Picture of city from above with mountains in the background

Quito Uncovered: A Traveller’s Guide to Ecuador’s Capital City

Welcome to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador! High in the Andes Mountains, Quito is a vibrant and enchanting destination that offers the perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. As you explore this captivating city, you’ll be amazed by its well-preserved colonial architecture, stunning landscapes, and the warm hospitality of its people.

Quito’s Top Attractions: Exploring the Historic Center

Centro Histórico, Quito
Centro Histórico at night

One of the highlights of visiting Quito is exploring its historic centre, known as the “Centro Histórico.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a plethora of architectural gems, including the breathtaking Church and Convent of St. Francis.

As you wander through the cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter charming plazas, colourful facades, and ornate balconies that transport you back in time. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the impressive La Compañía de Jesús, a baroque masterpiece adorned with intricate gold leaf decorations.

Enjoying the Best Views: Cable Car and Panoramic Lookouts

For breathtaking views of Quito and its surrounding landscapes, a ride on the TelefériQo cable car is a must. This exhilarating journey takes you up to the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of the city and the majestic Andes Mountains. Once at the top, take a leisurely walk along the trails or enjoy a meal at the mountaintop restaurant.

If you prefer to stay within the city, head to El Panecillo or the Itchimbia Cultural Center, both offering panoramic viewpoints that showcase Quito’s beauty from a different perspective.

Uncovering Quito’s Natural Beauty: Parks and Outdoor Spaces

La Carolina Park, Quito
La Carolina Park, Quito

Beyond its rich history, Quito is also renowned for its natural beauty. The city boasts numerous parks and outdoor spaces where you can escape the hustle and bustle of urban life. One of the most popular green areas is La Carolina Park, a sprawling oasis with jogging trails, picnic spots, and serene lakes.

For a more adventurous experience, head to El Panecillo, a hill that offers panoramic views of Quito’s skyline. Additionally, the Metropolitan Park, located at the foot of the Pichincha volcano, is a haven for nature lovers, with hiking trails and diverse flora and fauna.

Exploring Quito’s Vibrant Squares: Plaza de la Independencia and More

Quito’s squares (also referred to as plazas) are vibrant hubs where locals and visitors gather to relax, socialize, and soak in the city’s atmosphere. The Plaza de la Independencia, also known as the Plaza Grande, serves as the heart of Quito’s historic center. Here, you’ll find the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the City Hall, all surrounded by grand colonial buildings.

Another noteworthy plaza is the Plaza San Francisco, a charming square adorned with a beautiful fountain and the Church of San Francisco. Don’t forget to visit the Plaza de Santo Domingo, where you can admire the stunning Church of Santo Domingo and enjoy the lively ambiance.

Quito’s Architectural Marvels: Churches and Basilicas

Church of San Francisco, Quito
Church of San Francisco

Quito is often referred to as the “City of Churches,” and it’s easy to see why. The city is dotted with magnificent religious structures that showcase a mix of architectural styles. The Basílica del Voto Nacional is a must-visit, with its striking neo-Gothic design and panoramic views from its towers.

Another iconic landmark is the Cathedral of Quito, which dates back to the 16th century and displays an impressive collection of religious art. Make sure to also explore the Church of San Francisco, an architectural masterpiece that houses a fascinating museum and a tranquil cloister.

Experiencing the Local Flavours: Markets and Gastronomy

No visit to Quito is complete without savouring its diverse culinary scene. The city is teeming with traditional markets, where you can sample local delicacies and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.

The Mercado Central is a food lover’s paradise, offering an array of fresh produce, spices, and street food stalls. Be sure to try traditional Ecuadorian dishes such as ceviche, llapingachos (potato patties), and locro de papa (potato soup).

To further explore Quito’s gastronomy, visit the trendy La Floresta neighbourhood, known for its eclectic mix of restaurants and cafes serving both traditional and international cuisines.

If you’ve never been to Ecuador, we recommend taking a food tour. You can check out Get Your Guide’s food tour options here. Tours often last a few hours, with multiple stops and information about the local area as well as ingredients. Options include street food tours, cooking classes and even a chocolate lovers tour.

Delving into Quito’s Cultural Heritage: Museums and Galleries

San Francisco complex in Quito
San Francisco complex pictured from above

Quito is a city that celebrates its rich cultural heritage through its many museums and galleries. The Museo de la Ciudad provides a comprehensive overview of Quito’s history, showcasing artifacts and exhibits that span from pre-Columbian times to the present day.

The previously mentioned and pictured above San Francisco compound is one of the largest and oldest architectural structures in the Quito, and is home to a Church, Monastery, Convent and Museum.

Meanwhile, art enthusiasts will delight in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which features contemporary works by both local and international artists. For a unique experience, visit the Capilla del Hombre, a museum dedicated to the renowned Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín. This striking museum showcases Guayasamín’s powerful artwork and offers insights into the indigenous cultures of Ecuador.

Quito Tours

Guided tours are a popular way to explore Quito. As well the previously mentioned food tours, you can join historical tours, neighbourhood tours and bike tours. Tours generally last from one to three hours, and are lead by knowledgeable local guides.

Tours have many advantages, the first being that they’re a great foundation for visiting a new city. You’ll gain better insight into Quito, as well as an idea of places and attractions you’re interested in exploring further. Additionally, guides often have great recommendations for the rest of your trip, and you may meet like-minded travellers (which is especially good if travelling solo).

We recommend using platforms like Get Your Guide and Tours4fun to book tours; you can also use them to book day trips and other activities. They also provide multi-day tours of Ecuador, which you may be interested in. If you are, you can also check out G Adventures.

Day Trips from Quito: Exploring the Surrounding Areas

The Middle of the World monument
The Middle of the World monument

While Quito itself has plenty to offer, venturing beyond the city allows you to discover the natural wonders that surround it. Just a short drive from Quito, you’ll find the Middle of the World Monument (also known as the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo) which marks the equator. Here, you can straddle the northern and southern hemispheres and learn about the indigenous cultures that have called this region home for centuries.

Another popular day trip is the Cotopaxi National Park, where you can hike through breathtaking landscapes and witness the majestic Cotopaxi volcano. Other nearby attractions include the colourful Otavalo Market and the stunning Quilotoa crater lake.

Safety and Practical Tips for Visiting Quito

Like any other travel destination, it’s important to take certain precautions while visiting Quito. While the city is generally safe, it’s advisable to stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas. Avoid displaying valuable items and keep an eye on your belongings at all times. You should also keep an eye on government travel advisories.

Additionally, be cautious when using public transportation, and consider using reputable taxi services or ride-sharing apps for your convenience. It’s also essential to acclimate yourself to Quito’s high altitude and be prepared for changes in weather, as the city’s elevation can have an impact on your health and comfort.

If you require emergency assistance in Quito, dial 911 to contact emergency services.

Quito’s Weather and Altitude: What to Expect

Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito
Basílica del Voto Nacional

Due to its location in the Andes Mountains, Quito experiences a mild and spring-like climate year-round. However, the weather can vary depending on the season and elevation. In the historic centre, temperatures tend to be cooler, while the valleys and lower-lying areas can be warmer. It’s advisable to dress in layers and carry a light jacket or sweater, as the temperature can change throughout the day.

Additionally, Quito’s high altitude of around 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) may affect some visitors, so it’s important to stay hydrated, take it easy during the first few days, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Conclusion: Embrace the Charm of Quito

In conclusion, visiting Quito is an unforgettable experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes of Ecuador’s capital city. From exploring the charming streets of the historic centre to indulging in the local gastronomy and embarking on exciting day trips, Quito offers something for every traveller. So pack your bags, embrace the charm of Quito, and get ready to create lifelong memories in this captivating destination.

CTA: Let us know in the comments what you’d be most excited to do in Quito!

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