The Most Beautiful Buildings in Cuenca

Steeple of the Iglesia San Francisco, Cuenca
Steeple of the Iglesia San Francisco, Cuenca | © Ian Masias / Flickr
Photo of Angela Drake
Founder, Not Your Average American15 August 2017

The city of Cuenca, officially known as Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its collection of stunning colonial buildings is one reason why the city holds this title. With each economic boom, Cuenca has added new and unique structures, blending different architectural styles while retaining its colonial flavor. This list of the most beautiful buildings in Cuenca just scratches the surface of all that this city has to offer.

The New Cathedral

Building, Cathedral, Church
Map View
Domes of the New Cathedral, Cuenca | ©DEZALB /Pixabay
Considered the heart of historic Cuenca, the New Cathedral draws the eye. Officially called the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción de Cuenca, its three white towers are capped by domes in alternating light and bright blues. They sit atop a red and orange bricked building trimmed with alabaster and red-hued marble. Construction lasted almost 100 years, and the church was finally inaugurated in 1975. A visit to the New Cathedral should be high on every visitor’s top 10 list.

Iglesia San Francisco

Building, Church
Map View
Steeple of the Iglesia San Francisco, Cuenca
Steeple of the Iglesia San Francisco, Cuenca | © Ian Masias / Flickr
The brilliantly painted Iglesia San Francisco is an intriguing collection of neoclassical and baroque architectural styles. Although the building has roots as far back as 1560, the reconstruction of the naves took place in the late 1800s. The year 1920 saw the addition of the convent, and the completion of the clock tower, which holds court over the red-tiled roofs of historic Cuenca, occurred in 1930.

Colonial Home on General Torres

There are many homes in Historic Cuenca that deserve more than a second glance. Most are two stories tall with commercial space on the ground floor and an upper floor that is either a residence or office space. The prettiest have been renovated to include artistic color combinations that highlight the decorative molding. Many colonial homes underwent significant renovations during the economic expansion of Cuenca in the 19th century.

Colonial Home, General Torres, near Plaza San Francisco, Cuenca, Ecuador

Iglesia de San Alfonso

Map View
Iglesia de San Alfonso, Cuenca
Iglesia de San Alfonso, Cuenca | ©Ceancata /Wikicommons
With its blue-capped towers and creamy yellow façade, the Iglesia de San Alfonso looks like a church from a fairy tale. While the church saw its inauguration in 1888, the 42-meter-tall (137.3 feet) towers were not completed until 1945. Situated in the historic center, the San Alfonso Church is a great addition to walking tours of the colonial heart of Cuenca.

Historic Home on Calle Larga

Building, Store
Map View
Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador | © Dave Lonsdale / Flickr
The entire length of Calle Larga is worth a stroll, but one home, in particular, deserves a little extra attention, Sumaglla Folklor Antiques Store. Built by rich merchants in the early 1800s, this building was originally a residence. It was once possible to tour the interior via the antique store, but all listings have been removed. Enjoy taking photos from the exterior.

Iglesia Santo Domingo

Map View
Interior of Santo Domingo Church, Cuenca
Interior of Santo Domingo Church, Cuenca | ©François Bianco /Flickr
The Santo Domingo Church is the second largest church in Cuenca. Its twin towers, 37 meters (121.3 feet) high, are iconic features of colonial Cuenca. The original construction took place in 1584, and the years since then have seen many additions and changes. Its most recent renovation came in the early 20th century.

Iglesia de San Blas

Cathedral, Church
Map View
Iglesia de San Blas, Cuenca
Iglesia de San Blas, Cuenca | © Bernard Gagnon / WikiCommons
Located in the historic center of Cuenca, the Iglesia de San Blas holds a special place in the hearts of Cuencanos. Built from the same rosy-toned alabaster as the New Cathedral, its first stone was laid in 1557. The interior of the church is currently undergoing restoration.

Iglesia de San Sebastián

Map View
Iglesia de San Sebatstián, Cuenca
Iglesia de San Sebatstián, Cuenca | ©Rommel Gsrcía /Wikicommons
The San Sebastián neighborhood of Cuenca is home to one of the oldest churches in Cuenca, the Iglesia de San Sebastián. It is unique in its asymmetrical structure, with a single tower on its right side. Parts of the church date back to the early years of colonization, 1568, though the structure has seen many modifications over the past five centuries.