Must-Visit Attractions in Quito

Historic Quito is a Unesco World Heritage site
Historic Quito is a Unesco World Heritage site | © Darya Ufimtseva / Alamy Stock Photo

From its colonial churches and museums to its botanical gardens and flourishing culinary scene, Quito is bursting with more attractions than you could possibly squeeze into a single trip. To help you make the most of your visit, here’s our guide to the best things to see and do in the capital of Ecuador.

You can enjoy a guided walking tour of Quito’s historic center – and visit the equator – as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive eight-day Ecuador adventure, led by our Local Insider.

1. Centro de Arte Contemporaneo


This museum, housed inside a former military hospital in the San Juan barrio, is one of the best places to see contemporary art in the city. With all kinds of intriguing exhibits from up-and-coming local artists, as well as various cultural events, it’s well worth checking out.

2. La Floresta

Architectural Landmark

Ochoymedio Cinema, La Floresta Neighbourhood, Quito, Pichincha Province, Ecuador
© Karol Kozlowski Premium RM Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

This neighborhood, which gets its name from the high concentration of wild flowers growing there, is often considered the hipster center of the city. It has many charming cafes, trendy restaurants and bars, street food trucks and art galleries. On Friday, a farmer’s market is held on Calle Galavis, with stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and plenty more.

4. Museo de la Ciudad


South America Ecuador Pichincha province Quito. Modern sculpture on porch of Museum of the City in old town colonial district.
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Quito’s city museum is one of the best museums in Ecuador, and while it focuses on the city itself, this former hospital in the Old Town is a gateway to understanding Ecuadorian history through powerful photography and depictions of what life was like in the capital in times gone by.

5. Capilla Casa del Hombre


On a hilltop in the Bellavista neighborhood, this is the former home of Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuador’s most renowned painter. Born in Quito in 1919, his work vividly portrays poverty, oppression and political struggle in 20th-century Ecuador. His legacy lives on in the museum, where you can learn about his life and admire many of his artworks.

6. Museo Casa del Alabado


Ecuador, Quito, registered World Heritage by UNESCO, museo Casa del Alabado, or museum of pr?colombian arts, quipu, or counting mode
© CHARTON Franck / / Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
This museum of pre-Columbian art, pottery and religious iconography, within a renovated 17th-century colonial house in the Old Town, contains over 5,000 archaeological pieces. You’ll be able to see the relationship between each piece and its ancestors.

7. Calle La Ronda

Architectural Landmark

QUITO, ECUADOR - OCTOBER 27, 2015: A typical street scene in the colourful La Ronda area of historic Quito, Ecuador with the famous winged Virgin Mary
© Sharon Jones / Alamy Stock Photo

This long, winding street, with its floral balconies and colorful houses, is a great place to try empanadas and the hot, spiced drink canelazo. It’s especially lively in the evenings and also on a Sunday morning, when families gather to play traditional games such as hopscotch. With an array of restaurants, cafes, bars, craft shops and art galleries, you can easily spend an hour or two wandering here.

8. El Panecillo

Architectural Landmark

Virgen de Quito desde el Panecillo en Ecuador
© Toni Massot / Alamy Stock Photo

The 135ft-tall (41m) statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks Quito from the top of a 656ft (200m) hill is a hugely impressive sight and regarded as a guardian of the city. It’s highly recommended to take a taxi rather than walk there, due to the number of pickpockets known to operate in the area. From the top, the views overlooking the city are magnificent.

9. Lineal Machangara Park


This park is located on Rodrigo de Chavez Avenue in the south of Quito, between the hills and the Machángara River. It’s one of the city’s best-kept secrets, so it’s relatively quiet – a great place for a relaxing stroll or to sit and read a book.

10. Teleférico

Architectural Landmark

Aerial tramway also known as Teleferico, Quito city, capital of Ecuador. Image shot 09/2009. Exact date unknown.
© Amar and Isabelle Guillen - Guillen Photo LLC / Alamy Stock Photo

Quito’s cable car is one of the best ways to get an aerial view of the city, as well as taking you up to the starting point of a hike on the Pichincha volcano, at around 12,500ft (3,800m) altitude. It’s open from 10am-8pm Tuesday to Sunday, and on holidays.

11. Iglesia La Compañía de Jesus


One of the most visually striking examples of Spanish baroque architecture, this church (constructed from 1605-1975) is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks. Its elaborate gold interior decoration and wood carvings make it a must-visit. Allow plenty of time to admire every detail.

12. Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve

Botanical Garden

Patchwork quilt agriculture inside of the Pululahua Crater, Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, Ecuador
© dave stamboulis / Alamy Stock Photo

This caldera, formed from a collapsed volcano thousands of years ago, is now so densely vegetated that you can find a rich abundance of flora by taking a hike around the reserve, just half an hour outside of the city center.

13. Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

This small garden in Parque La Carolina is home to thousands of endemic species, including over 1,200 varieties of orchid. Its guided tours give you a glimpse of the work dedicated biologists do in the city, promoting conservation and raising awareness about Ecuador’s vast biodiversity. It’s open daily from 10am-3pm.

14. Quito Zoo


Quito’s zoo, around a 45-minute drive to the northeast of the city center (near the town of Guayllabamba), is home to all kinds of native Ecuadorian species, such as the spectacled bear and giant Galapagos tortoises. Many of the creatures here are rescue animals, displaced from their natural habitats due to the threat of hunting, the illegal pet trade and environmental destruction. It’s open daily from 9am-4pm, and entry only costs $6 for adults.

15. Ciudad Mitad del Mundo

Architectural Landmark

Monument to the Equator, Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, Middle of the World City, Pichincha Province, Ecuador
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Here, 15 miles north of the city center, is where you’ll find a 100ft (30m) stone monument with a brass globe on top, and an adjoining museum dedicated to the indigenous people of Ecuador. There’s a yellow line that supposedly represents the equator, although the precise destination of the actual equator is estimated to be 660ft (200m) away.

16. Intiñan Museum


The Intiñan Museum claims to be close to the exact location of the equator. Here, you can partake in a range of activities such as balancing an egg on a spoon, water draining and various other gimmicks, designed to demonstrate that the equator is right here – just around the corner from the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo.

17. Parque Metropolitano


This 1,370-acre (554ha) park is one of the largest urban green spaces in South America, and has plenty of trails to hike around for hours within easy reach of the city center.

18. Mercado Artesanal


Mariscal Artisanal Market (Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal), Quito, Ecuador, South America
© Matthew Williams-Ellis Travel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

This sprawling artisan market is one of the best places to stock up on Ecuadorian coffee, chocolate and handcrafted souvenirs to take home with you.

19. Parque El Ejido


At the edge of the Old Town, this park is the third largest in Quito, and offers a peaceful, leafy spot to escape the busy city streets. It’s a popular volleyball and football spot for locals, and at weekends it hosts a variety of cultural events, craft markets and concerts.

20. Basilica del Voto Nacional


Ecuador, Quito, Basilica of the National Vow
© Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
This gothic Roman Catholic church – the largest religious structure in Quito – was inspired by Bourges Cathedral in France. Construction began in 1887 and was largely completed by 1909 – although, according to a local urban legend, its final completion will be shortly followed by the end of the world. You can tour the inside for $2; climb to the top for superb panoramic views.

21. Plaza Foch

Architectural Landmark

Plaza Foch has a well deserved reputation as Quito’s exuberant nightlife epicenter. Whether you’re just going for a casual drink or two, or if you’re looking for a place to salsa until the early hours of the morning, you’ll find no shortage of bars, clubs and restaurants dotted around the edge of the plaza and in the nearby streets.

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