Nestled amidst rolling hills and volcanic peaks, Quito is sure to be one of the most breathtaking cities you’ll ever lay your eyes on. The city, Ecuador’s capital and among its largest cities, is a wonderful mix of historic charm and modern flair. Quito is largely divided into two parts, the historic center – frequently referred to as the “old town” – and the “new town”. Differentiated by their architecture, culinary offerings and culture, the two areas offer visitors the best of both worlds. The “old town”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to architectural masterpieces – several of which were constructed during the 16th century. In the “new town” you’ll find high-rises, bustling streets, trendy cafes and international restaurants. To make sense of the limitless opportunities the city has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of our top five must-sees.
- Plaza Grande
La Plaza Grande (formally referred to as La Plaza de la Independencia) is the central square of Quito’s old town. The square is home to five monumental buildings, four of which date back to the colonial period. The square also features a monument to commemorate Ecuador’s independence. Aside from the rich history and beautiful architecture, visitors are likely to be drawn in by the relaxed feel of the square and the natural beauty of the surrounding atmosphere.
- Monastery of San Francisco
Construction of the monastery, the city’s largest colonial structure, began just shortly after the founding of Quito in 1534, although the building took nearly 70 years to complete. Though the outside of the building is beautiful, the interior is not to be missed. The elaborate interior of the church, particularly the main altar, features intricate gold carvings and beautiful artwork. It’s no wonder that the church is considered to be one of Quito’s highlights.
For breathtaking aerial views of the city, take the TelefériQo up the east side of the Pichincha Volcano. The sky tram takes passengers from the edge of the city center, up to Cruz Loma. Once there, you can enjoy the sweeping views over Quito’s rolling landscape or continue the climb up to the summit of Rucu Pichincha, an approximately three-hour hike.
- Museo Nacional de Quito
For a dose of culture, pay a visit to the Museo Nacional de Quito. This museum houses an amazing collection of ceramics, gold artifacts, and Ecuadorian artwork. One of the museum’s most fascinating exhibits features the remains of the first inhabitants of what is now Ecuador. Once you’ve explored each of the exhibits head outside to see the Inca ruins, wander through the garden, and get an up close view of indigenous birds at the aviary.
- Mercado Central
If you’re in the mood for some traditional cuisine, hop on over to Mercado Central. Here, you’ll find a variety of different food venders cooking up some local favorites. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, papa, or some fresh produce, this local market is the place to go.
With so many activities, we had a hard time choosing just five. We also haven’t yet mentioned one of the best parts of spending some quality time in Quito: the weather. The temperature typically ranges from 48°F to 69°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 72°F. It’s hard to find a better environment for exploring and adventuring outdoors. But don’t just take our word for it… Experience it for yourself!