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The Spanish named the area “La Floresta” owing to the unusually high concentration of wild flowers in the area. Early in the 20th century prosperous landowners settled here and built mansions in the neo-classical style that was in fashion at the time. More than 70 of these homes remain, side by side. Along with its tree-lined streets, this has contributed to its unique character.
Furthermore, the area has its own town square, a small park featuring an elegant fountain where children and senior citizens alike come to spend time, while local street vendors sell their goods.
About 20 years ago, however, due to its attractive nature and low-cost of the area, a growing community of artists and writers began to settle here, and the resultant mix of classical homes and avant-garde art galleries, as well as the large murals painted on the sides of buildings, enhanced La Floresta’s reputation, which began to grow both locally and abroad.
During the day, you can walk past the old mansions and new wall murals while enjoying the variety of galleries, restaurants, pastry shops, clothing stores, and creatively-designed cafés. At night there are jazz clubs, dance clubs, an elegant movie theater showcasing foreign films, and taverns featuring local artisan beer. Anybody vising La Floresta (Católica and Orellana is a recommended starting point) should consider dropping by the following venues.
Named after the iconic film by Federico Fellini, the Ocho y Medio Theater features three film salons of varying sizes and ongoing programs of foreign, alternative, independent, classic, and avant-garde cinema. It is one of the most popular bohemian hangouts in Quito, with a restaurant and tavern that operates from midday to evening.
Located on Rubio de Arévalo and Génova, off Valladolid, this large, multi-room sculpture exposition showcase is where “the cold of metal fuses with the color, texture and passion of the artist.” Presenting an impressive display of the best of contemporary craftsmen in the plastic arts, it also features a funky café and bar.
Rubio de Arévalo E13A and Génova 593 02-250-0052
There are many creatively designed pastry and gourmet coffee hangouts in La Floresta, but none are quite like La Cleta Bici, on Guipuzcoa between Sevilla and Cadiz – where all the furniture is constructed from bicycle parts, and where cycling as a theme is highlighted in all the decor.
Lugo N24-250 and Guipuzcoa 593-02-223-3505
For 27 years, El Pobre Diablo, located on Católica and Galavis, has been the most popular jazz club in Quito, presenting both local and international musicians. Great for night owls; shows generally start late, around 10 PM, and continue well after midnight.
Isabel La Católica E24-274 and Galavis 593 2-223-5194
On Galavis between Católica and Andalucia, during daylight hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this is one of the prime locations where local farmers from outside Quito, sell fresh produce. There are fewer better places in Quito to sample some of the country’s famously exotic fruits and vegetables.
The late Trude Sojka was an exceptional woman with an extraordinary life story. Sent to Auschwitz when the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, where she lost her child and most of her extended family, Trude settled in Ecuador after the war and became one of the country’s most-honored artists. Her home on Coruña and Toledo, managed by her daughter, is now a museum that showcases Trude’s painting and sculpture, much of it a haunting reflection of her personal experience during WWII. The rooms also showcase works by local artists.
Pasaje Moeller N24J, between Isabel la Católica and Toledo 593 2-246-7363
The construction and design of this modern building, home to a local media corporation, has been universally praised by architectural journalists for its fresh modernism and ecologically friendly design. It’s worth a look if you are passing by Mallorca and Guizpucoa, though the interior is not open to the general public, except for the lobby, which has a charming fountain and some appealing sculpture.