A Really High Capital!
The city of Quito is the capital of Ecuador and is located in the Northern Andes. It’s a common misconception that the highest capital city in the world is La Paz, Bolivia but that is incorrect. The official capital of Bolivia is Sucre. not La Paz. Quito is actually the highest capital city in the world sitting atop the Andes Mountains at 2,850 meters above sea level…it’s not easy for many of us to breathe there and takes some adjustment. Just like most capital cities, Quito boast great food, an open-minded people, lots of traffic, a bit of pollution, and incredible sights. One of the main attractions is Old Town Quito.
Why is Old Town Quito so awesome?
Quito is filled to the brim with great activities to do. You can have lunch at some fantastic restaurants, wander around the streets of the city, or venture to the outskirts for some incredible natural wonders. But Quito’s Old Town is a source of pride for the residents of the city. It’s considered to be one of the best preserved Old Towns (or historic districts) in the Americas. As you stroll through the streets of this historic area of Quito, you are bound to see beautifully renovated buildings with preserved facades. You’ll notice many of the windows are decorated with window baskets full pretty flowers and plants and interesting artwork and architecture.
Old Town Charm
All of these sights along with the street vendors, school children running about, police officers directing traffic, and aromas of nearby restaurants create the charming Quiteño atmosphere of Old Town. You’ll want to take your time exploring this historic district because there is so much to see and experience. I suggest planning out your route carefully with room for flexibility…you never know what you might find. Have a nice lunch in a local restaurant, (I suggest ordering Secco de Chivo), and take a moment to just feel the magic of this fantastic Old Town.
To help you plan, I’ve compile a short list of the top attractions in Old Town Quito. Of course, they are all historical in nature. Many of the attractions are churches. Personally, I find churches beautiful for their architecture, history, and the lavish amounts of decor.
1) Plaza de la Independencia
The main plaza of Old Town is surrounded by points of interest including Palacio de Carondelet, La Catedral Metropolitana, the Archbishop’s Palace, and City Hall. The plaza itself is just gorgeous with beautiful palm trees and an incredible statue at the center dedicated to the revolution and independence of Quito from Spain. It’s just as much a delight at night as it is during the day because the entire plaza is lit up!
To the locals, this is simply know as la Catedral and it dates back to the 16th Century. It is one of the most important churches in Ecuador and only $1-2 to enter depending on where you are from. You can walk around the main sanctuary and stroll through the other parts of the church which are set up like a museum. The church is home to works by Caspicara and Manuel Samaniego.
3) La Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus
If you decide you can only handle one church before you are burned out, then you should choose to visit this Jesuit church. Every inch of the interior of this church is covered in gold, gilded plaster, and wood carvings. You will be dazzled. It’s considered one of the most significantt works of Spanish Baroque architecture in South America. Unfortunately, your memory will have to suffice because absolutely no photography is permitted.
4) Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco
Yet another church dating back to the 16th Century. This is one of the Quito’s favorite churches because Saint Francis is quite popular in the city. It sits on the Plaza de San Francisco and happens to be one of the largest architectural ensembles among historical structures in Latin America. The church boasts a beautiful garden, sanctuary area, an organ that has never been played, and historic works of art. It’s also an active convent.
5) Basilica del Voto Nacional
This imposing structure is not possible to miss. It’s one of the younger churches in the area and the architecture was inspired by the Bourges Cathedral in France. You can climb the towers’ narrow steps for panoramic views of the city. But be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. Technically the Basilica is not complete and legend has it that when it is completed, the world will end.
6) La Ronda
Take a stroll down la Ronda to really feel the ambiance of Quito’s old town. La Ronda is a renovated historical street filled with shops, cafes, and small restaurants. Of course, the street is much more lively at night when
music fills the streets from little bars, food is aplenty, and people meander along enjoying the ambiance.
So if you ever find yourself in Ecuador’s capital city, be sure to make time to explore it’s Old Town. You would be remiss to leave this experience off your travel itinerary!
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