The colonial architecture of Quito’s old town is magnificent, while the modern city comes to life after dark
With its incredible wealth of Spanish colonial buildings and fine churches, Quito’s old town has plenty to keep those interested in history, art and architecture happy.
La Compania de Jesus Church is a highlight, with its astonishing golden interior, but there are numerous other fabulous buildings, churches and squares dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Thanks to a major government investment programme much of the old town has been beautifully restored and the whole area reinvigorated. New life is being blown into the streets around La Ronda with new artisan workshops, boutique shops and small restaurants springing up.
Art lovers should not miss the Guayasamin Foundation museum, where the great man lived and worked and there is a fine collection of his art, while the Casa del Alabado Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Museum of Colonial Art are well worth visiting.
Overlooked by volcanoes (some of which are active), and hemmed in by mountain ranges to the east and the west, the modern city has spread itself to create one of the world’s strangest shaped cities some 55 kilometres long and six kilometres wide! It seems a strange place to have established a capital, but archaeological excavations dating back to 1500 BC appear to be aligned with the summer and winter solstices indicating that the people at that time realised that this place was on the equator.
Middle of the World
At the northern end of the city the Mitad del Mundo monument was constructed to mark the equator according to calculations from the French Geodesic mission. It now transpires that their calculations were slightly inaccurate and the exact line is in fact 240 metres further north. The neighbouring Intiñan Solar Museum claims to mark the true line and offers amusing ‘tricks’ to prove this (though only the truly gullible will be taken in by these)!
With pleasant daytime temperatures and chilly evenings it is hard to imagine that you are actually on the equator, but at an altitude of 2,800 metres (9,185ft) Quito is the second highest capital in the world, and it is wise to take it easy the first day after arriving.
On a clear day it can be fun to take the Teleferiqo cable car up the slopes of Pichincha volcano for great views of the city. Those acclimatised to the altitude – and with the energy – can hike right to the top: the snow-capped cone of Cotopaxi and several other volcanic peaks can be spotted all around.
Quito has a lot to offer after dark. Party-goers may head for Plaza Foch in La Mariscal, and the city now has a burgeoning dining scene. Lima is already known as a foodie hotspot, but we would not be surprised to see modern Ecuadorian cuisine becoming the next big thing.
You can read more about Quito in The Telegraph Magazine’s short feature Top of the World
To discover more about the city of Quito and the experiences it offers, give us a call or send us a message.
Places we love to stay
Conveniently located in Plaza San Francisco in the old town, Casa Gangotena is an excellent boutique hotel with good service.View details about Casa Gangotena
Located on the main square in the heart of Quito’s old town, the Plaza Grande offers sumptuous rooms and suites with service to match.View details about Plaza Grande
Hotel Mama Cuchara
An historic Spanish-colonial house which was completely renovated and converted into a hotel in 2017View details about Hotel Mama Cuchara