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QUITO: SIGHTS in a NUTSHELL

Mish-mash of Dominic Hamilton and Derek Davies text
Photos by Dominic Hamilton
 

The Old Town

Best views:

The neo-gothic Basílica del Voto Nacional, the highest church in the country. Take the lift in the left tower up to the lookout terrace, where there's also a handy, if quirky, café, open 9:30 am to 5 pm every day.

The Panecillo ('little loaf of bread') hill, with the huge, winged statue, of the Virgen de Quito trampling on a dragon, the city's most prominent landmark. Take a taxi. Also check out the restored Monasterio de San Diego on Calicuchima 117 and Farfán, to the east of the Panecillo hill.

Best churches:

The Cathedral, though grand and imposing from the outside, is a disappointment inside, despite guarding the tomb of Grand Marshal Sucre, and being the site of the poisoning of the city's bishop in 1877.

The main chapel of the cathedral, the beautiful El Sagrario, recently restored.

Magnificent volcanic stone façade of La Compañía de Jesús, considered to be the loveliest church in Ecuador. Built by the Jesuits, its massive altars, baroque columns and ceilings are laden with tonnes of gold leaf, though some of its most precious treasures are kept in the vault of Banco Central and only displayed on festival days.

The huge Iglesia de San Francisco, South America's oldest church, begun soon after the city was founded, in 1536. The church's interior rivals that of La Compañía, with more gold leaf than a conquistador could have dreamed of. Highlights include the unique carving of the winged Virgin by Bernardo de Legarda, and the altar and paintings of La Capilla de Cantuña, an adjoining chapel.

Iglesia Santo Domingo, one of Quito's earliest. The interior and altar were redesigned in the nineteenth century, and pretty much ruined it, though the Chapel of the Rosary to the right of the altar is still a delight.

Iglesia La Merced, built to commemorate the eruptions of Volcán Pichincha that threatened to destroy the city. Paintings, amid the pink, white and gold leaf extravaganza inside, show scenes of erupting volcanoes. The cloisters of the adjoining convent are especially beautiful.

The small Church of San Blas, one of the few churches open to Indians in colonial times.

Ornate carvings on the doors of the El Carmen Bajo church.

San Agustín begun in the sixteenth century. Much of the church was rebuilt in the nineteenth century, but its dark interior and large canvases are still captivating. The adjoining convent boasts a lovely cloister, housing a museum of important paintings of the Quito School.

Best Museums:

Museo de San Francisco, open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 6 pm, Sunday 9 am to noon. Beautiful cloisters and the excellent collection of paintings, furniture and sculpture which once housed the city's School of Painting and Arts - you'll note the remnants of the pupil's paintings on the walls. The tour also includes a visit to the church's choir with its fantastic mudejar (Moorish) ceiling, whose symmetrical patterns and gold leaf seem to float off up to heaven.

Museo de la Ciudad, open 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Imparts a dynamic and occasionally interactive view of the city's social history, from its prehistoric inhabitants to the present day. The museum is housed within the beautiful Hospital San Juan de Dios, where the poor and sick were cared for until it closed 1974. Watch out for the extraordinary series of three large canvases depicting the Conquest by contemporary artist Jaime Zapata.

Museo Fray Pedro Bedón showcases many beautiful Dominican treasures from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. It's open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

Casa de María Augusta Urrutia, a nineteenth century house with its three patios offers a wonderful peek at the high society world of Quito, with its European furniture, sewing rooms, drawing rooms and salons.

Casa de Sucre, the house of the dashing liberator Grand Marshal Antonio José de Sucre, (Calle Sucre at the corner of Venezuela; open Tuesday to Saturday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) is another fine late-colonial house. Though much of the exhibits pertain to military history, there are also many impressive examples of period furniture and painting.

Squares:

Plaza de la Independencia (known locally as Plaza Grande). The square is overlooked by a number of distinguished civic buildings and is the setting for the Victorian-style Liberty Monument in the midst of palms and flowerbeds, old men and children, shoe-shiners and benches. The Presidential Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, the modern City Administration Building and the Cathedral command the locus of the old town.
Plaza de San Francisco
Plaza del Teatro

Also:

 

La Ronda, with some charming Spanish-style houses with balconies, reminiscent of Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville, with tile portraits of famous musicians and composers adorning some of the houses' walls.

Tanguiez: A good place to recharge your batteries or grab a light lunch. A café and artesanía shop at the foot of the Iglesia de San Francisco's steps.

 

The New Town:

Parque La Alameda and the Quito Observatory
Palacio Legislativo
Parque El Ejido
, Quito's biggest downtown park.


Casa de la Cultura Complex



Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador
offers a wide cultural and artistic perspective on Ecuador's proud history - and some exhibits, such as an extraordinary ceremonial gold mask, will make your chin drop. The Sala de Arqueología; Sala de Oro; colonial, Republican and contemporary art.

Casa de la Cultura museum complex: museums of musical instruments, Ecuadorian art (particularly Eduardo Kingman's indigenismo canvases) and traditional dress from indigenous cultures.

Museo del Instituto Geográfico Militar, includes a geographical museum and a planetarium with shows several times a day.

Museo Guayasamín, a cultural multiplex covering pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary art but on a smaller, more personal scale than the Banco Central or Casa de la Cultura. The best of the museum is the powerful, harrowing paintings of the internationally-known artist, Oswaldo Guayasamín, while the pre-Columbian and colonial sections belonged to his private collection.

Vivarium, a living showcase of many of the species found in Ecuador: deadly fer-de-lances and anacondas, as well as iguanas, turtles and tortoises (a vivarium is an artificial enclosure for keeping or raising living animals).

See New Sights for info on the Jardin Botanico

Museo de Ciencias Naturales.

The Museo Amazónico, small but interesting collection of artifacts, weapons, costumes, photographs, videos and books on Indian cultures. The collection is housed within the Abya-Yala building, which includes an unsurpassed bookshop on indigenous issues (mainly in Spanish). Av. 12 de Octubre 1430 y Wilson.
Tel (022) 562633, 506247- FAX (022) 506255
www.abyayala.org

The museum of the Fundación Sincha Sacha has ethnographic artifacts, information on the peoples of the rainforest and a gift shop.

Seventeenth-century Santuario de Guápulo with its with beautiful paintings and sculpture, and a lovely carved pulpit. The district is also a steep and cobbled haven from downtown Quito, yet very close.

 

 
To celebrate the deal, Guide2Galapagos is offering Ecuadorial visitors an exclusive offer: Book a Luxury class yacht with them, and they'll give you THREE AIRPORT TRANSFERS FOR FREE; two for first class and one for tourist-superior. So, what are you waiting for? Check out their highly-informative site. Blue boobies, giant tortoises, sealions and marine iguanas are only a click or two away!

SMALL PRINT: On the request page, you must state you came from Ecuadorial to benefit from the airport transfer offer.
>> Ecuadorial Galapagos Pages  >>
 

 

 

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