Quito may not have Chicago’s Bean, The Louvre of Paris, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, or the homes of James Joyce in Dublin-but the capital of Ecuador has its own story to tell.
Mirroring the history of its neighbors in Europe and North America with its own legacy of events, Quito’s first inhabitants were wandering tribes that bowed to the Inca, who in turn were defeated by the Spanish.
The Spanish transformed the country and its capital, building churches on the ruins of Incan streets, and ushering in a new form of art that would become the foundations for Ecuador’s own art movement after its independence.
The historic center of Quito beats to the pulse of the country, moving with the rhythm of people from the far reaches of Ecuador. People come to marvel at the architecture and immerse themselves in the vibrant spirit of the center’s different neighborhoods.
Revolutionaries, artists, writers, musicians, and heroes of the republic walked these streets in times of triumph and joined together in protest when the change was at hand.
This tradition still stands today, people come from near and far to march down the cobblestone streets to Independence Plaza. Overlooked by the Presidential Palace, the square welcomes both celebration and dissent -where voices cry out for change and changing governments usher in new policies for both the great and small.
Touring the historic center of Quito brings out the romance and spirit of Ecuador-putting you front and center to the hopes and dreams of its people amid the grandeur of the past. Keep reading for some of the places that you can see on a tour of the capital’s historic sights.
The pedestrian streets of La Ronda call to those with a thirst for culture away from the museums and galleries of the city. Wandering minstrels entertain under the lights of the historic center, while jovial crowds meander back and forth between artisanal shops, bakeries, theaters, and eateries that dot the street front.
People come to relax and enjoy the romance of the surroundings-the street once was a path for the first residents of the area that led to a nearby by source of freshwater.
During the formative years of the city, it was home to many of the up-and-coming artists, musicians, poets, and writers who would leave their names as significant figures in the narrative of Ecuador.
Walking the streets and discovering the nooks and crannies of the neighborhood of the “Old City,” opens up a different side of Quito. There is a fresh air that raises the spirit and gives pause, promising a doorway into the deep roots of the past and shedding new light on the thriving culture of the present.
The City Museum
Quito’s city museum, located a short walk up the street from La Ronda, overlooks the land that has welcomed explorers from all over the world-including Francisco de Orellana, Charles de Condamine, Edward Whymper, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Inside the sleek building, the culture that sweeps through the nearby streets of the historic center comes further into focus.
The museum’s exhibitions cover modern-day issues as well as documenting the journeys of the past-highlighting the depth of the history while shedding new light on the many different cultures of the present.
Basílica del Voto Nacional
The Basilica is one of the Catholic country ’s many additions to the legacy that the Spanish occupation created in Ecuador. The towering building stands guard over the crowded streets of the historic center, and its two towers offer sweeping views of the width and breadth of Quito.
Built between 1892 and 1978, the interior of the church is stunning. Vaulted ceilings arch over the main sanctuary cascaded with light from the intricately stained glass windows.
The towers of the Basilica are a few stories up flights of stairs, across the top of the sanctuary, and a scramble up a ladder on the outside of the church. Check out the animals of the Galapagos along the roofline-taking the place of the traditional gargoyles.
This area is a historical meeting point that dates back to the Inca and is the center of the city. Crowds gather daily, drawn to the Presidential Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the museums and art galleries that are found around every bend and corner nearby.
The changing pace of the country is set here. Touring the Presidential Plaza and ducking into the shops and galleries puts you in the center of the action. The vantage point gives you a glimpse into the everyday life of the people of the city while opening up a door to the character of the country.
El Alabado Museum
Built in 1671, hundreds of years before Ecuador would win Independence from the Spanish, El Alabado Museum stands close to the Plaza de San Francisco-one of the oldest churches and plazas in the city.
The museum is the place to find out about the different people and cultures of the region-home to a fascinating collection of artifacts from many cultures that lived all over ancient Ecuador.