Quito is an ageless city, warm and friendly, with generous hosts, who are always willing to showcase its beauty and magnificence to all of their guest. Options as diverse as the stunning geography of the Andes, from volcanic grasslands to lush subtropical cloud forests, provide ever-changing opportunities for visitors and residents to discover nature and take advantage of outdoor life. A deep-rooted culture, artful craftsmanship and beautiful colonial architecture are the not-so-hidden treasures one admires all across the landmark-ridden Historic Center, one of the largest and best preserved in all of the Americas. Quito it’s first World Cultural Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1978. A modern yet traditional, cosmopolitan yet ancient mountain niche, whose variety in cultural venues and exquisite gastronomy make it a tourist’s delight. Welcome to our charming capital city!
FIRST SOUTHAMERICAN DESTINATION 2013, 2014 and 2015
Quito has been selected, during the last years, as South America Leading Destination by the most famous tourism prizes World Travel Awards, considered as an “Oscar” for tourism. Those prizes are given according to the votes of many tourists worldwide, who considered Quito, as a city that it must be visited.
We suggest you to begin your sightseeing at La Plaza de la Independencia, from where you can walk to most of the downtown sites. This main plaza is surrounded by four buildings that represent the four ruling powers of the colonial period: the Government Palace to the west, the Municipal Palace to the east, the Archsobispal Palace to the north, and the Cathedral to the south.
History & Culture
Besides its amazing landscapes, Quito is known for its treasures of colonial churches, paintings, sculptures and carvings. The Spanish Colonial Period extends from the XVI to the XVIII Century. Ecuadorian colonial art combines the European Renaissance and Baroque styles with the indigenous and mestizo influences. With the arrival of the Spaniards, the Roman Catholic Church became the center of religious instruction and the largest patron of the arts. As part of the acculturation of the indigenous people, the Spanish established painting and sculpture schools where Spanish artists trained the indigenous population in the arts. As a result, the Quitenian School (Escuela Quiteña) became famous in Latin America for its talented artists, including Bernardo de Legarda and the indigenous artists Caspicara and Pampite. Miguel de Santiago, Javier de Goribar and Manuel Samaniego were other outstanding representatives of this art school. Scholars consider their contributions to colonial art as some of the most valuable in America. Before the Spaniard Sebastian de Benalcazar conquered the city in 1534, the Incas had conquered it in the XV century. At the time when the Incas arrived, they found an organized civilization the Shyris. Furthermore, recent discoveries have uncovered archeological sites that date back to 1500 b.C. Quito is the only site on the planet where the Equator crosses over highlands. On the rest of the Earth surface, it crosses through jungle or ocean
La Compañia de Jesus
Behind its grey volcanic stone La Compañia de Jesus is a Baroque Church settled in Quito colonial streets. Its inner walls are covered with gold leaf main altar piece and sides decoration. It holds the image of La Dolorosa (Our Lady of the Sorrows), the emblem of the Jesuit community.
La Casa del Alabado Precolombian Museum
Located half a block from San Francisco Square, this patrimonial restored colonial house exhibits a showcase of ancestral perspective early culture remains in Ecuador, from Valdivia to the Incas occupation, displaying five hundred archaeological pieces, in cases allowing each of them to be clearly appreciated.
San Francisco Church and Museum
This place hides behind its walls the religious life, art and architecture of colonial Quito. An imposing wooden open doors into the first colonial style courtyard flanked by high wide-bodied columns and rounded arches, consider one of the seven cloisters comprising the monastery built in 1535 as part of the first religious temple in Quito at the same time.
At 3000 m above sea level, the Virgin of Quito, based on the sculpture by Bernardo de Legarda, stands on the top of this ancient sun-worshipping temple, figure composed of 7.000 aluminum pieces, is also known as the Apocalypse Virgin, from where people have the chance to look down to different directions of Quito, including its modern, marvelous old town.
With architectural featuring reminiscent of the Parthenon, was built in the 19th century and recognized as venue for high-level performing arts. Its balcony with Ionic columns stands out for its relief sculpture of Morpheus while the interior keeps the same neoclassical style.
San Agustin Church
Its sculpted stone atrium descends to five steps that separate the monastery from the church. The monastery has now been turned into a museum containing Mannerist paintings, as well as Miguel de Santiago paintings. One of its rooms was used to meet and sign our first country Constitution by patriots in 1809.
With a neoclassical architecture, this palace was the seat of religious authority from the 16th century and secular administrative headquarters of the colonial period. Currently half of it houses cafes, restaurants and shops displaying handicrafts and artworks between its corridors.
Built between 1562 and 1567, this is the oldest cathedral in South America. The main altar centerpiece gets the name of the Christ Descending from the Cross made by the indigenous sculptor Caspicara. Inside the church, are resting important persons such as presidents, historians and patriots.
The president’s home. It is decorated with twenty columns raised up over the main entrance, occupied the Royal Audience of Quito, head office and president residence, held in the seventeen century XVII. Nowadays, there is the chance to visit its inner architecture, rooms and chapel in tours, previous booking.
Metropolitan Cultural Center
This big 16th century house was used for different purposes: religious Jesuit cloister, Quito first university and military quarter where liberals (patriots) behind the First Independence in 1.809 and got imprisoned in its dungeons. Currently, rooms and corridors are halls for a wide variety of art exhibitions and performances.
On top of a hill as part of El Dorado popular neighborhood, this natural viewpoint is home of 35.000 native plants; restored with the crystal palace metal structure taken from the old Santa Clara market, in which holds art and educational exhibitions within its huge glass walls. Often this restored park offers areas for practice sports, such as jogging and walking tracks, yoga and tai-chi and some others.
La Mariscal Craft Market
At Mariscal Craft Market you can find traditional handicrafts, textiles and jewelers from different parts of the country come together in this small market, abounding in color and texture made up of 197 stalls and nine alleys lying in one of the most touristic parts of the city.
La Mariscal Neighborhood
This small central neighborhood is known as major tourist area in order to find nightlife and restaurants, as well all kinds of services that tourists might need, from internet cafes to accommodations, travel agencies and cultural events.
Quito Cable Car (TELEFÉRICO)
By getting a different perspective of Quito and enjoying the beauty of the Andean moors and snow peaks on the slopes of Ruco Pichincha volcano, this trip could be complemented with walks or horseback rides through the area, as same as camping, climbing the volcano and downhill mountain biking.
La Carolina Park
Considered the most visited and biggest green area in the city. Currently includes sports and recreational areas as well as an ecological food fair space, with a Botanical Garden where different kinds of flora are displayed, a Vivarium with some important reptiles and amphibian species same as the Natural Science Museum.
Plaza Grande – Independence Square
Charged filled with history, our Old Town same as other Spaniard villages, was built in a chessboard style streets and architecture, which board center is this Plaza, used as the initial square of the colonial layout and a meeting place for entertainment activities, nowadays it reflects different architectural styles, on the south side The Cathedral, on the north the Archsobispal Palace, on the east the City Hall and the Presidential Palace on the west.
Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)
At 45 minutes from Quito, the parish of San Antonio is home to a tall pyramid shaped monument, marking latitude 0° and a small town representation crossed by a line on the ground (the equator); place where people have the chance to stand in both, north and south hemispheres at the same time, this place is surrounded by different restaurants and souvenir places.
Intiñam Solar Museum
This museum has become very popular for all the experiments that you can try, because you are on the equator, such as watching the Korioli’s centrifugal forces on a sink where the water falls straight down, egg balancing on the head of a nail, and it unbelievable because it doesn’t fall this place also shows how ancient tribes determined the middle of the earth, check the time in the solar clock, showing some traditions of the Andean people.
La Florida Archaelogical Site Museum
It’s located in northern Quito, on the eastern flank of the Pichincha Volcano, It has been excavated and turned into a museum by the city FONSAL organization (Heritage Safe-Guarding Fund) and its team of archaeologists and architects, which offers an intriguing and fascinating glimpse of the world by the people who inhabited the valley of Quito before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Quitus Culture or even the Incas, 10 burial chambers 15 to 17 meters deep, dated back to 220-640 BC. The funeral architecture reflects the cosmovision of the Quitus: the bodies of the dead were given back to Mother Earth womb. Large amounts of amazing ceramics, fine jeweler, gold ornamentation, wood carvings, spondylus and other shells were found in the chambers, alongside hundreds of bodies.
Rumipamba Archaeological and Ecological Park
Rumipamba is a site with 32 hectares, whose traces correspond to different archaeological periods very early: The Late Formative (1500 BC to 500 BC) by the evidence of pottery remains of this affiliation, Regional Development (500 BC to 500 AD), characterized by the presence of tombs and fragments associated with tripod plates drilled and Integration Period (500 AD and 1500 AD) as evidenced by remains of villages whose houses were built of mud with thatched roofs and surrounded by stone walls. Visitors can also appreciate Inca walls, remains of houses and archaeological excavations in progress as well as the impressive “culuncos” trails dug by the inhabitants Yumbos centuries before the Spanish conquest and were used to cross the Andes and reach the coast.
A stroll through La Ronda is a great way to get a feeling of traditional life in colonial Quito. Within only two blocks, one finds artisans working on traditional handicrafts such as candles and embroidery, bakeries and traditional restaurants. Moreover, a variety of cultural activities are organized both on the street and inside the different bars and cafeterias. During the late XIX and early XX Centuries, La Ronda was home of several musicians, poets, historians and other important figures of Quito’s history.
Capilla del Hombre Guayasamin
The Foundation was created by master Oswaldo Guayasamin in 1977. The museum exhibits an excellent sample of pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary art from the private collections of the artist. The museum objective is to bring the artist close to the people, so that his Cosmo vision dreams and way of thinking can be further understood.
La Capilla Del Hombre (Man Chapel) is placed, close to the house Museum. This architectonic space is a memorial aimed at the Latin American man, from pre-Columbian times to current days.
In the year 1985, the artist Oswaldo Guayasami¬n conceived the idea and assumed it as his most ambitious artistic project. Unfortunately the artist passed away before his master piece was completed, but his descendents Guayasamin Monteverde continued with the works until the building was inaugurated in the year 2002. La Capilla del Hombre is a monument to the history of American Man. The altar of the Chapel holds an eternal flame in defense of peace and human rights.
Basílica del Voto Nacional
With nearly 100 meters high, this is one of the most impressive churches in the country, especially its viewpoint and cafeteria on the top floor, allowing a panoramic and breathtaking view of Quito. But what makes it unique instead of showing gargoyles on its facade, typical of the Gothic churches, it’s decorated with endemic Galapagos animals such as turtles, blue-footed boobies, monkeys, armadillos, etc.
It’s also called the Consagracion de Jesus or Basilica de San Juan, because of the sector in which it’s located.