Colonial Quito, Quito
We wanted to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU! Our travel was beautiful, a bride's absolute dream, all because of Edwin´s hard work.
At the beginning we have had some problems with the arrival transfer nobody was there.- That was annoying, as it was the first time we were in Quito, then for the next day we could contact a guy who helped us so polite.
My friend who is getting married soon and traveling to Ecuador asked me for private transportation in Quito - Ecuador and I sent her the email because then you do not have to worry about anything at the airport. Thank you for making our trip perfect and for your help Edwin during our visit to Ecuador.
In the corner of Rocafuerte and García Moreno, next to Arco de la Reina, is the Iglesia and Monasterio de Carmen Alto. The convent was founded already in 1653 and it is built where Santa Mariana de Jesús, the first Catholic saint of Ecuador, lived between 1618 – 1645.
The Carmelite nuns makes sweets like cockies and chocolate and it is sold from a small store. The nuns are only allowed to leave the convent if there is a very important reason.
The church is open for mass at 7am.
I have recently read that last year a museum opened up in the convent – Museo del Carmen Alto. Next time I visit Ecuador I will definitely go there.
Update August 2014: Unfortunately my visits to Quito were very short this year, only stayed a night at a time. In the morning of my last day in Ecuador I had planned to visit Museo del Carmen Alto though. Unfortunately it turned out that they didn't open until 11, the time I had to check out from the hotel. Well, next year than!
Arco de La Reina (Queen’s Arch) is a yellow and white arch built over García Morena, at Rocafuerte. It is situated next to Monasterio de Carmen Alto and was built in the 18th century to give shelter to churchgoers when it was raining. The original entrance to the centre of Quito was once where Arco de La Reina is standing.
When I visited Quito in 2014 they had painted the arch white.
Next door to the Centro Banco de Ecuador is the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus (Church of the Society of Jesus). We didn't have time to double back and see the interior of this church but it sounds like it's worth a stop being noted as Quito's most ornate church decorated with gold leaf, gilded plaster and wood carvings. The architects used four different styles, Baroque, Moorish, Churrigueresque amd Neoclassica,l but it doesn't look like a mish mash of styles. There's an admission charge, $2 or $3, which is why we didn't stop with the free walking tour.
This one was favorite exterior of any building in Quito, it's the former home of the Central Bank in Quito and houses the Museo Numismático which has exhibits on the different types of currency used in Ecuador. We didn't have time to visit but if you do, the admission fee is only $1
After the free walking tour, we hiked up to the Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) which was not covered on the tour. The entrance fee is $2 if you want to go up to the top, there is an elevator that takes you to the 1st level, from there you can climb to the top of the belfry and also make the rather scary climb to the top of the tower which consists of three ladder type staircases, not for those scared of heights. It was much scarier going down than up, I went down backwards, just like I would with a ladder. The views over the city are spectacular from the tower, it's worth the climb.
We then walked back down to the 1st level, I'm not sure we were supposed to be wandering around outside but the doors were unlocked and we got some great pictures of all of the grotesques (gargoyles without the water spouts), native Ecuadorian animals that decorate the outside-tortoises, anteaters, pelicans, penguins, iguanas, monkeys, owls.
Work started on the Basilica in 1883 and is still not technically finished, according to local legend, the end of the world would occur should they finish it. We visited for the views so except for a quick look from up above on the 1st level, we didn't actually visit the interior of the basilica
One of the prettiest spots in the old center of Quito is the Plaza de la Independencia, beautifully landscaped with flowers, trees, many of them flowering trees in bloom; and grass. The buildings around the plaza include the pink confection that is the Hotel Plaza Grande, the Catedral Metropolitana de Quito, and the Presidential Palace. In the center of the plaza, is the monument to the independence heroes of August 10, 1809
On the Free Walking Tour, we naturally only stopped by places that were free. The Iglesia de San Francisco is free and was open to the public when we went by. Services were in progress so the guide gave us a little background outside and inside at the rear of the church and then let us have a look around. According to a guidebook, it closes from noon to 3pm during the weekdays so time your visit for morning or after 3pm.
This was the first church built in Quito with construction beginning in 1535 according to my guidebook, just after the arrival of the Spanish although the plaque outside says "Se Construye entre 1540 Y 1580" (built between 1540 and 1580). It was built over the top of an Inca temple, which is why the church is much higher than other structures in Quito. The interior is baroque, the
baroque altar at the front has three important sculptures: the Baptism of Jesus, Almighty Jesus, and the Virgin of Quito which is the model for the larger statue on the Panecillo.
In the back of the church there are more statues, as the worshippers filed out of the church they all stopped to touch the fabric hem of what I assumed to be another virgin Mary.
Already in 1596 a church was built o this site. Today’s church is from the 17th century and it was constructed between 1644 and 1693. It is a large church with a neoclassical façade and a big dome.
When I visited Guápulo in 2011 it was closed, but luckily it was open when I came back in2013.
It is a beautiful church. The wooden pulpit from the 18th century was carved by the famous artist Menacho. There is a great collection of art made by Quito school artists and much of the paintings, sculptures and other religious items are housed in the museum rooms.
Admission was $1.50 (July 2013).
Convento de Carmen Bajo was originally not founded in Quito, but in Latacunga in 1669. Almost 30 years later the convent was destroyed in an earthquake. What was left was later taken to Quito and the convent was rebuilt there between 1718 – 1726. In 1745 it was inaugurated.
The remains of José de Sucre were kept here for many years until they were moved to the Cathedral in the beginning of the 20th century.
The church is open 8 – 12 and 15.30 – 17.
The Church and Monastery of Santa Clara was founded in 1596. There is no access to the monastery and the church was never open when I passed by (but hopefully next time I go to Quito).
I like the look of Santa Clara where it stands at the top of Plaza de Santa Clara. It is a quite plain whitewashed church with two doors facing the square. The bell tower is rather small.
I have always seen Santa Clara with the square in front of the church, but here on VT I have seen a photo showing that there used to be buildings there only some years ago.
I have not seen many vertical gardens so it was a nice surprise to see one near Banco Central and Plaza San Blas. The wall looked lovely with plants in different greens and some red colours as well. I had walked this way in 2011 and 2012 too, but had not noticed the green wall then, maybe I was not observant, or maybe it is new.
There seems to be more vertical gardens in Quito and I just read that the largest one in America can be found at Scala Shopping Mall in Cumbayá.
Just off the western corner of Plaza Grande is Centro Cultural Metropolitano situated. It is housed in a beautiful restored colonial building which was a Jesuit school between 1597 and 1767, and later it was used as army barracks. At Centro Cultural Metropolitano there are usually temporary exhibitions on display. When I visited they were setting up a photo exhibition at one of the inner courtyards with photos from Machu Picchu. You can also walk around quite freely, just admiring the architecture.
In the building you can also visit Museo Alberto Mena Caamaño, but I didn’t.
Update 2012: When I visited in June 2012 there was a very nice photo exhibition in Centro Cultural Metropolitano with photos from all over Ecuador.
This year I visited Museo Alberto Mena Camaño and I will write a separate tip on that museum.
Update 2013: When I visited this year there was a photo exhibition with sports motives, sports practiced in Ecuador. I also saw an advertisement of a free concert in the cultural centre, but when I came there the room was already full and lots of people were standing in the doorway.
The Monastery of San Diego is situated southwest of Centro Histórico. It is a lovely monastery from the 17th century, full of outstanding colonial religious art. There are works from both the Quito school and the Cusco school, and there are paintings, sculptures, furniture etc. It is absolutely worth a visit even if it is a little bit further away from many other places in Centro Histórico.
There were no other visitors here when I visited. I was shown to the different rooms and the church by a man who gave me some information, but then left me for a while to let me have some own time before he took me to another part of the monastery. Photography was allowed in the lovely courtyard and in the church, but not in the art exhibition rooms, so even if I was left alone there I didn’t take any photos.
Admission was $2 (August 2012).
San Diego church and monastery is open on Monday – Saturday, between 9.30 – 13 and 14 – 17.
A taxi from Plaza Grande to the Monastery of San Diego was $1. The first time I came here (the monastery was at that time closed for renovation) I realised it was not far to walk back to Plaza Grande. I asked a policeman standing in the corner if it was safe to walk in this part of town and he said no, I should take a taxi so I did.
The next time I visited I talked to a policeman about La Cima de La Libertad because a taxi driver had refused to take me there, saying it was not safe. The policeman also advised me not to go there. However he said it was safe to walk back from San Diego to Plaza Grande, not down along Rafael Barahona, but to the left along Chimborazo (and then to the right), because they had a policeman in every corner that way (at least that day). So, this time I walked.
Next to Iglesia de San Agustin is the San Agustin Monastery. It is housed in a large building from the 17th century, set around a nice courtyard.
I got a guided tour in Spanish when I visited. The tour started in the arched corridor around the courtyard where there are several large paintings depicting the life of San Agustín. They are made by the painter Miguel de Santiago. When you are here don’t forget to look at the ceiling which is very beautiful.
We then continued to Sala Capitular, where the signing of Ecuador’s declaration of independence took place on August 10, 1809. Below Sala Capitualar there is a crypt where many of the heroes of Ecuador’s struggle for independence are buried. The crypt is only open on August 2 (many of the freedom fighters were killed on August 2, 1810) so during this tour I could not see it. However, it happened that I was in Quito on the 2nd of August too, so when I passed San Agustin I decided to go inside and have a quick look at the crypt (on August 2 there is no admission).
On the second floor there is a collection of colonial religious art, like paintings and sculptures. In this part photography is not allowed.
San Agustin Monastery is open on Monday – Friday between 9 – 12.30 and 14.30 – 17, and on Saturdays between 9 – 13.
Admission was $2 (June 2012).