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My-Quito.com : in Quito

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.

Imagen 088Quito'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 restaurants, bars, theatres and cinemas for more on entertainment and eating out in Quito

Guapulo - 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.
Centro 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.
Galeria 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.
Teatro 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 del Mundo.

 
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World Heritage City

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.