Churches are an important feature of Ecuadorian life, as a predominantly Christian and Catholic country. The interesting churches of Quito can mainly be found by walking around the old colonial center of Quito, and this is a real treat for anyone who loves visiting churches. While wandering in the old town you can also enjoy the fabulous architecture too. Here we will describe the main churches in Quito that are worthy of a visit, to help you get an idea of what you can see and where.
The Basilica, or the Basilica de Voto Nacional is a Roman Catholic church and might be considered one of the most important of the main churches in Quito. It was built in the neo-Gothic style and has a dominating presence over the city. The church started being built in the late 19 th century (1884). It is the biggest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. One really fun thing about a visit to the Basilica is that it is possible to visit the top of the towers and have a look around. From here it is possible to get a superb view of the city, and especially the old town. On clear day it is possible to see some of the picturesque volcanos around the city too. The Basilica church is located at Carachi 122 y Venezuela, and it is on the edge of the historic center of the city.
San Francisco church is more properly known as the Iglesia y Convento de St Francis. It stands proud on one side of the main square in the old town of Quito. It is a 16 th century Roman Catholic Church, and it was constructed over a period of 150 years (1534-1689). One particularly interesting fact is that the San Francisco church was built on the site of an Inca temple, which means it stands slightly higher than some of the other buildings in the city. It is considered to be a baroque church, and one of the most important in the city. Throughout the church are both Catholic and indigenous symbols. There is a lovely café out the front of the church, for a refreshing break from your church visits. The San Francisco Church can be found at Cuenca 447, in the heart of Quito’s old town.
La Compania, or as it is more fully known, La Compania de Jesus (Church of the Society of Jesus) is a Jesuit church, and one of the most interesting and spectacular in Quito. Work on the church began in 1605 and took another 160 years to finish. From the outside the church is distinctive for its green and gold domes. Also, within this church there is a very elaborate gold leaf display on the central nave, which makes it well worth a visit. Look closely at the pillars and you’ll spy indigenous faces and native plants among the designs. La Compania church is located at Garcia Moreno N10-43 in Quito, in the heart of the historic center of the city.
Santo Domingo church sits on a small square, and it was built by the Dominicans. Building started in 1580, and the church is one of the most important religious sites in the city. It was built by the Dominica religious order. When you go in, be sure to look up at the stunning ceilings within this lovely church. There are also baroque altarpieces within. Santo Domingo church can be found at Guayaquil S1-76, and again, it is in the historic old town of the city.
The San Agustin Church was built in the 16 th century. It was constructed from rock that was brought from the nearby Pichincha volcanoes that tower over the city. It is built in a baroque style. In 1880, after an earthquake a significant proportion of the church was rebuilt. Today it is possible to see an interesting collection of paintings by Miguel de Santiago, which are found within. The San Agustin church is located on the corner of Chile y Guayaquil streets, and like most of the other interesting churches to visit in Quito, it can be found in the old town.
The El Carmen Bajo church is a convent. The nuns who resided here lived a life of austerity. They relocated from Latacunga to Quito in the 17 th century, when their building there collapsed as a result of a large earthquake. Some of the remains of the original convent in Latacunga were used to reconstruct the building in Quito, and the work ran between 1718 and 1726. The church is interesting historically and architecturally. El Carmen Bajo church is located in the old town of Quito, on the corner of Venezuela and Olmedo streets.
There are a wealth of other churches in Quito that you could visit on your trip here, and many of these are considered important. One interesting one that is not in the old town, is the El Guapulo church, located in the Guapulo neighborhood. You can see this from a viewpoint in the city and then drop down through the winding streets to the church itself.
Our Insider Recommendations include that when visiting the churches of Quito, it is important to remember to be respectful, and in particular, this applies to dress. Shoulders should be covered for both men and women, and ideally you should be covered to the knees as well. Be mindful that there may be services going on inside the church, and do not disturb these with your visit. Finally, if you are going up to the top of the Basilica towers, make sure that you are acclimatized to Quito’s altitude first!
Why not get your trip to Ecuador off to a great start with a day tour of Quito? We live and work in Quito and we know the city inside out. Contact Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders today to find out about tours we offer.