Discover Quito’s History: Top Stops on Your Walking Tour

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is a place where history comes alive. As the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, Quito’s historic center is a well-preserved treasure trove of colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and significant historical landmarks. A free walking tour of Quito offers an immersive experience, allowing visitors to explore its rich history and culture on foot. Here are some key historical sites you shouldn’t miss on your walking tour of Quito.

Plaza Grande (Plaza de la Independencia)

The heart of Quito’s historic center, Plaza Grande is the city’s main square and a vibrant hub of activity. Surrounded by important buildings such as the Presidential Palace (Carondelet Palace), the Cathedral of Quito, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Municipal Palace, the plaza is a perfect starting point for your historical exploration. It has been the focal point of Quito’s social and political life for centuries.

La Compañía de Jesús

Known for its stunning baroque architecture, La Compañía de Jesús is one of the most beautiful churches in Quito. Its construction began in 1605 and took over 160 years to complete. The interior is adorned with gold leaf, elaborate altars, and intricate wood carvings, making it a masterpiece of baroque art in Latin America. The church’s façade and interior reflect the wealth and power of the Jesuit order during the colonial period.

San Francisco Church and Plaza

The San Francisco Church, with its adjoining convent and museum, is another must-visit historical site. This church, completed in 1604, is the oldest and largest of Quito’s colonial structures. The complex includes a beautiful plaza where local vendors sell traditional crafts and snacks. Inside, you’ll find stunning religious art and a rich history tied to Quito’s colonial past.

Basilica del Voto Nacional

While relatively modern compared to other historical sites in Quito, the Basilica del Voto Nacional is a neo-Gothic architectural marvel that should not be missed. Its construction began in the late 19th century and remains technically unfinished, reflecting an old legend. Climbing the basilica’s towers offers breathtaking panoramic views of Quito and a unique perspective on the city’s urban landscape.

Calle La Ronda

Calle La Ronda is one of the oldest streets in Quito, dating back to pre-colonial times. This charming, narrow street is lined with colonial houses, art galleries, cafes, and shops. It is a perfect place to experience the local culture and history, as it has been meticulously preserved to reflect its historical significance. Walking along La Ronda gives visitors a glimpse into the daily life of Quito’s residents throughout history.

Independence Monument

Erected in 1906, the Independence Monument in Plaza Grande commemorates Ecuador’s independence from Spain. This towering column is topped with a statue symbolizing liberty and surrounded by allegorical figures representing the struggle for independence. It serves as a poignant reminder of the country’s fight for freedom and the significance of Quito in Ecuador’s national history.

Museo de la Ciudad

Housed in a former hospital dating back to the 16th century, the Museo de la Ciudad offers a comprehensive look at Quito’s history from pre-Columbian times to the present. The museum’s exhibits cover various aspects of daily life, culture, and significant events in Quito’s history, making it an educational and enriching stop on your walking tour.

El Panecillo

For a panoramic view of Quito and a deeper historical context, a visit to El Panecillo is essential. This hill is crowned by a statue of the Virgin Mary and offers sweeping views of the city. The site has historical significance dating back to pre-Columbian times when it was a worship place for the indigenous Quitu people. Today, it provides a perfect vantage point to appreciate the layout and beauty of Quito’s historic center.


Walking through Quito’s historic center is like stepping back in time. Each site tells a story, from the colonial grandeur of its churches and plazas to the vibrant culture of its streets. A free walking tour of Quito offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore these key historical sites, providing a deeper understanding of the city’s rich heritage and its enduring charm. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply a curious traveler, Quito’s historic center promises a memorable journey through time.