Quito, the capital of Ecuador, has one of the largest historic districts in Latin America. Narrow stone streets, steep stairs in unexpected places, colonial homes stretching a block and a half, houses from the Republican, beautiful Catholic churches and squares with birds everywhere.
Quito’s historic district has an area of 375.2 hectares (926 acres) and is home to 130 buildings considered monuments. In many of these — which include museums, churches, monasteries and convents — there exist diverse examples of sculptural and pictorial art, especially religious works. In addition, in this old part of the city there are 5,000 properties recorded as part of the inventory of municipal property.
In 1978, UNESCO declared Ecuador’s capital a World Heritage Site, based on the fact that Quito’s historic district is the best-preserved in all of the Americas.
Tourists and specialized travelers (bloggers and travel journalists) who go on day tours in Quito leave with deep emotions of the city, as shown by these two statements:
“Quito’s officials are aware of the importance of the best-preserved, least altered historic district in Latin America. The streets are cleaned regularly and at the weekends there’s a car-free pedestrian zone. I felt safe walking around anywhere in the Old Town and past sunset,” wrote Wibke carter in the “The Scostman Sunday.
“Quito, the capital of Ecuador in northwestern South America, represents the cultural, cosmopolitan and social epicenter of the country. This metropolis, which hugs the equator, is cupped in a verdant valley formed by the volcanoes of the Andes. The city’s 1.8 million residents are spread across a latticework of diagonal streets that climb to different panoramas in every direction. The high-alpine air is thin and takes some getting used to, but once adapted you’ll be able to catch the aroma of fresh bread and coffee flowing from the nearest panadería. You’ll hear the voices of women in trensas selling homegrown fruit from giant baskets. And you’ll catch the smell of eucalyptus trees riding on the Quito breeze,” noted journalist Bani Amor.
Below, we have created a list of five of the most interesting places to visit on a day tour in Quito. These are the “must see” attractions in the historic area of the city:
1. Basilica del Voto Nacional:
This neo-Gothic structure is the largest in Ecuador and one of the largest in Latin America. It is located just inside the historic district of Quito. Reaching a height of 115 meters, within it are 24 chapels representing the number of provinces in Ecuador.
For its majesty and style, this Catholic church — which is in the shape of a Gothic cross — has been compared with other large cathedrals in the world, including the Basilica of Notre Dame (Paris) and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (New York).
Although the decree for its construction was signed in 1883, the building’s first stone was laid in 1892 – by Emilio Tarlier, a French architect. The church was built in large thanks to contributions from Ecuadorians (mostly from Quito).
One feature of this huge cathedral is that its famous gargoyles, which are seen on the facade and walls, do not have classical motifs. Instead, these have been replaced by amphibians and reptiles of Ecuador, specifically including animals from the Galapagos Islands. Visitors on a day tour in Quito can ascend to the building’s cafeteria/observation deck to appreciate beautiful views of the city.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $1 (Ecuadorian citizens), $2 (foreigners)
Address: Santa Prisca neighborhood, between the Carchi N122and Venezuela streets
2. Catedral Metropolitana de Quito:
Located near the main square (“Plaza de la Independencia”), in the historic district of Quito, the Metropolitan Cathedral was built of stone using the communal “minga labor system” for hauling and carving of the masonry – another must see on a day tour in Quito
The building’s construction began in 1560 on land that currently borders the Carondelet Palace (seat of Government) to the west, and the Municipal Palace to the east. An eruption of the Pichincha Volcano forced the rebuilding of the temple in 1660. Then, after two separate earthquakes in 1755 and 1868, additional work was required.
The Cathedral has a longitudinal arrangement that consists of three naves supported on stone arches. Several chapels are located in its right side nave, while the central nave has a coffered ceiling paneled in cedar. Behind the main chapel is a smaller nave. Experts consider its style of construction to be Gothic-Mudejar style, especially in the form of its arches, pillars and carved ceilings.
This Catholic church is the seat of the Archdiocese of Quito and occupies all of the south side of Quito’s Independence Square.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: Venezuela and Espejo streets
Cost: $1. 50 (adults), $1 (children and elderly)
3. Church of the Compania of Jesus
Built and embellished over a span of 160 years (1605-1765) by artists of the “Quito School,” this church is one of the most important representatives of Latin American baroque architecture. Its arches, altarpieces, sculptures, altar, and even its picture frames are all covered in gold leaf.
Some people consider it the best Jesuit church in the world. Its facade is completely carved in gray stone, volcanic and draws attention of visitors, not only for its beauty but by the combination of styles and expressions of syncretism that combines European and indigenous features.
The construction of this temple took 160 years. The church is now visited by about 120,000 people each year. One of the biggest attractions is the picture of hell, attributed to Hernando de la Cruz. The work, supposedly based on The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri plays with violent scenes and intense reds, assumptions punishment and torment of sinners.
Hours: Monday through Friday, from 9:30 to 17:30. Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Address: García Moreno and Sucre
Cost: Adult abroad: $4. International Student: $2. National Adult: $2. National students (6-18 years): 0.60. Children and seniors: free.
4. Church of San Francisco
No day tour in Quito is complete without visiting this site, one of the largest religious complexes in Latin America. Its size is 3, 5 hectares, including the church, the Museum of Religious Art Pedro Gocial, the Franciscan convent and the large square, one of the most popular and iconic spaces from downtown.
The temple of San Francisco was built between 1536 and 1605. It’s another sample of the Quito Art School, which combines inside the Mudejar, Mannerist and Baroque styles. Its main altar, side chapels and the pulpit, of great beauty, to attract tourists. Just at the altar the image of the Virgin of Quito, authored by Bernardo de Legarda, one of the representatives of the call is displayed Quito School.
On one side of the church is located Cantuña Chapel, which houses a legend known to all Quito. According to this story, which is transmitted from generation to generation, an Indian named Cantuña promised to build the court within a certain period. But, seeing that it was very short and was not going to make it, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the latter and his assistants finish the work on time. However, the Indian could save his soul because the devil and his assistants were lacking placed the last stone…
Another attraction of the churches is that there sculpture of Jesus del Gran Poder, main picture of the procession that takes place every Good Friday in the city and is one of the largest religious public displays of the country is.
Hours: Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 18:00
Address: Cuenca 477 and Sucre
Cost of revenue: $2.
5. Palacio de Carondelet
It is the seat of the national government and is located on the western side of the Plaza de la Independencia, also known as Plaza Grande, surrounded by the Archbishop’s Palace, the City and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito. In colonial times, it was known as the Royal Palace in Quito, as the home of the Royal Court.
According to tradition, was the liberator, Simón Bolívar, who named the building as Palacio de Carondelet.
In the staircase leading to the first floor, a painted mural by Oswaldo Guayasamín, which recreates the discovery of the Amazon River in 1542 is displayed.
The first body of the building is built in stone. In the second, there is a gallery that faces the Plaza de la Independencia. Today, the President, Vice President and Ministry of Government Complex occupy Carondelet. The Government House has been open to the public since August 2007. Entry is free, with only the presentation of identification required. On your day tour in Quito, you can visit this site at the location and time below:
Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Mondays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 4: 00 p.m.
Address: N10-43 Garcia Moreno between Chile and Espejo streets
To discover exciting experiences like these while on a day tour in Quito, we suggest that you select a knowledgeable tour operator like Surtrek, who can work with you to custom design such adventures. Expert travel coordinators will help you to plan and seamlessly carry out a tour that introduces you to the real – authentic – Ecuador, in a sustainable manner that leaves the most minimal impact on this nature-rich land.”