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10 Things to See and Do in Quito-Oldtown and
by on July 26, 2019

Top 10 Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador

Traveling to Quito and not sure what to visit? Here are the 10 "must-see" spots in Quito to make your experience complete.


Quito, as the capital of Ecuador and also a former colonial capital, possesses a heritage to be known. Very few Andean capitals can boast so much, in such a small territory. Here, we have prepared a short list of attractions that are not to be missed during a visit to Quito. It’s recommended that you stay in a central hotel in Quito to visit these places.

“La Compañía de Jesús” Colonial Church

“La Compañía de Jesús” Church, summit of Latin American Baroque architecture, was built between 1605 and 1765. Its design took references from two emblematic Jesuit temples in Rome: Il Gesú and San Ignacio.  Its construction lasted 160 years—with the final results well-worth its century-in-the-making. The Jesuit temple features a Latin Cross floor plan, central nave, north and south naves, transept, north and south transept, presbytery, sacristy, sacristy, and chapel.

The central nave is covered by a vault 26 m high, made of brick, pumice stone and finely decorated with plasterwork, polychrome, and Mudejar-style gold leaf.

The church was built with the hands of countless artists from the Quiteña School, most of whom were anonymous. They perpetuated their ability and dedication to carve and gild, skillfully plating every centimeter of the church with fine, 23-carat gold.

Two important religious events are linked to the La Compañía: one was the daily visit of Mariana de Jesús in an attitude of prayer, the first Ecuadorian saint who consecrated herself in this temple and chose it to dwell forever. Mariana died in 1645 (17th century) and it is in the high altar where her remains are now venerated. The second occurrence is the miracle of the Image of the Sorrowful Virgin, a deeply-believed miracle that happened in the dining room of the old San Gabriel School, inside the Jesuit building, on April 20, 1906.

“La Capilla del Hombre” (Chapel of Man)

“La Capilla del Hombre” is a work of architecture in recognition of a timeless Latin American man. It was built as a tribute to the great Ecuadorian artist, Guayasamín, and is currently a cultural complex that shows different archaeological and artistic collections of Ecuador.

This great complex began with the Casa Taller Guayasamín, the painter’s home and place of work. It consists of a section that exhibits part of the archaeological pieces and colonial and contemporary art that the artist collected throughout his life. The rest of the sections allow the public the explore spaces in which Master Guayasamín lived and worked.

The courtyard of the Casa Taller features the Tree of Life, which is also the sepulcher of the Master Guayasamín. His remains are protected under the shade of the tree he planted a long time ago.

The Chapel of Man is located on the hill Guangüiltagua, bordering one of the entrances to the Metropolitan Park. Specifically, the address is: Lorenzo Chávez EA18-143 and Mariano Calvache, corner, in the Bellavista sector.

Quito’s Oldtown

With almost 320 hectares, and some 130 monumental buildings dating from the time of the Spanish Conquest through the republican era and the early twentieth century, this is perhaps the best-preserved historic center in Latin America. Thousands of pieces of colonial art can be found in these historic spaces. There are numerous paintings and sculptures that were the product of what was called The Quito School, or Escuela Quiteña—a set of styles and artistic schools formed by both indigenous and mestizos of La Colonia. The magnificent result of this School, unique in the world, was born from the syncretism between the Inca cultures and the ancestral ones, together with the dominant Spanish culture. These are the main reasons why the city of Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

The large part of buildings in Quito’s center were scenes of diverse events that changed the course of our nation’s history. This includes not only the time of the European conquest, but dating back even before, since the Incan people built astronomical and sacred sites where the Spanish then constructed their buildings. This was even the site that some authors call the “Inca Quito”, second capital of the Tawantinsuyo empire.

“Basilica del Voto Nacional”

This impressive structure is considered one of the most important works of Neo-Gothic architecture in Ecuador. It is located in the center of the city, in the streets Carchi and Venezuela, next to the Convent of the Oblate Fathers.

La Basilica was built to commemorate the consecration of the Ecuadorian state to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during the presidency of Gabriel García Moreno in 1873.

It is 115 meters high and made of 24 internal chapels that represent the country’s distinct provinces. This sanctuary was inaugurated and blessed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ecuador on January 18, 1985.

The structure and style of the Church is compared with two of the great cathedrals of the world: the Basilica of St. Patrick, located in New York, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Paris. Its distinguishing detail, however, is found in the substitution of the classic gargoyles by reptiles and amphibians typical of Ecuador.

10 Things to See and Do in Quito-The Basillica Church
The Basillica church, created as a perpetual reminder of the consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart.


Mon-Fri 7:00-9:00/ 18:00-19:00

Sat and Sun 6:00-18:30

Viewpoint open daily from 9:30-17:30


Foreigners: $2.00, nationals $1.00, children and seniors $0.50 Religious services:

Masses: Mon to Fri 07:00, 08:00 and 18:30; Sat 07:00 and 10:00; Sun 07:00 and 12:00

Guayasamín Museum

This house was built between 1976 and 1979. It was the residence of Ecuadorian artist, Master Oswaldo Guayasamín, until his death.

The architect who built it was Gustavo Guayasamín, Oswaldo’s brother, based on sketches made by the painter. The project was modified during its execution, until the construction spanned over 2,000 square meters. Throughout the 20 years that he lived there, Guayasumín never stopped adding new spaces: a swimming pool, guest rooms, adjustments in the patios, etc.

The functional approach of this house is rationalist, through the articulation of well-defined geometric blocks. The symbolism of the white walls with semicircular arches on a stone wall, configuring the courtyard of the bells, reflects the painter’s constant preoccupation with the Latin American identity that fuses Hispanic and Andean, the slopes of the Ecuadorian nationality.

Address: E18-94 and Barrio, Mariano Calvache, Quito 170122

Phone:(02) 244-6455

Hours: Open Today – 10-17

House of the Alabado

The Casa del Alabado Pre-Columbian Art Museum opened its doors to the public in 2010. Located in the historic center of Quito, half a block from the Plaza San Francisco, it has become an obligatory stop for all those who pass through this emblematic sector of the city. Installed in a house built in the seventeenth century, the museum guards an archaeological heritage of approximately 5000 pieces, of which 500 are permanently exhibited.

Address: Cuenca N1-41, Quito

Phone: (02) 228-0940

Intiñan Museum

The Intiñan Museum sets up an interactive tour, where you can explore everything from the history of our ancestral villages to the magnificent effects produced by the sun, in our solar cylinder. Travel to the past through our century-old huts, discover and understand the physical phenomena of the earth with our didactic examples, observe the path of the sun (Intiñan) in the Acoratene, and, of course, enjoy a natural and privileged environment. Our main objective is to rescue a new image of the existence of the ancestral cosmovision’s geographical center, and of an ethno-ecological habitat in the Middle of the World.

200 meters from the Mitad del Mundo roundabout, via Calacalí


(593 2) 239 5122 / 730 9508


Monday to Sunday 09h30 to 17h00

Church of San Francisco

The Church of San Francisco is the most extraordinary work of Quito. It is located in the historic center, at 477 Cuenca Street and Sucre. In front of a square with the same name. With the plaza and its stunning structural accompaniment, the area turns it into an imposing architectural work.

According to some theories, San Francisco was built on top of the Palace of Huayna Capac, the eleventh and penultimate ruler of the Incan Empire. In fact, according to ancient chronicles, verbal traditions, and testimonies of the Spanish conquerors themselves, most of what is now the colonial Historic Center of Quito stands on top of Incan temples. If these syncretically-layered sites interest you, be sure to also check out the sector of Panecillo, or Yavirac. Here previously stood the famous “Temple of the Sun,” decorated with gold and silver that Huayna Capac had brought from Cuzco.

The Church of San Francisco
Interior view of the Church of San Francisco

For more information on the Church and Convent of San Francisco:

Telephone: (+593 2) 295 9911


Quito’s “Teleferico” Cable Car

If you travel on a clear day to the top of the Pichincha Volcano in Quito’s stunning cable car, prepare your camera. You will be able to observe at least four snowy peaks, and 14 distinct volcanoes. This superior viewpoint opens to the whole city and its surrounding valleys.

The cable car ride lasts 10 minutes. It begins at 2,950 meters above sea level and reaches 4,053m (in a 2.5 kilometer double track).

Independence Square

Known as “Plaza de la Independencia” (Independence Square), the Plaza Grande is the nucleus of the Historical Center, where you will also be able to appreciate the daily dynamics of many Quiteños. It was not the city’s first square, but has been a meeting point par excellence since the 16th century. It is also the scene of many Quiteño legends and chronicles, as it is flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Municipal Palace. At the sides and under the Cathedral, you will find cafeterias, where you can taste pork sandwiches, fresh fruit juices, and dried goat, prepared by women who have years of experience in their culinary trade.

Independence square
Quito's Independence Square

As in few other parts of the world, on the lowest floor of the Government Palace, you will see a shop with handicrafts, and be struck by a very traditional barbershop.

The Independence Monument adorns the middle of the square, inaugurated on August 10th, 1909. You will notice a wounded lion (in reference to the Spanish troops); a condor breaking the chains of oppression (emblem of the country); and, at the top, the Roman goddess, Libertas, holding a torch.

Just a few steps from the square is the Pasaje Espejo, a pedestrian street in which the historic Teatro Bolívar and Plaza Chica are located. There are also typical and fusion restaurants.

Sources of information and reference

About Keenan Ennis

Keenan Ennis studied Conservation and wildlife biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This eventually lead him to a program in Ecuador studying hummingbirds and their keystone nutritional species in the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve. Since, he has worked with the critically endangered Bandurria Andina, or black-faced Ibis of the Andean Páramo. Through his ecological background, he provides an in depth insight into the conservation processes of the Galapagos Islands.

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