, the capital of Ecuador,
was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city
and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake,
the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre
in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo
Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía,
with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the 'Baroque
school of Quito', which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish,
Flemish and indigenous art.