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A jewel of a historic city centre

The Ecuadorian capital Quito boasts the best preserved historic centre in Latin America. Since the city emerged between the peaks of the Andes in the 16th century, it has seen its fair share of earthquakes. Despite this, the centre still counts more than 130 historical buildings which are spread out over 300 city blocks - a wonderful and fascinating place to explore.

In 1978, UNESCO declared Quito’s city centre a World Heritage site. The historic downtown lies at an elevation of approximately 9,350 feet and covers around 790 acres. Here you will find narrow streets and squares made from volcanic stone, as well as serene convents, elegant buildings with smooth white façades and Gothic and Baroque churches filled with gold. However, the historic centre is more than just an open-air museum; it is the vibrant heart of the city where you can watch and enjoy the local life both day and night.

The most artistic street

La Ronda, Quito's famous artistic street, became a gathering place for writers, artists and musicians in the 1930s. Today, this is a great place to browse for all kinds of crafts including items made of tin or silver, and hats crafted from toquilla, a local type of straw. Everything is made right here. At night, street musicians take over and locals flock to the many bars and restaurants.

Row of colonial buildings in the city centre
Independence Square

Quito’s main square

The Plaza de la Independencia is the heart of the old city where since the 16th century many important historic events have taken place. The square is framed by important buildings, such as the Palacio de Gobierno (the Presidential Palace), the Cathedral and the Town Hall. Nearby is the Pasaje Espejo, a pleasant pedestrian-only street lined with many restaurants and the Teatro Bolívar – named after Simón Bolívar, the man who fought for the country’s independence.

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View on the map

Plaza de la Independencia

The best view

You can’t miss the enormous 375-feet-high Basílica del Voto Nacional and that's a good thing. This neo-Gothic church building features some very special elements that are not usually seen outside of Ecuador: gargoyles in the form of iguanas, monkeys, armadillos and turtles from the Galapagos Archipelago. It is worth climbing up to the observation deck for a closer look. You will also be rewarded with a panoramic view of the old city and the surrounding area.

Three hundred feet into the air

Photo credits

  • Independence Square: dutchbaby, Flickr