City of Quito

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Quito

Quito (map) is the capital of Ecuador. It was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 (along with Kraków in Poland).

At an altitude of 2,850 m (9,350 feet), it is one of the world’s highest capital cities. The altitude is high enough that most individuals will experience some degree of altitude sickness for the first few days, so plan accordingly.

Quito’s Old City is the largest in the Americas, formally recognizing it as the largest and most intact colonial city center remaining in the Americas. It boasts no fewer than 40 churches and convents, 16 convents and monasteries. The convent, and church, of San Francisco was built in 1535 making it the oldest intact convent in South America.

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Old town also includes 17 Squares, the most significant being Independence Plaza (map) where the Presidential Palace (map), the Archbishop’s Palace, a hotel used primarily by diplomats and the main municipal of Quito make up the four sides.

Almost always music, performed by locals who use the Plaza as a gathering place in the evening, permeates the scene in spontaneous affairs, and can range from singing to guitar to singing. A beautiful place to spend a lazy afternoon.

If you happen to be there during Christmas or Easter, you’ll be amazed at the number of events, masses, and processions that bring out the crowds. You’ll find craft shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels across its grid of streets.

Old Town has been called the ‘Reliquary of the Americas’ for the richness of its colonial- and independence-era architecture and heritage. It’s a great quarter to wander, with several excellent museums and plenty of restaurants and terrace and courtyard cafes for a rest while sightseeing. With unique restaurants, incredible churches worth seeing regardless of your religious views, museums, shops and more this 500 year old colonial city center provides a unique experience.

Modern, northern Quito (just to the north of the old city and south of the old airport – now called Parque Bicentenario) is a larger place worth exploring, particularly the “La Mariscal” quarter, with plenty of museums, urban parks, restaurants, and nightlife. The new National Museum (map) is here, a very well put-together history museum focused on Ecuador, especially the different native and Catholic colonial cultures.

Public transport

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Taxis are generally an easy and cheap way to travel around Quito. In the main city areas you won’t wait more than a few seconds for a taxi, and if they see you by the roadside they will flash their lights as they approach if they are available. No more than $8 will usually get you to any of the main tourist sites.

 BUS >   The buses are among the cleanest of South America. P While the buses can be extremely crowded, pickpocketing is a rare occurrence and can be avoided with common sense.

 RAIL >   –

 AIRPORTS >   Mariscal Sucre International Airport – is located on the Oyambaro plain near the town of *Tababela, about 18 km (11 mi) east of Quito. Across the road from the terminal is an airport centre. There is a broader and cheaper selection of restaurants here, and a food court.

 WATERWAYS >   –

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