Quito is steeped in tradition and culture. At every turn there is a museum, a colonial era building, a gallery, a park, etc. The city is much more than just a starting point for exploring the rest of Ecuador. Pencil into your itinerary at least 4 or 5 days to experience it, for even at that you will just be getting a taste of the nation’s magnificent capital.
Quito’s colonial center is good place to begin taking in the city’s hundreds of years of culture. Here are a few of the Old City’s must-see sights:
- La Plaza de la Independencia – centers the Old City. The towering Cathedral that dominates the Plaza is a must… it is stunning and it houses the body of independence leader Antonio Jose de Sucre.
- El Sagrario – a noteworthy Cathedral immediately south of the Plaza de la Independencia.
- El Palacio de Gobierno – a fine example of colonial architecture. The Palace is a block west of La Plaza de Independencia.
- Plaza de San Francisco – west of the Plaza de la Independencia, this plaza is slightly smaller than its neighbor but, nevertheless, contains a beautiful church and monastery, as well as a museum.
- Panecillo – south of the Plaza de San Francisco lies Cerro Panecillo, a 180 meter hill topped by a statue of the Virgin of Quito. The views from the top of the Panecillo are breathtaking.
Guápulo dome at dusk.
Photo by Mark Horton.
Quito also has much to offer outside of its colonial roots. Here are some attractions north of Old Town.
- Guápulo – a mountainside neighborhood famous for its colonial era architecture and numerous cafes. To get there, head north on Gonzalez Suarez and turn right on Calle Larrea just after Hotel Quito, go about a 200 meters and turn left on Camino de Orellana, which runs through the heart of Guápalo to the impressive Guápalo Cathedral.
- Parque La Carolina – a huge park bordered by Quito’s principal commercial centers. Carolina contains countless athletic fields, bike and jogging paths, a pond, several concert pavillions, and plenty of unoccupied greenspace.
- Parque Metropolitano – another giant park, even bigger than Carolina. Metropolitano has less “dedicated” space, that is, less playing fields, etc., and more open space. Not recommended after sunset.
For more information on the city’s many museums, see the Quito museum list, which includes hours, addresses, and phone numbers.
In addition to its many wonderful sights, Quito boasts an impressive array of live performances. Among the most popular regularly held productions are the Jacchigua “Ballet Folklórico”, the Humanizarte ballet “Danza Tradicional Andina” and the knee-slapping stand-up performances at El Patio de Comedias. Moreover, La Casa de la Cultura almost always has something going on, though you need to call to find out the details about its current and upcoming performances, as they change frequently.
- Jacchigua Ballet – performs Wednesdays at 19:30 at Teatro Demetro Aguilera Malta in the Casa de la Cultura (12 de Octubre y Patria, just inside the Ejido Park). Tickets are sold by Metropolitan Touring. Their main office is at Ave. República de El Salvador N36-84 between Ave. Nacionas Unidas and Ave. Portugal, though they have several other offices scattered throughout Quito including one on Amazonas. Metropolitan’s ballet information numbers are 2464780; 2463680; and 2506650.
- El Patio de Comedias (18 de Septiembre E-426 and 9 de Octubre) – hosts performances Thursday through Sunday at 20:00. Their phone number is 2561902, call to find out who is slated to perform.
- La Casa de Cultura – is huge museum complex that also offers live performances. Call 2220966; 2221006; or 2221007 to get the scoop on current performances.
Quito offers much more than we could ever hope to list but the sights and performances that we list are a good place to begin.
With over 10,000 quality titles, Confederate Books is undoubtedly the best used bookstore in Ecuador. The gregarious owner Tommy Savage buys and sells used books in every category from science to biographies to fiction. He also has a small collection of French, German and Spanish-language books. Additionally, he sells new Abya Yala publications (which focus on Ecuadorian indigenous groups).
This little corner bookstore, located in New Town’s Mariscal Sucre district, is a good place to come not only to swap and buy novels but also to have a glass of wine and a chat with Tommy, a New Orleans native. He is an enthusiastic source of what to do and where to do it in Quito. He also changes traveler’s checks and dollars (even damaged ones; possibly the only person in all of Ecuador to regularly do so) at rates comparable to those of local banks. As an ardent collector of unique beer cans and bottles, he may even give you a free book if you bring him something out of the ordinary.
Open: Monday through Saturday 10 – 7pm. In the summer he is occasionally open on Sundays.
Libri Mundi, in La Mariscal on Juan León Mera between Wilson and Veintimilla, is the best place to buy new books in Quito. They have an extensive collection of books in Spanish, as well as modest selections of books in English, French, and German and are open Monday through Friday 8:30 – 7pm, Saturdays 9 – 1:30, 3:30 – 6:30pm, and are closed on Sundays.
There are also decent bookstores in Quito’s new shopping centers, El Jardín and QuiCentro.
To buy books about Ecuador online, check out EE.com’s Bookstore.