Introduction to Quito’s Centro Histórico or “Old Town”

The Centro Histórico is an extensive colonial center built over the ashes of what was the capital of the northern half of the Inca empire until the Inca general Rumiñahui burnt it to the ground rather than surrender to the Spanish conquistadors.

The world´s first city named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1978, Quito’s Centro Histórico will transport you back and forth between centuries as you meander down its cobblestone streets and pedestrian walkways. At the beginning of the 20th century, all of Quito fit within the boundaries of Old Town. Today, it is just a small slice of Quito, but undoubtedly the sector richest with history. Some of Ecuador’s most famous independence battles and executions took place in the plazas that now peacefully bustle with tourists, beggars, and locals out for a stroll.


Typical Street Scene in Quito´s
Centro Historico

Staying at a hotel in Quito’s Centro has become much more popular in the recent years as historical boutique hotels and improved security on the streets have attracted both upscale and budget-minded travelers alike.

Some of Quito’s best bars and restaurants are in the Centro Historico. Veer off from the guided tour and spend some quality time in the plazas and side streets that feature exquisite colonial architecture and winding pathways which open up into lovely courtyards.


Quito History


San Francisco Church and Plaza

During the pre-Columbian era several tribes inhabited present-day Quito, including the Quitus from whom the city took its name. In the beginning of the 16th century, while the Incas controlled Ecuador, Quito served as the Capital of the northern half of their empire. In 1533, the Inca General Rumiñahui destroyed Quito so that it would not fall into the hands of the advancing conquistadors. Just a year later, after the Spanish conquered the Inca, the Spanish Lieutenant Sebastián de Benalcázar began rebuilding Quito from the rubble the Rumiñahui left behind.

During its colonial period, Ecuador was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru from 1544 until 1720, when it joined the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. In 1563, however, Quito became a Royal Audiencia of Spain, thus, permitting it to deal directly with Madrid on certain matters instead of going through Lima. The name Quito Audencia is misleading because it gives one the idea that the territory under the jurisdiction of Quito was comparable to the limits of the city of Quito today. In truth the territory of the Quito Audencia greatly exceeded that of present-day Ecuador, encompassing the north of Peru, the city of Cali in the south of Colombia, and much of the Amazon River Basin east of Ecuador.