Its beautiful Historic Centre, traditional neighbourhoods and the Middle of the World are some of the attractions that will immerse visitors in an unforgettable experience. Quito is considered one of the top destinations in South America for its wide range of attractions and places of interest for its visitors. Here are the top 10 places to visit during a trip to the Ecuadorian capital:
- Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square)
Also known as “Plaza Grande” (Big Square), this square is located in the heart of Quito’s historic centre, and is home to some of its most important buildings, such as La Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), the country’s most important Catholic temple, dating back to the 16th century and recently restored; the Palacio de Carondelet (Carondelet Palace), where the president resides; and the Monumento a la Independencia (Independence Monument) in the centre of the square, which commemorates “The first exclamation of independence” on 10 August 1809, which gave rise to the start of Ecuador’s independence from Spain.
- Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco)
Known as the “El Escorial of the New World”, the Iglesia de San Francisco is the largest religious architectural complex in the Americas. The church was built in 1537 on the remains of the military settlements of the pre-Hispanic Inca and Caranqui cultures. It makes for an interesting visit not only for its historical and cultural significance, but also for its beautiful cloister and for being the cradle of the so-called Escuela Quiteña de arte (Quito School of Art). It is also home to relevant works of colonial art by artists from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
- El Panecillo and the Winged Virgin of Quito
Quito boasts a series of locations that offer stunning panoramic views from a height, one of which is the El Panecillo hill. Named after its shape, which resembles a panecillo or small piece of bread, it is located in the heart of the city with the best panoramic views of the city itself and even the surrounding volcanoes.
It is also home to one of Quito’s most emblematic attractions, La Virgen del Panecillo (The Virgin of El Panecillo), an enormous silver statue that stands at 40 metres tall and is made up of 7,000 aluminium pieces that can be seen from different points across the city thanks to its privileged location. This figure also stands out as the only winged virgin in Latin America.
- Middle of the World
The City of the Middle of the World is located 30km from Quito. It is an emblematic location because of the imaginary line that marks the equator that divides the earth into two hemispheres with a latitude of 0º 0´0´´. In the area there is an obelisk and yellow line that separates the northern and southern hemispheres, as well as a geodesic museum, planetarium and pavilion with works of art by the Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. This visit can be combined with a trip to the summit of the Pululahua volcano, which has had an inactive crater for centuries.
- Plaza and Iglesia de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square and Church)
The Plaza de Santo Domingo used to be the entrance to the city for those coming from the south. Today it forms part of the Historic Centre and hosts temporary art exhibitions. The main building in the square is the church with the same name. Its construction began in 1581. The cloister’s tropical garden stands out and is home to the best pieces of sculpture erected by the Escuela Quiteña (Quito School) between the 17th and 18th centuries. The alterpiece of the Capilla del Santísimo (Chapel of the Santísimo) stands out in the baroque-style interior.
- La Capilla del Hombre (The Chapel of Man)
La Capilla del Hombre is one of Quito’s best museums. It opened in 2002 and is located in the Bellavista neighbourhood, next to the house and workshop belonging to the late artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. He is considered one of the most famous painters in Ecuador and Latin America, as he managed to express his rage, protest and dreams regarding society through his paintings. Both the Capilla del Hombre and the house and workshop are home to a permanent exhibition of Guayasamín’s work, as well as part of his personal colonial and pre-colonial art collection, which shares a commitment to human rights, peace and solidarity.
- La Ronda
To the south of Plaza de Santo Domingo is Quito’s historic neighbourhood, with the same name as the famous Calle de La Ronda, the most picturesque, characteristic and bustling street in the centre of Quito. This sloping cobbled alleyway is lined with shops and craft workshops, as well as bars and restaurants where you can taste the delicious Ecuadorian cuisine and toast with a “canelazo”, a typical drink made with aguardiente alcohol, sugar and cinnamon.
- La Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow)
Considered the largest neo-Gothic temple in the Americas, the basilica was designed by French architect Emilio Tarlier, who was inspired by the Parisian Notre-Dame cathedral. The construction of this architectural gem began in 1884, and it still remains unfinished 139 years later. There is even a legend that says that “the day the Basilica is completely finished, Ecuador will disappear as a free and sovereign state”.
The magnificence of La Basílica is reflected in its dimensions: 140m long x 35m wide x 30m high. The inside boasts 24 votive chapels, and on the outside there are two front towers that stand at 115 metres high, making it the perfect place to take pictures of the city.
Interesting fact: the gargoyles that form part of this building represent Ecuador’s fauna. During the visit you can see sculptures of caimans, turtles, boobies, armadillos, howler monkeys and pumas, among other animals.
- La Floresta neighbourhood
La Floresta is one of Quito’s particularly charming neighbourhoods. Having recently turned 100 years old, this historic area is constantly undergoing a process of transformation and renewal.
This neighbourhood has a great feel, with a hipster vibe and urban art. Thanks to the community of artists and writers that came to the area, the houses began to intertwine with avant-garde art galleries and big murals painted on the walls throughout the neighbourhood.
La Floresta has several gourmet bakeries and cafés with a very creative design, as well as the OCHOYMEDIO cultural centre, with a permanent offering of independent cinema and artistic activities.
- Cable car
A trip on the cable car is a must in Quito, as it is one of the highest cable cars in the world, standing at 4,050 metres above sea level. The trip lasts 18 minutes and takes you up to the summit of the Cruz Loma mountain, on the mountainside of the Pichincha volcano, with the most impressive views from the top of the Capital of the Middle of the World. Those who fancy even more of an adventure can follow a 5km trail up to the Rucu Pichincha mountain, at 4,696 metres above sea level.
Discover this charming location, as well as many others in Quito, the first Latin American city to be declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
About Quito Tourism
Quito Turismo is the institution that facilitates and manages the development and promotion of tourism and the meetings industry in the Metropolitan District of Quito, in alliance with the tourism system and other productive sectors, for the benefit of local, national and foreign visitors.
The capital of Ecuador is the closest to the sun and the only place where it is possible to put one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. In Quito converge the pre-Hispanic, the colonial, the traditional and the modern. Its historic center was recognized as the world’s first Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Besides being the cultural and artistic center of the country, it offers an exceptional gastronomy and is the gateway to the four worlds of Ecuador: Galapagos, Pacific Coast, Andes and the Amazon.
Photo courtesy by Visit Quito