Quito is the capital of Ecuador and for many people the start of a journey through this incredible country. Quito is located in a valley of the Andes mountains and surrounded by sixteen volcanoes. As in many South American capitals, Quito has different sides; a beautiful colonial center, wealthy neighborhoods in the north and poor and middle-class neighborhoods in the south. Quito is a city where you can enjoy yourself for days; stroll through the city center, visit viewpoints and churches, get inspired in museums and have great food. In this travel guide I will tell you what to do in Quito Ecuador and give you my personal tips for things to do, restaurants, hotels and tours to get the most out of your visit.
- Welcome to Quito Ecuador
- What to do in Quito Ecuador – 30 tips
- Stroll through the colonial center of Quito Ecuador
- Panecillo and the Virgin – famous things to do in Quito Ecuador
- The view of Basílica del Voto Nacional
- Visit the San Francisco Church and Monastery
- Take the cable car up the volcano – best things to do in Quito Ecuador
- Discover La Floresta – nice neighbourhood in Quito Ecuador
- La Compañia de Jesus church
- Live Quito Like a Local – unique things to do in Quiito
- Taste Chocolate
- La Ronda
- City parks of Quito Ecuador
- Cultural things to do in Quito Ecuador
- Things to do in the surroundings of Quito Ecuador – tips
- Mini Travel Guide Quito in Ecuador
- More about Ecuador
Welcome to Quito Ecuador
Quito is located at an altitude of 2850 meters in a valley, surrounded by the mighty mountains and volcanoes of the Andes in Ecuador. It is often called the city of eternal spring. Due to its location on the equator, the temperature is mild and constant all year round. Even though Quito can no longer grow in width, the city continues to expand in length. One valley after another is being built up. Quito now even competes with Guayaquil for being the country’s largest city. In this travel guide you will read more about what to do in Quito Ecuador, including my personal tips for the best things to do and to see, great restaurants, places to stay, tours to explore the surroundings, best time to visit and how to get around in a safe way.
Quito was built by the Spanish on the remains of a former Inca city. This ancient Inca city used to be the capital of the northern Inca empire, but was completely destroyed during the arrival of the Spanish, by the Incas themselves. Quito experienced during the Spanish rule many periods of prosperity. It was even called “the monastery of America” due to its wealth, many churches and monasteries. Because of earthquakes that followed over the years, the center of Quito was regularly destroyed but completely restored again.
What to do in Quito Ecuador – 30 tips
Quito in Ecuador is a destination that I was able to visit many times. As a teenager during an exchange program and later for making television reports, and as a tour guide, guiding tourists around Ecuador. And I still find Quito an interesting city, where I keep discovering new places. Enjoy this Quiito travel guide full with tips and things to do.
Stroll through the colonial center of Quito Ecuador
Quito in Ecuador contains the largest colonial center in all of South America. You will find many squares and streets, surrounded by churches, monasteries and beautiful buildings. The historic center was even the first city to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. The city is built according to the typical chessboard pattern, which you often see in Latin American cities. It is worth spending at least a morning or afternoon in the colonial heart of Quito, visiting its things to do and taking a seat in one of the many cafes.
Have a look at the Plaza Grande with the government buildings and the cathedral, the Plaza San Francisco and the Plaza Santo Domingo. Also pay special attention to the courtyards of the colonial buildings and facades that you encounter along the way.
Do you want to discover the center of Quito Ecuador and its things to do with a local guide? This is a Quito city tour where you discover the different sides of the city and also visit the famous equator.
Panecillo and the Virgin – famous things to do in Quito Ecuador
El Panecillo is perhaps one of the most famous things to do in Quito Ecuador. From the old town you can immediately see this 200-meter high hill. El Panecillo means “the bread roll” and is named after the shape of the hill. On top of this, the Virgin of Quito, a 41-meter-high statue consisting of seven thousand aluminum pieces, proudly watches over the city. The summit offers fantastic views, and on a clear day it is even possible to see the surrounding volcanoes.
At all times, make sure you take a taxi up the mountain and don’t walk. Robberies are no exception here. Once at the top, you can easily walk around.
The view of Basílica del Voto Nacional
One of the top things to do in Quito Ecuador is to visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional. The 83-meter-high bell towers of this impressive cathedral can be seen from everywhere in the old city. Construction of the cathedral started in 1892, using volcanic rocks from the Pichincha volcano. It is still the only neo-Gothic church in Ecuador. The highlight is a climb to the towers, which are connected by a bridge over the church. From here you have a 360-degree view of Quito and the surroundings.
Visit the San Francisco Church and Monastery
The San Francisco church and monastery cannot be missed during a walk through the old center. This Baroque temple dominates the plaza of the same name. The church was built in 1535 on old Inca foundations, which are still clearly visible. It is the oldest church in Ecuador and also the first Franciscan church in all of South America.
The church contains wooden decorations, covered with gold, and decorated chapels. You can also enter the adjacent monastery to learn more about the history, and the former artist training school called the Quito School, a style that is visible throughout the city. In addition, the monastery offers access to the roof with the bell towers, overlooking Plaza San Francisco. Both the church and the monastery with the associated viewpoint are among the best things to do and see in Quito Ecuador.
Take the cable car up the volcano – best things to do in Quito Ecuador
One of the spectacular things to do in Quito Ecuador is to take a trip with the TelefériQo. This cable car takes you within twenty minutes to the 4000-meter-high summit of Cruz Loma, 500 meters away from the Pichincha volcano, with beautiful views of the surroundings. Once at the top, it is recommended to take a short or long walk or explore the area on horseback. Adventurers can also go paragliding or climbing.
Note: It is only worth doing this, on a clear day. If it is cloudy, there is little to nothing to see. Make sure you take it easy when you arrive at the top, because you will immediately feel the altitude. Always bring warm clothes with you. In all cases it can be quite cold up the mountain.
Discover La Floresta – nice neighbourhood in Quito Ecuador
In many blogs and travel guides you will read that La Mariscal is the nicest neighborhood of Quito in Ecuador. La Mariscal used to be a popular nightlife spot. In my younger years I couldn’t get enough of the bars and clubs around Plaza Foch. But personally I think this has changed a lot in recent years. My favorite neighborhood in Quito at the moment is La Floresta. Here you will find nice restaurants and coffee rooms such as Botánica, Ocho Cafe and Urko, small galleries with exhibitions, and an emerging creative vibe.
La Compañia de Jesus church
La Compañia de Jesus is one of the most impressive places to visit and things to do, when it comes to churches in Quito Ecuador. According to travel guides, seven tons of gold were used to decorate the inside of this Jesuit church. Our guide tells us that this is around 60 kilos. In any case, the amount of gold is overwhelming; the entire church consists of pure gold leaf. The church was built in 1605 and lasted 160 years.
Please note: It is prohibited to take photographs inside the church.
Live Quito Like a Local – unique things to do in Quiito
Are you looking for a unique tour in Quito? Then it is recommended to take the Live Quito Like a Local tour. During a half-day excursion, you will not only visit Quito’s highlights, such as the San Francisco Church, La Compañia de Jesus and the Panecillo Hill, but also visit the San Roque neighborhood, where local entrepreneurs and residents play the most important role.
Together with a guide, you will explore the narrow streets of this neighborhood and have a chat with the locals. You will stop at a shop where medicinal plants and herbs are sold, a place where people queue to buy religious statues, sweet shops and a pharmacy with the local tea Agua de la Vida. You will also stroll through a local market and learn more about how Quiteños visit a shaman for spiritual cleansing. It is special that you as a foreigner can experience this in a authentic way too. Because there are almost no tourists around, you really feel like a local.
Curious about this tour? For more information and bookings send an email to email@example.com.
Did you know that the best cocoa in the world comes from Ecuador? Several European countries buy their cocoa beans from the coast or jungle in Ecuador to make high-quality chocolate. You can join an interesting chocolate tour in Quito at Chez Tiff Artesanal. During a short presentation you will learn more about the cocoa bean and the role it plays in Ecuador. Naturally, a demonstration follows and afterwards you can taste a number of types and flavors.
One of the most beautiful streets in Quito is La Ronda. In this pedestrian alley there are 17th-century buildings on the left and right that now consist of small shops and bars. Also pay attention to the stories on the walls. There is information about history and some well-known Ecuadorian people, who once lived there.
City parks of Quito Ecuador
Quito has a number of city parks, including Parque La Carolina, Parque Metropolitana, El Ejido and La Alameda. The last two, form the transition from the historic center to the north of the city with neighborhoods such as La Marsical, La Floresta and Bellavista. The elevated Parque Itchimbia with the Crystal House, which is also a cultural center, offers nice views of the city.
Quiteños gather in Quito’s parks on weekends for a picnic or a drink. It is nice to take a look and mingle with the locals. The botanical garden is also a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Here you will become acquainted with different regions of Ecuador and their associated flowers and plants.
Cultural things to do in Quito Ecuador
Is it a rainy or cloudy day in Quito? Then visit one of the many cultural things to do and museums in Quito, Ecuador.
Visit the museums
Are you interested in art? Then the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo might be a good idea. Do you want to learn more about the history of Quito? The Museo de la Ciudad takes you on a journey through the history of Quito. The Museo Nacional, in the modern Casa de La Cultura, displays several collections consisting of pre-Columbian art, modern paintings and musical instruments. My personal favorite museum is Museo Casa del Alabado, a museum dedicated to pre-Columbian Ecuador.
Casa Museo Guayasamín – top things to do in Quito Ecuador
One museum deserves a special place in this list of places to visit and things to do in Quito Ecuador. And that is the museum of Guayasamín, one of my favorite artists from Latin America. This because of his use of color, absurd shapes and the intense emotions in the faces of the people he portrays. Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999) is considered one of Ecuador’s most important modern artists. In his lifetime he created 13,000 paintings and held more than 180 exhibitions around the world. At Casa Museo Guayasamín you will become acquainted with his best works in La Capilla del Hombre and visit his former home.
Curious? In the next article I will tell you everything you want to know about Oswaldo Guayasamín.
Meet Camilo Egas
I always find it interesting to discover local artists during a trip. It teaches you more about a country and culture. If you are in the old center of Quito, visit the museum of Camilo Egas (1889-1962), a modern Ecuadorian artist who focuses on the indigenous population in his works. Admission is free and you can get an impression of his work in a few rooms.
Things to do in the surroundings of Quito Ecuador – tips
Mitad del Mundo – famous things to do in Quito Ecuador
One of the sights and things to do you should not miss when visiting Quito Ecuador is El Mitad del Mundo, the center of the world, or the equator. El Mitad del Mundo is a monument where you stand with one leg in the northern hemisphere and the other one in the southern hemisphere.
The location of Mitad del Mundo was determined in the 18th century by a team of French explorers. However, a few years later it was discovered that this calculation was incorrect and that the real equator was a few hundred meters further. Here you will now find the Intiñan Equator Museum, which focuses on pre-Columbian cultures. Through experiments you will learn more about the meaning of the equator. Touristy? Certainly! Nevertheless, it is a fun and interesting way to reflect on the fact that you are in a special place on earth. Moreover, Intiñan is located in a tropical garden with countless hummingbirds and pre-Columbian statues. Mitad del Mundo and Intiñan are an hour’s drive from Quito.
Do you also want to visit the Equator in Quito Ecuador? You van book a tour here.
Mashpi Lodge and reserve
Looking for a place to stay in a natural environment near Quito? Mashpi Lodge is a 3-hour drive from Quito, located deep in the cloud forest. Mashpi Lodge is part of the protected Mashpi reserve, a unique ecosystem with trees, birds, frogs and animals that can only be found in this place in the world. During your stay you will take the most beautiful walks, walk through rivers and past waterfalls, observe birds and view the cloud forest from the air. There is a unique Sky Bike and a dragonfly, a gondola that takes you high above the treetops.
,You will spend the night in style in the luxurious lodge. Mashpi Lodge has even been declared one of the most unique lodges in the world, according to National Geographic. Curious about Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador? You can read more in the next article.
Do you also want to stay at Mashpi Lodge? Here you can find the latest prices and availability. Curious about special rates for a combined stay at Hotel Casa Gangotena in Quito and Mashpi Lodge? Send an email for more information to firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Cotopaxi volcano
Cotopaxi National Park is a 50 kilometer drive from Quito. At an altitude of 5,897 meters, Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world. There are several ways to visit the park. And one of the most adventurous ones is by mountain bike, where you cycle down from the snow all the way down through the national park. Along the way you have a chance of see foxes, deer and wild horses. Not in the mood for a bike ride? It is also possible to go for some nice walks and enjoy the National Park. You can book a day tour from Quito here.
Cotopaxi has had more than 50 eruptions since 1728. On a clear day the volcano can be seen all the way from Quito. Do you want to visit the Cotopaxi volcano from Quito Ecuador? You can book a tour here.
Mini Travel Guide Quito in Ecuador
Restaurants in Quito Ecuador – 8 x tips
You will find numerous restaurants in Quito. These are some of my personal tips for the best restaurants, cocktail bars and lunchrooms in Quito Ecuador.
Experience a tasting menu dinner at Restaurant Ines
Looking for a culinary experience in Quito? Then book a table at Restaurant Ines, in the ILLA Experience Hotel. Chef Juan Carlos Donoso pays tribute to his grandmother, and mother earth in a multi-course tasting menu. Typical Ecuadorian ingredients are used and each dish is so beautifully presented that it is almost too beautiful to eat. In the open kitchen you can have a look at the preparations and the stories that accompany the dishes are explained in detail at the table by the chef himself and his team.
Also, make sure to ask for the wine pairing. The sommelier knows how to present a perfect combination of local and international wines. And definitely try to get a table by the window, so that you have a view of Quito’s Virgen, watching out over the city.
More tips for best restaurants in Quito Ecuador
- For delicious vegetarian dishes, head to Los Padmitos in the San Marcos district. This small lunch shop is all about antiques and while you wait for your lunch, you can look at old slides.
- Drink delicious cocktails with a fantastic view on the roof terrace of Casa Gangotena.
- In Misky restaurant, which is part of the Museo de la Ciudad, you will find traditional dishes with a modern twist.
- Restaurant Marcando El Camino is located in the La Mariscal district. You can eat delicious dishes indoors or on the outdoor terrace in a casual atmosphere. Also a great place for coffee, tea and cake.
- At Urko in the La Floresta district, a new eleven-course tasting menu is served every season, based on the Raymi concept. Raymi is the central word in indigenous agricultural cycles and means celebration. Urko is included in many lists as one of the best restaurants in Quito Ecuador.
- Chez Jérôme, by chef Jérôme Monteillet, is also on the list of the World’s 50 best restaurants. Here you enjoy a French South American fusion cuisine in a stylish setting.
- Zazu is another fine-dining restaurant, with a multi-course tasting menu, created by chef Wilson Alpala.
Hotels in Quito Ecuador – 2 x tips
Quito has a wide range of hotels. I always prefer to stay in a beautiful boutique hotel with a nice atmosphere. If you are staying in the city for a few days, my recommendation is to stay in the historic center, within walking distance of the countless things to do that Quito, Ecuador, has to offer. These are my tips for the best hotels in Quito Ecuador.
ILLA Experience Hotel
ILLA Experience Hotel is located in the San Marcos district in the historic center of Quito. Behind the closed doors of this 17th-century mansion lies a world of its own, with beautifully decorated suites, restaurant Ines, where you enjoy a tasting menu, a roof terrace with views over the city and a large swimming pool.
The stylish boutique hotel has ten rooms spread over two floors. The rooms are decorated with luxurious materials and honor Ecuadorian traditions and cultures. Something that is reflected in the stylish design, furniture and art hanging on the walls. Each floor is inspired by a different era, but no two rooms are the same. Also make sure you book a table at Ines restaurant as soon as you can. In the next article I will tell you more about ILLA Experience Hotel and why you want to stay here during your visit to Quito
Hotel Casa Gangotena has a unique location, right next to the San Francisco Church, on the famous plaza square. You will find yourself in the heart of Quito with all sights and things to do within walking distance.
In Casa Gangotena you enter a palace, where luxury and history come together in a perfect way. All 31 rooms are stylishly decorated with high ceilings and windows, soft carpets, quality beds with luxurious linens, and furniture and design inspired by Art Deco. The most beautiful rooms are located at the front, with a view over Plaza San Francisco. From your balcony you can see the city waking up in the morning, before the busy city life begins. At the end of the day it slowly becomes pieceful again. Don’t forget to have a drink on the roof terrace and book a lunch in the beautiful patio. In the next article I will tell you about my stay at Hotel Casa Gangotena in Quito Ecuador.
Tips for tours and things to do in Quito Ecuador
- Mitad del Mundo – the equator
- Cotopaxi daytour
- Quilotoa Lake & Cotopaxi
- Quito Ecuador City Tour and equator
- Ecuador countryside: Otavalo, Cotacachi & Cuicocha
Climate in Quito
Due to its location on the equator, Quito has a constant and mild climate. During the day, temperatures fluctuate around 20 degrees. It cools down in the evening. The dry season runs from June to September. During the rainy season there can be short but heavy rain showers. In Quito it is best to wear layers, so that you can adjust your clothing to the weather during the day.
How to get around in Quito Ecuador
In the colonial center of Quito in Ecuador, all sights and things to do are easily accessible on foot. Do you want to go to other areas in the city? Then you can travel by public transportation, taxi or Uber. Are you going to explore more of Ecuador? I personally enjoy renting a car and exploring Ecuador in an independent way. But there are many tours to cities and national parks to be found. It is also easy to travel by bus or shuttle service.
Travel by bus or shuttle
Looking for a way to get around in Ecuador by bus or minivan? Use Bookaway, to find and book the best connection for you.
Looking for a rental car for your trip to Ecuador? Use Rental Cars to search and compare your car rental options. A quick and easy tool and no need to have up multiple tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. They also have great discounts and cancellation policies.
Book a flight
Looking for flights to travel to the South of Ecuador, Amazon or Galapagos Islands? Use Skyscanner, when it comes to searching for cheap flights across Ecuador. An easy way to compare and book your flight ticket, as it searches websites and airlines around the world with one click.
Safety tips in Quito Ecuador
Quito in Ecuador is a great city to explore but you have to be careful and be well informed before you go out. It is also important to watch your belongings and stay in certain aeas. Make sure to use common sense, be aware and keep the following recommendations in mind:
- be well informed before you take off (ask your hotel, airbnb, friends, collagues where to go or not)
- do not walk in suburbs by yourself
- take little or no belongings, when you go out
- leave all valuables in the safe of your hotel or lock it in your bag/suitcase
- take care of your belongings (do not carry them on your back, but on your belly)
- in the evening take a taxi as much as possible (especially in the center)
- don’t hike up the Panecillo, but take a taxi
Enjoy your time in Quito!
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More hotels in Ecuador
In every country I look out for the most beautiful and unique places to stay. A boutique atmosphere, a stylish design, a lovely setting, and a good service are important topics for me, when choosing a hotel. In addition, I like to support the locals and love a sustainable approach around a hotel. Are you curious about my favorite hotels in Ecuador? In the next article you will find an overview of the best boutique hotels in Ecuador, where I personally stayed.
More about Ecuador
Did you enjoy reading this article with tips for things to do in Quito Ecuador? Let me take you on a journey along the most beautiful destinations and places to visit Ecuador. In the next articles you will find my Ecuador travel guides with lots of inspiration and tips.
- Mashpi Lodge Ecuador – Everything you want to know!
- Casa Gangotena – Discover this boutique hotel in Quito Ecuador
- Discover ILLA Experience Hotel & Spa in Quito Ecuador
- Galapagos Islands Ecuador – everything you want to know about a trip and cruise
- Things to do in Riobamba Ecuador – a comprehensive guide with tips
- Best boutique hotels and lodges in Ecuador – 13 tips
- Chimborazo volcano Ecuador – tips for a visit and climb
- Things to do in Otavalo Ecuador – A comprehensive travel guide
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