As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito is home to several impressive buildings in the heart of its historic center. The churches and government structures on this list just scratch the surface of architectural beauties that line the cobblestoned streets. A stroll to visit these locations also means seeing many of the smaller gems tucked here and there.
The Presidential Palace is gorgeous both inside and out. Originally constructed around 1570 as the first seat of the Spanish Crown for the Audiencia of Quito, it is still used today as the primary residence of the President of Ecuador. However, more recent presidents have chosen to live off-site and use the historic palace for official business only. The building is open most days for public tours.
Known as the Church of Gold, the Compañia de Jesus is one of the most splendid churches in Ecuador. The exterior of the church features stone that comes from the Pichincha Volcano, giving the building its unique rosy-gray hue. It’s best to view the details of the façade from the second story of the neighboring Centro Cultural Metropolitano.
The Hotel Plaza Grande was the original home of Francisco Pizarro. Built in a style that was different for the time, the building is an iconic symbol of the colonization of Ecuador. It was also the lone house on a plaza built to honor the governing bodies of the colony—the Kingdom of Spain, the Audiencia of Quito, and the Catholic Church.
While built to look like an older church, the Basilica del Voto Nacional is a new addition to the Quito landscape. A national vote to fund the building gives the huge cathedral its name. A keen eye will notice that the gargoyles are untraditional additions of animals native to Ecuador, such as llamas, iguanas, and frigate birds. Tourists may climb to the two towers in the front and single tower in the back for a small entrance fee.
This stunning white edifice graces a wide open plaza and defies its humble origins. When the building was constructed in the 16th century, the area was known as Butcher’s Plaza and was home to many a slaughterhouse. Cows paraded by each Saturday as they were taken to market. Today, the Teatro Sucre, offering some of the best entertainment in Quito, hosts international artists, theater groups, and orchestras.
The construction of the Iglesia San Francisco began around 1537, shortly after the first arrival of Spanish colonists, but the finished church was not officially inaugurated until 1705. The building has no single style due to many different architects and structural damage caused by multiple earthquakes. Of all the churches in Quito, the Iglesia San Francisco was key to capturing the hearts and minds of the local indigenous peoples. The art on its walls is a tribute to the many anonymous artists of the Quito School.
The Iglesia Santo Domingo was built between the years of 1540 and 1688. A single picture does not do this stunning building justice, as two of its gorgeous domes are placed directly over a busy city street, making photography next to impossible. While the church is closed each afternoon, it is possible to visit the interior by entering the museum entrance and paying a small fee.