Best Things To Do in Quito

Quito is a city full of history where past and present converge. Surrounded by mountain ranges and volcanoes, its location in the heights and in the middle of the world make it one of the most interesting destinations in the Americas.

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

12 min read

Best Things To Do in Quito

Mitad del Mundo |©Jc2daK

Quito is located at 2,850 meters above sea level between the Andes Mountains, very close to the Equator. It is the oldest capital of the Americas, with a well-preserved historic center, and one of the most visited cities on the continent. This is due in part to its proximity to the Pichincha volcano and the Equator.

There are many things to see and do in Quito, such as visiting ancient churches, climbing to viewpoints with panoramic views, swinging at 3,000 meters above sea level, discovering pre-Columbian art, exploring buildings where legends abound, or setting foot in each hemisphere near the city. Here are the most interesting things to do in the city, although there is much more to explore.

1. Walk around the city's main square: Plaza Grande.

The Plaza Grande|©Oscar Padilla Álvarez
The Plaza Grande|©Oscar Padilla Álvarez

The Plaza Grande or Plaza de la Independencia is Quito's most important square and the heart of its Historic Center. Around it are several emblematic buildings of the city: the Metropolitan Cathedral, the most important in Ecuador; the Carondelet Palace, which is the official residence of the president; and the Archbishop's Palace.

In the square is the Monument to Independence, which was built in honor of the heroes who promoted "The First Cry of Independence" of Ecuador in 1809. The origins of the square date back to the year 1500, when it used to have a water fountain in the center, right where the monument is located today. The square is one of the must-see attractions of the city, and is included in all guided tours of Quito.

  • Location: Venezuela Avenue between Chile and Espejo. Historic Center of Quito.

Metropolitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral is the oldest church in South America, built between 1562 and 1567. In it you can see the confluence of indigenous and Spanish art, and various architectural styles. It has a museum where works of art, paintings and sculptures of the Escuela de Arte Quiteña are exhibited.

  • Hours: Monday to Saturday and holidays from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, and Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  • Entrance fee: about 4 EUR.

Carondelet Palace

It is the official residence of the president, which is not the actual seat of the president. They usually offer guided tours by reservation, where you can look out from the presidential balcony. But the most interesting thing is to see the Tarqui Grenadiers, in their typical costumes, guarding the entrance to the palace.

It is very popular in the city to see the Changing of the Guard, which takes place every Tuesday at noon, and involves horses adorned with pompoms, drums, marching soldiers and the singing of the national anthem.

Archbishop's Palace

The Archbishop's Palace is one of the oldest in Quito, dating from the 16th century. Although the offices of the bishopric are located inside, in its patios and balconies there are also handicraft stores and restaurants with a privileged view of the square.

Book a guided tour of Quito

2. Experience latitude 0 at the Mitad del Mundo Monument

Quito - Middle of the World|©Santiago Stucchi Portocarrero
Quito - Middle of the World|©Santiago Stucchi Portocarrero

One of the most popular things to do near the city is to visit the Mitad del Mundo Monument, and it's the reason many people take a transfer from the airport to Quito. It is a place where you can put a foot in each hemisphere; or check out experiments related to Latitude 0.

The Mitad del Mundo Monument is located about 28 km from the city center, and you can get there on the Mitad del Mundo bus, or by hiring a tour of Quito, as most include a visit to this monument. On the site there are museums, exhibition halls and restaurants; and every weekend there are events and concerts.

Apparently, the Equator line does not actually pass by the monument, but 200 meters from there, at the Museo Solar Intiñán. You can take advantage of your visit to visit this museum, and learn about the astronomy and culture of the native inhabitants of South America.

Details of interest

  • Location: Mariano Calvache E18-94 y, Quito 170135.
  • Hours: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm; and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9 am to 6 pm.
  • Admission: about 5 EUR for adults and about 2.5 EUR for children.

Book your airport transfer

3. Discover the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal

Quito: La Mariscal Artisan Market|©yucan
Quito: La Mariscal Artisan Market|©yucan

One of the most visited places in Quito is the Mercado La Mariscal, where you can find a wide variety of handicrafts such as paintings, embroidered fabrics and garments, tapestries, jewelry, musical instruments such as quenas and ocarinas, and even Panamanian hats, which are actually originally from Ecuador.

This is one of the main handicraft markets in the country, located about 3 km from the Plaza Grande. It has about 200 stores selling handmade products, many of which are made using ancient indigenous techniques. It is the ideal place to buy typical Ecuadorian handicrafts.

Another popular market near Quito is the Otavalo Market, which is considered one of the best in South America. You can reach the city of Otavalo by bus in about two hours, or hire a tour from Quito, which will also take you to see many natural attractions of this city and its surroundings, such as the Cuicocha Lagoon.

Details of interest

  • Location: Jorge Washington 611, Quito 170143.
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm, and Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm.

Book an excursion to Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha.

4. Visit the legendary San Francisco Church

San Francisco Church and Convent|©Elias Rovielo
San Francisco Church and Convent|©Elias Rovielo

The Church of San Francisco, built in the 16th century, is considered the largest religious architectural complex in the Americas. It covers about two blocks, and includes chapels, temples, a convent and an important Franciscan library.

The church, which was consecrated to San Francisco, consists of 13 cloisters, a main altar and the library. Inside, it houses some 3,500 works of art from the Quito School, which developed between the 16th and 18th centuries. Among them is the Virgin of Quito, from the 18th century, which is a symbol of the city.

On the façade, the Inca representations of the sun, whose purpose was to attract the Native Americans to the church, stand out. During your visit you can visit the Plaza de San Francisco, and also the catacombs of the church, where today there is a craft market.

On the other hand, the church has gained prominence in the culture of the city, due to the legends that are told about it. It is said that the church was built by an army of little devils, since Cantuña, an Indian who was commissioned to build it, made a pact with the devil to build the complex in a short time.

Details of interest

  • Hours: Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5.30 pm. Sundays from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.
  • Entrance fee: about 3 EUR per person.

Book a tour of legends

5. Dazzle yourself at the Church of the Company of Jesus

Compañía de Jesús Church|©arjunalistened
Compañía de Jesús Church|©arjunalistened

The Iglesia Compañía de Jesús is one of the most visited churches in Quito, due to its gleaming interior: it is almost entirely covered with 23-carat gold leaf. It is a 17th century baroque style church with a facade made of volcanic stone. It was built by the Jesuits, who were inspired by two Roman Jesuit temples: Il Gesú and San Ignacio.

The walls of the church were carved by artists of the Escuela Quiteña, who turned it into a true jewel of the city. It is estimated that the church contains a ton of gold. This would have been contributed by the Indians who wanted to ensure that their children would go to the Jesuit university that was later built.

The Iglesia Compañía de Jesús is of baroque style, with a mixture of other styles such as Mudejar and neoclassical. Its interior features two large canvases, The Last Judgment and The Inferno, which were painted by Hernando de la Cruz in 1620.

If it coincides with the date of your visit, keep in mind that the museum offers free guided tours on the first Sunday of each month.

Details of interest

  • Location: García Moreno N10-43, Quito.
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, Fridays from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, Saturdays and holidays from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm and Sundays from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • Entrance fee: about 5 EUR per person. It costs about 3 EUR extra to go up to the domes.

6. Take a ride on Quito's cable car

The cable car|©Diario El Universo
The cable car|©Diario El Universo

One of the best things to do in Quito is to take a ride on the 4,000 meter high cable car to see the city and the surrounding mountain scenery. Quito is a high altitude city (2,850 meters above sea level) and was built on one of the slopes of the Andes Mountains.

The cable car takes you about 5 km from the historic center of Quito and takes you to the top of the Cruz Loma hill. The ride takes about 20 minutes, and once at the top you can go hiking, biking or climbing; and take the best photos. A very popular trail is the one that takes you to the Pichincha Volcano, which is about 10 km long.

You can't miss the swings, where you can experience some vertigo. At the top you will also find the Ermita de la Dolorosa and a small shopping center. On the way down, you can go to Vulqano Park, an amusement park with games for children and adults.

Recommendations to go up the TeleferiQo

The Quito cable car, or TeleferiQo, is considered the highest in South America. Be aware that it can give you altitude sickness at the top, so it is advisable to bring coca leaves to chew, candy or pills. That is why on 3-day stays in Quito, it is usually done on the second or third day, so you can acclimatize to the altitude. Also remember to bring enough warm clothes.

Details of interest

  • Location: Fulgencio Araujo, y, Quito 170527.
  • Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and weekends from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. The drop-off time is at 7 pm.
  • Admission fee: about 9 EUR for adults and about 7 EUR for children under 18 years old. Pets can go up for a fee of 5 EUR. The cost for bringing a bicycle up is about 5 EUR.
  • How to get there: the bus drops you off at the base of the cable car in about an hour from the Historic Center of Quito. By car you arrive in about 15 minutes.

7. Enjoy the views at the Panecillo


The Panecillo is a hill located in the center of Quito that offers one of the best views of the city. It is famous for the Virgin of Panecillo located at the top, which is made entirely of aluminum. It measures about 30 meters and is considered the tallest aluminum statue in the world.

The hill is located south of Quito, about 2 km from the Plaza Grande. You can get there by bus in about 40 minutes or in 15 minutes by car. It is possible to walk up to the top of the hill, but be aware that the path is not very safe. Another option is to hire a tour, as it is an attraction that is included in most guided tours of Quito.

The viewpoint of the hill, which you reach by narrow stairs, offers one of the best views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes. From the heights you can see many of the city's historic buildings, such as the San Francisco Church and the Metropolitan Cathedral. There are also craft stores, places to buy food and a small museum at the base of the statue.

As for the Virgen del Panecillo, it is a replica of the Virgin of Quito, which is located on the main altar of the Church of San Francisco. This was made by Bernardo de Legarda in 1734. In addition, the hill used to be a sacred place for the native inhabitants of these lands, and many legends are told about it, due to the tunnels that are in the hill.

Details of interest

  • Location: Fulgencio Araujo, y, Quito 170527.
  • Hours: Open all day. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, and closes one hour earlier on weekends.
  • Admission: free. The entrance to the museum costs about 2 EUR per person.

Book a guided tour

8. Explore the most interesting museums in the city

Oswaldo Guayasamin House-Museum|©Sebas Viera
Oswaldo Guayasamin House-Museum|©Sebas Viera

During your visit, you cannot miss visiting Quito's best museums, especially if you are interested in learning about its history, art and culture. Some of the most recommended museums are the Pre-Columbian Art Museum and the Casa Guayasamin Museum, dedicated to the work of this artist.

In the Pre-Columbian Art Museum Casa Alabado you can see paintings, sculptures, replicas of its architecture and other objects that belonged to the ancient inhabitants of this region. It is located about 5 blocks from Plaza Grande. There are several 30-minute guided tours (plus a 30-minute free tour) that you can take that deal with specific themes.

The Museo Casa Guayasamín used to be the home of the renowned Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín, which today has been converted into a museum. In addition to the artist's works, you can see the pre-Columbian and colonial art objects he collected. It is located about 7 km from the Plaza Grande. Additionally, and very close to the Guayasamin House Museum is the Museum of Man, built by the artist in honor of the human being.

Pre-Columbian Art Museum Casa Alabado

  • Location: Cuenca N1-41, Quito 170401.
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Entrance fee: about 6 EUR per person for guided tours.

Guayasamín House Museum

  • Location: Mariano Calvache E18-94 and, Quito 170135.
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am to 4.45 pm.
  • Entrance fee: about 10 EUR per person for guided tours.

Buy tickets to Capilla del Hombre and Casa Museo Guayasamín

9. Tour Itchimbía Park and Itchimbía Viewpoint

Itchimbia Park Viewpoint Quito - Ecuador|©Foro Social Mundial de las Migraciones
Itchimbia Park Viewpoint Quito - Ecuador|©Foro Social Mundial de las Migraciones

Itchimbía Park is located west of the Historic Center, at an altitude of 2910 meters. It is a green space of about 54 hectares where there are fields for sports, jogging and cycling tracks and playgrounds for children.

From the park's viewpoint you can see the historic center of Quito, the Panecillo, which is another of the main viewpoints of the city, and the surrounding neighborhoods. You can also see the mountain range and the volcanoes that surround the city, especially on sunny days.

In addition to enjoying the park's nature and views, you can visit the Itchimbía Cultural Center, also known as the Crystal Palace, where you can see exhibitions, listen to live concerts or participate in cultural activities. The building, whose walls are made of glass, was restored from an old iron structure that used to be a market.

In the park you can also find the sign with the name of the city, where it is usual to take pictures. There are also restaurants and bars in the park, where you can recharge your batteries before continuing your tour, while enjoying the beautiful view of the place.

Details of interest

  • Location: QGH2+39C, Quito 170136.
  • Hours: daily from 5 am to 6 pm, and closes one hour earlier on weekends.
  • Admission: free.
  • How to get there: from Plaza Grande you can get there in half an hour walking, in half an hour by bus.

Book a bike tour

10. Discover La Ronda street

La Ronda Neighborhood|©Elias Rovielo
La Ronda Neighborhood|©Elias Rovielo

La Ronda Street is a traditional street in the Historic Center of Quito full of craft stores, literary cafes, bars and restaurants. It is a cobblestone alley with a slope, where you can try typical local dishes and learn more about the culture of the city.

The street is actually called Juan de Dios Morales, and runs from the old Cumandá Terminal to Boulevard 24 de Mayo. The street comes alive especially after sunset, when the lighting transports you to another era, and in many places you can listen to live music. That is why it is one of the places visited during the night gastronomic tours.

Among the outstanding attractions you can see on this street are the Casa de las Artes de La Ronda and Casa 707, where art exhibitions and concerts are held. You can also visit the Chapel of the Robbery, which was built on the site where objects stolen from the Santa Clara convent were found, a robbery that shocked the city and about which many legends are told.

La Ronda street is a good place to try typical Quito dishes such as empanadas de morocho or empanadas de viento and drinks such as canelazo, made of cinnamon and liquor, or fruit wine.

Details of interest

  • Location: QFGP+87W, Venezuela, Quito 170130, Ecuador.
  • Hours: Bars, restaurants and nightclubs are open daily from 3 to 0 hs. Stores open from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • Entrance fee: free.

Book a night gastronomic tour