Quito the capital of Ecuador is a narrow but long city nestled in between the Andean mountains. The length of the city can make transversing it slightly difficult and some times uncomfortable but its doable. There are enough things to do in Quito to keep you entertained for at least 3 to 4 days. Check out our top things to do in Quito below. The list is shorter than we had planned as I was sick for a day or two, so instead of venturing out we watched 3 out of the 4 Hannibal movies and eat pizza!
Top things to do in Quito
Basilica del Voto
This gothic-styled basilica is truly an amazing piece of architecture. Its stained glassed windows, animal based carvings instead of gargoyles/angels keep watch along the side of the church, and its imposing structure, which can be admired from many areas in the historic center, make it a must see. To add to all this you can also go inside and climb up the tower to get an awesome view over Quito.
The Basilica as seen from the historic centre
There are some nice views from the top!
The inside has this fun platform
Its costs $2 for foreigners and $1 for nationals. I honestly don’t know why a church would have this price difference but there you go. Its a nice way to spend an hour or two, and is worth it. Opening hours for the tower are 9am-5pm.
Views of the towers from the inside
This stain glassed window inside was a personal favourite
Free Walking Tour
We did the Free Walking tour with Community hostel. As with all Free walking tours it is based on tips, some suggest between $5-10 but it is up to you. Check them out on www.freewalkingtourecuador.com and register ahead of time as it is a popular tour. Tours start at 10.30am and 14.30 and visit the historic center of town. It is a long tour which lasts between 3 – 4 hours. Thankfully the group sizes were split in two but in saying that there were still 22 people in our group. We found it to be a tad long but enjoyed learning about the city, places to visit, Ecuador’s history and present difficulties.
Plaza de la Independencia
For some nice views over Quito and a chance to take a picture with the Quito sign, head to Itchimbía Park. There are a number of stairs that must be tackled before reaching the park but after a short enough walk/climb you will be rewarded with a good view over the city. Its a nice way to spend an hour or two.
The Quito sign in Itchimbía Park
The views of the city are pretty good too!
There are some running and cycle tracks around the park too, if you are looking to exercise a bit more. To get to the park we followed Maps.me.
Visit La Ronda and Mercado Central
La Ronda is a small pretty pedestrianized street. It used to be home to many artists, then became a more seedy area until it was restored to what it has become today. There are number of restaurants along the street where you can taste some traditional Ecuadorian food.
La Ronda street
We went to Mercado Central a number of times as it was a stones throw away from our hostel. To be honest you can find cheaper food in the city for almuerzo but its worth a visit to try Locro de Papa. This is a creamy potato and cheese with avocado soup and it is delicious. It cost $4 but is a traditional dish and tasty. Its a nice place to walk around, take in the atmosphere and buy a smoothie.
You can find all types of stuff in the market!
Middle of the World or La Mitad del Mundo
How cool is it to go and have the chance to visit the middle of the world?! I think very cool and I was really excited. As this is one big tourist attraction, our recommendation is to go early and beat the crowds. Don’t forget to bring your passport for a stamp at the middle of the world if you are into that.
There are two separate equator attractions 1) Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, and 2) Museo Solar Intinan. We think you should go to both if time permits and cost is not an issue as both are very different to each other.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo
It cost $5 to enter. This is where the main and impressive monument can be found. However it is not actually on the equator, being approximately 200m south of it. It is a nice area with shops, different museums (chocolate, beer, coffee), a planetarium and lots of restaurants so you could easily spend a few hours wandering around. Inside the monument there are some scientific experiments and a viewpoint to enjoy.
Standing on the “equator”
Mitad del Mundo
The monument is pretty impressive
So are the views from the top of it!
Museo Solar Intinan
This museum is located approximately 300m away from Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. Turn left when exiting CMdM and walk abut 200m until you see a left turn, turn left and walk another 100m until you reach the entrance. It costs $4 to enter but includes a guided 45min tour of the area in English, Spanish, French and maybe more languages. Supposedly this is where the real equator is.
One of the strange exhibits at the Museo – a shrunken sloth head is in that box
The tour itself is a bit of fun doing some egg balancing experiments, watching water flowing down a sink and and strength tests on either sides of the equator. There is also some other random things there as part of the tour like a shrunken head, examples of old traditional houses and some statues.
At the actual equator location
How to get to the Middle of the World
Make your way to Terminal de la Ofelia, the bus station on the North of the city. We did this by taking the metro bus from the historic center to Ofelia, 0.25cents for approximately the hours journey. There are buses with signs for Ciudad del Mundo where the metro bus drops you off so head for them or just ask around. The bus costs 0.15cents. The bus will drop you off very close to Ciudad del Mundo and it couldn’t be any easier than that.
There are tours and taxi options available but when it is so simple and cheap to do it yourself, then why not.
Other things to do in Quito
Panecillo hill and the worlds largest winged statue of the Virgin Mary (supposedly) is clearly visible from most areas in the old town. Get a taxi or climb up to see this statue up close. Check with your hostel on safety concerns before climbing as when we were there we were advised to get a taxi. There is an admission price $1-2.
Panecillo Hill can be seen throughout the city
The TeleferiQo is a cable car which carries you to the slopes of the Pichincha volcano. We had planned to do this activity but clouds/laziness won over and the fact we had been on so many cable cars in Colombia. If you have a clear day then go for. It costs $8.50 for a return trip and there are a number of trails along the slope so go prepared.
Say Hi to the President
Watch the changing of the guard ceremony and maybe catch a glimpse of the President. Head to the Presidential Palace in Plaza Grande every Monday at 11am. The President didn’t show when we were there so it depends on whats going on politically at the time of your visit.
Where we stayed
We stayed in the historic center but many tourists stay in the mariscal district. The historic town is nice to walk around and you are close to the action but we didn’t really like where our hostel was located and found it hard to find food but maybe that was due to not feeling great. The mariscal area is suppose to be more expensive and tourist friendly so it depends on your preferences.
We stayed 4 nights in the Colonial house hostel. It was nice with some helpful information but it was lacking something.
Getting Around Quito
- A taxi from the North terminal to the historic center cost us $10. Using Uber for the same journey cost $6.
- To get from the North terminal to the South terminal typically costs $15-20. Luckily we got it for $15 and found two more people to share the cost.
- Metro bus costs near to nothing at 0.25 cents so if you are ok with crowds then try it out. Just watch your belongings.