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One of the coolest tourism promotional phrases we saw in our time in Quito was the phrase “Touch the sky” it captures perfectly the sensation the city created for us as visitors. Everywhere you turn there are dramatic peaks and valleys, the character of the city is forged as impressive, in its sprawling majesty amidst the backdrop of the Andes. It is less touristy than Cusco and balances a modern high capital with some of the best preserved colonial architecture.
It is a city that will take your breath away in more ways than one. It sits at a very high altitude and you can feel it sitting still or just walking. We recommended that people take it easy because its an adjustment for everyone differently. Also it can be better or worse for people at different times.
Many of the hotels are located in a newer part of town just outside the historic “old town” that is a UNESCO world heritage site that is the main tourist attraction. The commute is around 15 minutes in normal traffic and it can be done in bus, taxi or Uber.
We had a pocket map which was helpful but you can explore most of the old town by simply wandering the main streets. They are wide for an old city and every beautiful building, parks, squares and the abundant Churches are massive. Streets are clean and safe, while they are well patrolled by the police we recommend to take the normal precautions of protecting your valuables and refrain from standing out with them.
The Plaza Mayor is a good place to situate yourself and explore from. It sits next to the Cathedral which has various museums and an impressive interior design. The churches in Ecuador are its biggest cultural treasures. Not only are they found on every corner, they big and are elaborated internally with craftsmanship that rivals anything we have seen in Europe or elsewhere. The hallmark of these buildings is the ornate use of precious medals, woods, minerals and stones.
The Compania Jesus church is the city’s most renowned attraction. It seemingly is covered with every inch in some form of gold, we’ve never seen any church as richly adorned as this wonder of the world.
San Francisco is another church worth seeing, it sits on a wide open square overlooking much of the cityscape around where one can see the peaks of church towers and the megalithic styled buildings that make up the city’s fine architecture. Santo Domingo is another place worth seeing as well.
A few minutes walking from the Church district you can find a quaint street with an archway called Calle La Ronda, it is home to many sculptors and jewelers and typical houses that have existed since the earliest days of the city. Further into the newer part of town sits the Mercado artesanal, it has the most dense collection of souvenirs and handcrafts one can find in the city with over 100 stalls. It is located on Jorge Washington street.