A Local’s Guide to Quito’s Historic Center

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a city steeped in history and brimming with culture. Nestled high in the Andes, Quito’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, this local’s guide will help you explore the heart of Quito, revealing hidden gems and must-see landmarks along the way.

Exploring Quito’s Historic Center

1. Start at Plaza Grande (Independence Square)

Plaza Grande, the heart of Quito, is the perfect starting point for your adventure. Surrounded by significant buildings like the Presidential Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Archbishop’s Palace, this bustling square offers a glimpse into Ecuador’s political and religious history. Stroll around, take in the sights, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

2. Visit La Compañía de Jesús

Just a short walk from Plaza Grande, you’ll find La Compañía de Jesús, one of the most beautiful churches in Latin America. Known for its stunning Baroque architecture and intricate gold leaf interior, this Jesuit church is a testament to Quito’s rich artistic heritage. Spend some time admiring the detailed carvings and ornate decorations that make this church a true masterpiece.

3. Wander Through Calle La Ronda

Calle La Ronda is a charming cobblestone street that offers a taste of Quito’s colonial past. Lined with colorful houses, artisan shops, and cozy cafes, La Ronda is a great place to explore on foot. Visit local artisans, sample traditional Ecuadorian snacks, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of this historic street.

4. Explore the San Francisco Church and Plaza

The San Francisco Church and Plaza is one of Quito’s most iconic landmarks. This impressive complex, which dates back to the 16th century, includes a church, a convent, and a museum. The church’s stunning façade and expansive courtyard are perfect for photography, while the museum offers insights into Quito’s colonial history and religious art.

5. Discover Quito’s Museums

Quito’s historic center is home to several fascinating museums. The Museo de la Ciudad, housed in a beautifully restored colonial building, offers an in-depth look at Quito’s history and culture. For art enthusiasts, the Museo Casa de Sucre and the Museo Alberto Mena Caamaño are must-visit destinations, showcasing a range of historical artifacts and art pieces.

Cultural Experiences in Quito

1. Attend a Traditional Market

To truly experience Quito’s local culture, visit one of its bustling markets. The San Francisco Market is a great place to start, offering a wide variety of fresh produce, traditional foods, and handmade crafts. Engage with friendly vendors, learn about Ecuadorian culinary traditions, and perhaps pick up a unique souvenir to remember your trip.

2. Experience Local Festivals

Quito’s historic center is the stage for many vibrant festivals and cultural events throughout the year. From religious processions to lively music festivals, these events provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local traditions. Check the local calendar and try to time your visit to coincide with one of these colorful celebrations.

3. Sample Ecuadorian Cuisine

No visit to Quito is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. The historic center boasts numerous restaurants and street food vendors offering traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Try local favorites like ceviche, empanadas, and locro de papa (potato soup). Don’t forget to wash it down with a refreshing glass of fresh fruit juice or a cup of rich Ecuadorian coffee.

Practical Tips for Your Visit

  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Quito’s historic center is best explored on foot, and the cobblestone streets can be uneven.
  • Stay Hydrated: The high altitude can be challenging, so drink plenty of water and take it easy, especially if you’re not accustomed to the altitude.
  • Secure Your Belongings: While Quito is generally safe, it’s always wise to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings.


Exploring Quito’s historic center is like stepping back in time. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture, this area offers endless opportunities for discovery and adventure. Whether you’re wandering through ancient streets, visiting awe-inspiring churches, or enjoying local cuisine, Quito’s historic center is sure to leave a lasting impression. So, pack your bags, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to explore the heart of Quito like a local.