Start in La Mariscal, the first neighborhood to break with the colonial model of architecture. La Mariscal was known as the suburbs for wealthy families moving north, and examples of these historic houses can be seen in Juan Rodríguez Street, a few blocks north from Plaza Foch, the party epicenter of the city. Keep walking towards the south, or the historic district.
From Juan Rodríguez Street, walk a few blocks to check out the castillos, another of the city’s architectural landmarks – these brightly-painted castles with towers seem to be straight out of a fairytale, and stand in contrast to the buildings around them. Built in the 1930s as houses, they can be found on Juan León Mera, as well as Vicente Ramón Roca junction, Baquedano and the Avenida 6 de Diciembre. These Disney-esque creations are now home to a political party headquarters and a hotel, among others.
Keep walking towards the historic district to take in El Ejido and La Alameda parks – the calm green lungs of the city are markedly different from nearby buildings such as the Central Bank, which were designed to evoke modern structures in an attempt to break with the colonial mindset.
The best way to reach the Old Town is from the Gothic Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow), one of the biggest basilicas in the Americas – the view from the towers is amazing, and the building is the gateway for the historic district of the Old Town.
Plaza del Teatro and Plaza San Francisco are must-visit areas, while walking down Calle García Moreno (‘The Street of the Seven Crosses‘) past the Presidential Palace allows visitors to absorb the unique atmosphere of the Old Town. If you have time, take in the Center for Contemporary Art and the City Museum.