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.
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.
A place of astronomy and education, the Military Geographic Institute is often overlooked by travelers, but it has plenty of interesting interactive exhibits and screenings. Entry is free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.