Quito is located on a horizontal strip of land running north to south between beautiful mountains. The splendor of the city's natural setting, combined with its attractive squares, parks and monuments as well as the warmth of its people, makes it a unique and unforgettable place. Founded in 1534 with a mere 204 inhabitants, Quito is now the bustling capital of Ecuador, with nearly two million people. For 360 years, its boundaries were marked by the
The Middle of the World
We start this trip 25 kilometers to the north, at zero latitude, where the exact position of the equator is marked by the
In the north is modern Quito. If you enter through Avenida de la Prensa, you will find the first stop, the Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre. Take Amazonas Avenue, which has some large shopping centers. One such is
This area is the best for nightlife. Its main streets are: Juan León Mera, Calama, Reina Victoria, Cordero, 9 de Octubre, 12 de Octubre, a section of Amazonas, Colón and Patria. The area starts in Avenida Orellana and goes through to Avenida Patria. There are bars such as
You are in front of the popular
The border of this area is Calle 24 de Mayo, which leads up to the
The Nearby Valleys
If you wish to enjoy Quito's valleys, close to the city you will find San Rafael, with a pleasant climate and recreation centers. You can catch the bus that goes to this area on Avenida 12 de Octubre, in the central-north area close to the
The history of this beautiful colonial city, full of legends woven over more than 400 years, is still alive in the memory of its inhabitants. To find its origin it is necessary to go back in time to the 6th of December in 1534, when the Spanish conquistadors founded the city with 204 settlers.
Before then, the present-day site of Quito was inhabited by the Quitus, a tribe from the Quechua civilization in a strip of land that stretched from what is now Cerro del Panecillo in the south to Plaza de San Blas in the center. Called the Kingdom of Quito in the Pre-Hispanic period, buildings in this ancient city were made of carved stone and sun-dried brick. Later, Spanish architects incorporated the same materials into their grandiose constructions.
At the beginning of the 16th Century, the city adopted a monumental style with the construction, by the various Catholic missions, of the impressive temples of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, La Cathedral and San Agustín. The main events during this period took place in or around these temples, which helped promote religion among the people.
The truth is that Quito's history starts long before 1534 when the Spanish founded it. Although pre-Hispanic traces disappeared with the conquistadors' arrival, it has been said that before the Europeans arrived, Rumiñahuy, an indigenous warrior, set the city on fire and destroyed the temples of the Incas who lived there. Other legends tell of such characters as Atahualpa, last emperor of Tahuauntinsuyo, the Inca Kingdom, who was executed in 1533 by his Spanish captors, despite the fact that the Inca people paid a whole room full of gold and silver for his return. Figuring prominently in more recent tales is Xavier Chusig, a mestizo (someone of mixed Indian and Spanish parentage) who changed his name to Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo to avoid discrimination and went on the found the first newspaper in the city. There are still other stories of Manuela Sáenz, the first woman to join the Bolivarian army and who became the chief lieutenant of "the Liberator" Simón Bolívar. For them, as for many others, Quito was the setting of their resistance and struggle.
The conquest brought many Catholic missions, whose presence is apparent in the more than thirty convents, churches and chapels in the historic center. Their influence was not in vain, and religious devotion was sown in people's souls. In 1649, more than two thousand people crossed the city from north to south various times during the day and night, praying for God to reveal to them the identity of the thieves who had stolen the sacred chalice from the convent of Santa Clara.
The 28th of January, 1912 was especially memorable in the annals of the city's history. A large crowd of people dragged the dead body of President Eloy Alfaro through the streets. Alfaro had headed the Liberal Revolution but was assassinated in the city's prison and later incinerated at Parque de El Ejido. Another important event was the coup d'état attempt on September 1, 1975, when the army attacked the Presidential residence during the government of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.
On a happier note, three years later, Quito was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO with the aim of preserving its colonial convents and churches and the historic center in general. The city expansion towards the north and the south started during the 1980's, when the main tourist area in the north-central area of modern Quito started growing.
Quito, capital city of the Republic of Ecuador, is today an enterprising metropolis and political center of the country. It has made an enormous effort to offset the damage caused by the natural disasters that have affected it over the years. Quito offers many options for a pleasant visit amidst its history, tradition and legend.
Quito and its surroundings offer a wide range of choices for entertainment, which guarantee you a good time either alone or in company.
One important gallery of modern art is the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana on Avenida 6 de Diciembre and Patria, which exhibits works by Ecuadorian artists. On weekends, at the nearby Feria de Exposiciones Artesanales del Parque El Ejido, you will find a wide variety of Ecuadorian handicrafts. The Museo de San Agustín, located in the Convento de San Agustin, features many works by artists from the Quito school of painting, with mostly religious themes. The Museo de Arte Colonial displays, as the name implies, art from Quito's colonial period, while the Museo Guayasamín pays tribute to Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasam, featuring art from many of the artist's different periods. Another well known Ecuadorian artist is memorialized in the Posada de las Artes Kingman, featuring four rooms of contemporary Ecuadorian art, as well as a permanent collection of Kingman's own work.
To enjoy Quito's nighttime entertainment, you might begin with a movie. Multicines del CCI is a modern eight auditorium complex featuring the latest releases, and the Octaedro, a small and cozy cultural theater which shows movie classics. Both are located in the north of the city. Also located in the north of the city is the Cinemark 7, showing all the latest and most popular releases. For less mainstream films, Movies at the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana periodically hosts film festivals and shows more art style films. For comedies, visit the small yet comfortable Teatro Charles Chaplin.
On the border of the historical center, you can visit La Iglesia del Belén, a very old church which has an image of Christ by Caspicara, important sculptor and painter of the colonial period. In front of this is the El Churo de la Alameda, a spiral-shaped construction from the beginning of the 20th Century, which was one of the main viewpoints in the city. The Convento y Museo de Santo Domingo dates back to the 16th Century and features Plateresque and Mudejar styles, along with a collection of paintings from the Dominican Order. Another historic site dating from the 16th Century is the Museo de la Ciudad, the former Hospital de la Misericordia, which features exhibits about the history and day to day life of Quito. The Plaza de la Independencia is the point around which the city of Quito was planned in 1535 and is surrounded by many historically significant buildings, namely the Palacio de Gobierno, the Iglesia de la Catedral, and the Palacio Arzobispal. Just a little ways outside the city is the Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), where you can visit the monument marking the site of the equator.
When it comes to partying the night away, you can choose between the San Antonio de Cabeza, an exclusive place located in the residential area of the north, Papillón, in the night club area of the central-north, and Zulu, also in the north and a good place to listen and dance to electronic sounds. Mack's Entertainment in the south of the city, which plays many different kinds of music, from tropical to electronic, classic to contemporary.
Quito offers quite a bit in the way of outdoor entertainment. In the Mitad del Mundo area is the Balneario de Granilandia with green spaces, games for children, swimming pools for adults and kids, and restaurant services. Another interesting destination for fun in the sun, towards the Guayllabamba Valley, is the beautiful city Zoo, with species from all over Ecuador. You will see, for instance, a variety of birds from the coast, the mountains and the east, as well as the anteojo bear from the Andes, and the condor, symbol of Ecuador. Returning from any of these diversions, go to the Parque de La Carolina, in the north of the city, which has a playground, boats and bike tracks. Parque El Ejido is located at the midpoint of the city and features such facilities as a volleyball court and on the weekends, the park is transformed into an arts and crafts market.
If Quito, the enchanting capital of Ecuador, is your destination, you will need to travel well-equipped and with a good dose of energy and enthusiasm to visit most of the attractive places this little city has to offer. This metropolis is a combination of legend, culture and modern development that can only be appreciated while actively touring the city.
Plaza San Blas
When Quito was declared a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1978, the houses, monuments, buildings and churches of this beautiful capital became a legend and tradition for all visitors. Visiting the colonial quarter is a must. It is easily reached from any point of the city. If you are in the city, use the trolley bus. You will need to get off at Banco Central Station and continue your trip on foot. You will first encounter Plaza San Blas and continue your tour down Calle Guayaquil, the axis crossing the historic quarter. This is a narrow road running from north to south, surrounded by old two- and three-story houses painted in white tones with brightly-colored front doors and balconies. As you make your way along, you will cross several streets, among them Calle de la Soledad, also called Esmeraldas, that will lead you to the popular neighborhood of El Tejar. Shortly afterwards you will reach an important and interesting place, the Plaza del Teatro, where you will find the Teatro Sucre, a beautiful old theater steeped in history. Nearby , past the San Agustin church, you will find the Cueva del Oso, an elegant restaurant of long-standing tradition in Quito that offers many local and international dishes. Stand at the corner of Calle Venezuela and you will see on your left, the Plaza de la Independencia, with the Palacio de Gobierno just in front of you. This is a good place to stop for a while, relax and enjoy the very heart of Quito's historic quarter. On the ground floor of Palacio de Carondelet, the government building, and the Iglesia de la Catedral, there are restaurants and food stalls offering good sandwiches, chilled fruit juices and souvenirs.
The Middle of the World
Quito is often referred to as "the middle of the world", due to its proximity to the equator. If you are just passing by or plan to stay a while in Quito, you should take a thorough tour of the town, very easy to do, thanks to public transport. A trip by bus down the length of Avenida America to the central-north area will take you forty minutes through a landscape of houses, buildings and parks. Once you arrive, you will see an impressive monument with a globe at the top. There is no fee to enter the Mitad del Mundo monument or city, although entrance to the Museo Etnografico costs eighty cents. Before doing this, however, take a moment to stand on the equator and thrill at the thought of being exactly at the middle of the world. Inside the city are several crafts stores selling silver jewelry, typical clothing, leather slippers, bright necklaces, T-shirts, key rings, and many other articles with Mitad del Mundo motifs. After walking, taking pictures, and buying souvenirs, you will not be able to resist the aroma of the typical food prepared here. Restaurante Equinoccio offers countless options for your palate. A fritada (white corn or 'mote', pork, and plantain), guatita (cow's stomach, potatoes and peanuts), or the appetizing yahuarlocro (lamb soup) and other delicacies of the sierra await you. As well, this is a honey-producing area and many jars of it are on sale here. You can also find delicious nougat and specially prepared sweets. The archaeological ruins of Rumicucho, are just ten minutes from here. At the entrance you will receive historical information about this project, and professional staff will explain in detail the meaning and symbolism of the passages and stone compartments.
Convento del Carmen Alto
Across the Plaza de la Independencia is Calle Garcia Moreno, also known as Calle de las Siete Cruces, an attractive road with seven stone crosses in front of the Hospice, as well as in front of the Carmen Alto, La Compañía de Jesús, the Sagrario, the Cathedral, the Concepción and Santa Barbara churches. Walking down this road will take you to the Manuela Sáenz and María Augusta Urrutia museums, places created to promote an interest in Ecuadorian culture. At this point you will need to have to take Calle Sucre and then return to Guayaquil Avenue to stop at Plaza de Santo Domingo where you will find the convent and museum of the same name. These together house a gallery of works by artists predominantly of the Quito school. For a bite to eat after all this touring, try El Criollo for some traditional local cuisine.
Guided Tours: The Metropolitan Tourist Police Office (+593 2 2586 591) Calimatours (+593 2 2394 796/ http://www.calimaecuador.com/index.html) Cotopaxi Tours (http://www.cotopaxitours.com) Gray Line (593 2 290 7577/ http://www.grayline.com/Grayline/destinations/latinamerica/ecuador.go)