Many tourists pass through Quito quickly just seeing it as an essential hub to pass through on the way to their Ecuador or Galapagos holiday. This is a shape as there are plenty of things to do in Quito, including cultural and historical visits as well as opportunities to be more active. The top things to do in Quito will depend on your personal interests, but here we have compiled a list of the top eight highlights in Quito that our customers often rave about, and some of which are included on our popular Quito day tour.
One of the things to do in Quito which is almost always considered by tourists to be one of their highlights in Quito is a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site that is Quito’s colonial center. Wandering around the grand plazas you can get to see the Presidents Palace as well as a variety of historic churches that were built by different Christian groups, some of which were constructed as early as the sixteenth century. This area is a lovely spot for sitting in one of the cafes with street-side seating to watch the world going by. There are some very good tours available for visiting this part of Quito.
One of the highlights in Quito that many people miss because they simply do not know it is an option, is climbing up inside the Basilica church. This is perhaps not one for those that suffer from vertigo, or those that are not fit, as there are a fair few steps to climb to get to the top. It is also not a trip for the faint of heart, though if you can stomach it, the views are very well worth the effort. Once at the top there is a chance to wander around and get excellent views of the various parts of the church itself, as well as a unique view over the Old Town. You can also observe the clock tower from an unusual standpoint.
One of the things to do in Quito in a day that many visitors simply do not get around to, but is a truly lovely experience, is to take a walk in Parque Metropolitano. This is a massive urban park, which sits on a hill, and from the park you can get a tremendous view of Quito, and the mountains beyond. The park has a very untamed feel about it, and you will experience local life, as Quito’s residents love to come up here to walk and bike. You may also get to see llamas in the park. There are some good juice stands, so grab a freshly squeezed juice, sit back and watch the world going by.
One of the top things to do in Quito that might literally take your breath away due to the altitude, is taking a trip up the Teleferiqo. The Teleferiqo is a cable car which runs up the east side of the Pichincha volcano. Provided it is a nice day, the views from the gondolas on the way up are splendid, and the view from the top of the cable car ride is tremendous too. The ride takes approximately 20 minutes, and you wander around at the top at an altitude of between 3900 meters and 4100 meters. It is a wonderful place to get some good photographs of the tremendous view. Then grab a drink before heading down, with equally fabulous views on the way back too.
Lovers of art will particularly enjoy this, one of the key cultural highlights of Quito. The museum is home to a very comprehensive collection of the work of painter Oswaldo Guayasamin, who created his fine works of arts during the twentieth century. You can also visit the fine Capilla del Hombre gallery. The art work includes various different themes, and there is also a good collection of pre-Columbian ceramics from different parts of Ecuador, which is worth a look.
One really lovely thing to do in Quito at any time of the day, but particularly in the evening is to visit Café Mosaico. Take a taxi, as it is not safe to walk around in the streets in the evening. Make a reservation on the balcony for a fabulous view over Quito’s beautiful old town, with the Panecillo, the Virgen on the hill watching over the city. The old town is lit up at night and this makes for a very pretty view. Be sure to wrap up warm, as you’ll be sitting outside, and once the sun drops in Quito it becomes very chilly due to the altitude. However, this is for sure one of the highlights in Quito that a lot of visitors simply are not aware of. This place is good for a hot chocolate or a coffee, before moving on to your dinner destination.
To get a flavor of traditional culture in more ways than one, visit Rincon La Ronda (not to be confused with Calle La Ronda below – they are in two very different parts of the city). Rincon La Ronda serves traditional Ecuadorian fare, and some nights there is traditional entertainment including folk dancing too. The dances are of a high standard, and the experience gives a lovely insight into village life in the rural areas in Ecuador. It is also high spirited and entertaining, if a bit touristy. Rincon La Ronda does not have traditional dancing every evening, but check with your operator and they will likely be able to find a restaurant that does.
Once you’ve finished your dinner and the dance show is over, you might want to finish up your evening with a canelazo back in the Old Town, in Calle La Ronda. Canelazo is a warming alcoholic drink that will take the chill off any cold evening. Calle La Ronda itself is a lovely place to finish your day in Quito as its old cobbled streets really come into their own at night, with street entertainers, and lots of great people watching. This is very likely to be another of your highlights of Quito.