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The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Walking tour through Downtown Quito: First World Heritage Site

Visit Quito, the second highest capital in the world! UNESCO recognizes Quito as the city with “the best-preserved,  historic center in Latin America.”

THE GOVERNMENT PALACE– (Palacio de Gobierno)- If you want to visit the interior of the palace go to the entrance at Espejo Street. This is the official place of work of the President of the Republic of Ecuador. Its infrastructure was built in the nineteenth century by the President of the Royal Audience of Quito (Real Audiencia de Quito), Baron de Carondelet, and was named after him. 

Free guided tours: Tuesday – Friday: 9h00 to 18h45. Saturdays and Sundays: 9h00 to 17h00.

THE CATHEDRAL This church holds an interesting collection of sculptures and paintings from the Escuela Quiteña. Among the most important pieces of art is the “Descending Christ” by Caspicara. It is a masterpiece of expressionism. As in most Ecuadorian and Latin American churches, many styles are used in the construction of the Cathedral: late Gothic in the arches, Moorish in the ceilings and Baroque in the main altar. The choir, the stone Episcopal chair; on the other hand,the central painting by Manuel Samaniego and the statues by Caspicara are neoclassical.

In addition, you can visit the Cathedral´s museum that displays clothes used by  priests on the XVII century (“casullas”), choral books and silver pieces of the church.

Monday – Saturday: 9h00 to 17h00. Guided tour fee: $3.00 for adults and $2 for children. Free entrance for children under 8 years old. 

CENTRO CULTURAL METROPOLITANO– Located at the corner of the Main Square, next to the Government’s Palace. The Jesuits originally constructed this building in the XVII Century. In 1767, when Charles III of Spain banished the Jesuit Order from the colonized territories, the building became a public University. In the last decade of the XVIII century, the buildings became the  headquarters of the Spanish Royal troops sent from Lima to repress the early independence efforts. Thus, the building was known as the “Royal Barrack of Lima”. In this building, the heroic efforts for independence ended up in a massacre of a number of patriots from Quito on August 2, 1810. The Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum displays this massacre with life-size wax sculptures, as well as other important scenes of Quito’s history. The Cultural Center also holds a museum of colonial art, as well as the Municipal Library. There is also a Contemporary Art exhibit room, which houses temporary exhibitions. 

Tuesday – Saturday: 9h00 to 18h00. Sundays:  10h00 to 16h00. Admission fee to the museum: $1.50; students and senior citizens $0.75; children $0.50. 

EL SAGRARIO This church was originally the main chapel of the Cathedral. The stone facade with its ornamented Salomon columns is an excellent frame for a late Baroque style that leaves practically no space free of ornaments. This style is typical of Bernardo de Legarda’s sculpture. It is located next to the Cathedral.

Monday – Friday: 8h00 to 17h00.  Saturdays: 8h00 to 16h00.  Sundays: 8h00 to 13h00 and 16h00 to 17h45.

LA COMPAÑÍA DE JESÚS CHURCH- 

The extraordinary facade can be described as a lacework on stone. The splendor that meets your eye as you go into the church is unforgettable: vaulted ceiling and walls with beautiful Moorish ornamentation, perfect harmony and the richness of the main altar,  reproduction of the Salomon columns at the facade, incredible clustered Baroque style on the tribunes on both sides of the main altar, pulpit, and in the lateral chapels. Everything in the church is covered with gold leaf. It is a magnificent exhibit of foliage, vines, fruit, birds and caryatids. The Holy Trinity in the main altar and the images of Saint Francis and Saint Ignatius in the side altars are pieces of art that belong to  the famous Legarda. Paintings of the prophets and works of Goribar hang in the majestic archery that divides the aisles. It is located at Benalcazar street. 

Monday – Thursday: 9h30 to 18h30, Friday: 9h30 to 17h30, Saturday: 9h30 to 16h00, Sunday: 12h30 to 16h00.  Admission fee: $5 adults, $2.50 students and children for free. Free entrance on the first Sunday of the month.

From here, we recommend you go up the Sucre Street to the San Francisco Plaza.

SAN FRANCISCO CHURCH AND PLAZA– 

This complex gave the capital of Ecuador its proper name: San Francisco de Quito. Built in 1536-1580, San Francisco is the biggest religious architectonic complex in America, with over 8,670 acres, including the convent with 6 internal patios. The inside is Baroque style. The coffer ceiling in the narthex has rich Moorish style ornamentation with paintings by Miguel de Santiago. It is interesting to note that among the decoration, images of the sun god, the Inca divinity can be appreciated. The main altar holds the original masterpiece by Legarda: “La Virgen de Quito” (Quito’s Virgin). This sculpture is the only winged image of Virgin Mary in colonial art.

The San Francisco Plaza was an antique “Tianguez”, which means ‘market’ in the native Nahuatl language. During Pre-Columbian times, Plaza San Francisco was a lively commercial center, hosting approximately ten ethnic dominations from the neighboring valleys. San Francisco is located between Sucre and Bolívar Streets. 

Monday – Thursday: 6h45 to 11h45 and 16h00 – 18h45, Friday and Saturday: 6h45- 12h45 and 16h00- 18h45, Sunday: 6h45- 18h45.

CANTUÑA CHAPEL–  Visit the legendary chapel! Located next to San Francisco atrium. The Calvary woodcarvings on the main altar are some of Legarda’s most outstanding masterpieces. A legend of the chapel says that Francisco Cantuña (the indigenous man that paved the atrium with large stone blocks) constructed the chapel with the treasures saved from the Kingdom of Quito. 

Tuesday and Thursday: 7h00 to 8h00, Sunday 8h00 to 9h00. Free admission.

SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM

Located next to the church at the San Francisco Square, you can find works of art belonging to Andrés Sánchez Galque (of indigenous origin), Miguel de Santiago, Mateo Mexía, as well as European authors such as Zurbarán and Bernardo de Bitti (XVI-XVIII). Among the sculptures, you can find the glass eyes characteristic of the XVIII century. 

Monday – Saturday: 09h00 to 17h30, Sunday 9h00 to 12h30. Admission fee: $ 2 adults, $ 1 children.

CASA DEL ALABADO, PRE-COLUMBIAN ART MUSEUM- A fine selection of 500 pre- Columbian pieces make up the Museum’s permanent exhibition, and the guidebook, with both scientific and museological content, invites the public to discover the worldview of indigenous Americans and explore the aesthetic and technical excellence achieved by ancient artists as they worked an array of raw materials. 

The Museum is emphatic about its educational mission. For this purpose, they offer audio guides in several languages, multimedia programs, interactive spaces in some galleries, special workshops and guided visits for visitors who wish to take advantage of the Museum’s resources interactively.

Thursday – Tuesday: 9h00 to 17h30.  Wednesday: 13h30 to 17h30. Admission fee: adults $6, children $1, students with ID $2. Children 4 – 12 years old $2. Visitors with disabilities, children 0 – 3 years old and tourism guides with ID: No charge.

After this visit, we recommend you to goback down through Sucre Street to García Moreno Street.

MARÍA AUGUSTA URRUTIA MUSEUM Located at street García Moreno 760, you can follow the life and activities of a wealthy and very generous woman of Quito’s early XX century. Enjoy the beautifully decorated interiors (especially the French antiques), and the distinctive clothing and artifacts of that time. 

Tuesday – Friday: 10h00 to 18h00, weekends 9h30 to 17h30.  Admission fee: $2 for adults, $1 senior citizens and $0.50 children (includes a guided tour). 

MUSEO DEL CARMEN ALTO

It belongs to the Monastery of El Carmen Alto of San José in old town Quito, former home of Saint Mariana de Jesús. More than 1.500 art pieces are exhibited, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry and unique historic documents. 

The museum’s permanent exhibitions revolve around three main topics:

• Religious art of the Carmen Alto’s Monastery of San José and Santa Mariana de Jesús

• The story of everyday life of Carmelitas Descalzas, a religious community in Quito

• Life of Saint Mariana de Jesús: 

Curious fact: Carmelitas Descalzas community sells traditional handmade products at a turnstile that can be found on Benalcazar Street in front of the Santa Clara square. They sell rose water, cookies, wine, creams and other unique products manufactured in the Cloister.

Wednesday – Sunday: 9h30 to 17h30  (Last guided tour starts at 16h30). Admission fee: Guided tours in English $4 Adults $3, students with ID $2, children and senior citizens $1, people with disabilities and infants: free.

MUSEO DE LA CIUDAD Follow everyday life in Quito throughout  the centuries in this beautiful colonial building formerly known as San Juan de Dios Hospital (1565). 

Located at García Moreno 572 and Rocafuerte, this museum opens Tuesday thru Sunday from 9h30 to 17h30. Entrance fee: $3 adults, $2 students, $1 children and senior citizens. Last entrance at 16h30. Nighttime tours with theatrical representations upon request. Price: $5 per person (includes a cocktail). 

LA RONDA – Within only two blocks, you can find artisans working on traditional handicrafts such as candles and embroidery, many “tiendas” (small stores), bakeries and traditional restaurants. Moreover, varieties of cultural activities are organized both on the street and inside the different bars and cafés. During the late XIX and early XX Centuries, La Ronda was home to several musicians, poets, historians and other important figures of Quito’s history. This neighborhood inspired poetry and some of the most romantic “Pasillos” (traditional music).

Once you walk away from La Ronda you can go to:

JUNÍN STREET- This charming street is full of colorful houses and decorated balconies. Along the street you can visit: Manuela Saenz Museum, the Ecuadorian Architecture Museum, the National Watercolour Museum, the XVI Century San Marcos Church, engravers from the Quitenian School of Art, and a famous guitar factory. 

After this street, you can go up to Guayaquil Street and walk North towards San Agustín Church.

SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH It is located at the corner of Chile and Guayaquil streets. The construction of this church concluded in 1538. It has been refurbished due to earthquakes´ damages. The vault underneath the chorus, the wood carved columns, and the gilded altars are the only remnants of the original construction.

SAN AGUSTIN CONVENTThe first thing to admire here are the beautiful cloisters in three different levels, the fountain in the colonial patio carved from a single block of stone, the coffer ceiling in the lower cloister, and the huge collection of paintings by  artist Miguel de Santiago. The artist spent most of his life working in the convent to finish the task of painting the scenes of St. Augustine’s life.

Monday – Friday 09h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h00. Saturday 9h00 to 12h30. Admission fee: $2, children is $0.50 and senior citizens $1. 

SALA CAPITULARIn the same convent you will find one of the most important historical sites in Spanish America. The first Act of Independence was signed here on August 10th, 1809. The Calvary masterpiece by a XVII century Quitenian artist named Olmos is located at the right side of this large room. 

Entrance fee: US$ 2.

Walk four blocks North through Guayaquil Street and turn left on Esmeraldas Street to reach:

CAMILO EGAS MUSEUM- This museum holds a permanent exhibit of Camilo Egas’ paintings, in a display that allows one to learn about the different phases in which the artist worked (indigenism, expressionism, surrealism, cubism and abstraction  the shape) in a didactical and hands-on manner.

Tuesday – Friday from 8h30 to 17h00. Closed on Sundays and Mondays. Saturdays and holidays from 10h00 to 16h00. Entrance fee: Free.

Go three blocks South through Venezuela Street, and then turn right on Olmedo Street. Go up two blocks and turn left to Cuenca Street to reach:

MUSEUM OF COLONIAL ART Located at the corner of Cuenca and Mejía streets and after half a decade of refurbishment, one of Quito’s oldest and most emblematic museums reopened at the end of April 2010. The Museum of Colonial Art houses a fantastic collection of works from the 16th to 19th centuries, ranking among the most important in the country. The museum takes place in a beautiful colonial mansion, which dates back to the late XVI century. 

Tuesday- Saturday: 9h30 – 17h00. Admission fee: adults $2, students $0.50, children free.

For the following visits we recommend you to take a taxi to continue your visit:

SAN DIEGO CONVENT- A genuine manifestation of syncretism! The Saint Francis congregation built this church to provide the priests and laymen with a place of retreat. Along the corridors you can appreciate paintings dating back to the XVII C, which had been covered with lime for years and are now being restored. We recommend you to ask the taxi driver to wait until you finish your visit. 

Monday –  Saturday 09h00-13h30 and 14h30-17h00 · Entrance  fee: $2.00

EL PANECILLO

Many historical happenings took place on top of this natural hill that stands in Quito. “Panecillo” which means “little bread” refers to its peculiar size and shape. The Virgin that stands on the hill, which consists of 7,000 pieces of aluminum, is a modern representation of the famous “Virgen de Quito”, the unique winged dancing Virgin conceived by Bernardo Legarda in the XVII century. (The original masterpiece can be seen at the main altar of the San Francisco Church). There is a balcony in the upper part that provides a beautiful view of the city. 

Monday thru Thursday 9h00-18h00, Friday thru Sunday 9h00- 21h00. The entrance fee to the interior of the monument is $1 for adults, $0.50 for children.

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