Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Wondering what to do in Quito? After my first three weeks at El Patio Hostel, I decided to put together a list of my favorite attractions in the city. Many of these sites are within walking distance to the hostel -- no taxi required!
1. Basílica del Voto Nacional
This intricate Neo-gothic Church is the largest of its kind in South America, reaching a height of 115 meters. Inspired by the Cathedral of Notre Dame, French architect Emilio Tarlier designed the church after a priest suggested a monument dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If you are up for a climb, the views from the bell towers are incredible. If you're feeling adventurous take the catwalk across the wooden bridge and climb the ladder to the top of the cathedral, which boasts stunning views of Quito and the double clock towers. The church is located near El Centro Historico - the corner of Venezuela and Carchi, although you will be able to spot it several blocks away. The entrance fee is $3 for foreigners and tickets are available onsite. There are cafes and gift shops both inside and outside, so there is plenty of opportunities to purchase a souvenir or enjoy a nice hot latté. Check out the website here!
2. El Centro Histórico
Also known as 'old town', Quito's historic center was declared by UNESCO as the first World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978. Walking through the colonial streets will take you back in time. Filled with plazas, churches, museums, and cafes, you can easily spend several days exploring the area (*Tip* wear comfortable walking shoes!) On Sundays, you will find plenty of street vendors selling artwork, typical food, and clothing. While you are here, be sure to check out La Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, located abrest its plaza. Other must-sees are Plaza de la Independencia, considered to be the main public square of Quito's city government, and the car-less Calle La Ronda for beautiful photo-ops.
3. El Jardín Botánico & Parque La Carolina
If you want a bit of that central park feeling, head north on Avenue de Rio Amazonas until you reach Parque La Carolina. This 165-acre park boasts miles of walking paths, a dog park, skate park, fountain pond with paddle boats, a running track, vivarium, and my personal favorite, El Jardín Botánico de Quito, a beautiful botanical garden center with fauna and flora both unique to the Andes and around the world. Admission to the botanical garden is only $3, while the rest of La Carolina is free to explore!
Nestled on the east side of Quito is the district of Guápulo. This historic village has everything - a 48-acre park with nature trails, chic cafés with stunning views of the Tumbaco Valley, and a winding cobblestone road that descends into the valley, known as Camino de Orellana, named after the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana. After descending the road, you will arrive at La Iglesia y Sanctuario Católico de Guápulo, the oldest church in Quito. Legend says the Virgin Mary, also known as Virgen de Guadalupe appeared at this site in 1696. After admiring the sanctuary, stop at one of the restaurants on Orellana for a warm cup of "canelazo" and take in the views.
Photo from ladyfleabag.com
5. Teleférico de Quito
If you want the best view of the city of Quito then you must take a ride on the TeleferíQo which climbs the side of Volcan Pichincha, an active stratovolcano on the West side of the city. Walking is not recommended, it's best to take a taxi or ride the bus, which you can access from Av. Cristóbal Colón, just ask the driver if you have the right bus. Tickets for foreigners are $8.50, and the last one is sold at 5 pm (5:30 on weekends). The best time to go is earlier in the day, when the skies are clear, as Quito weather is unpredictable! The cable car is about a 30-minute ride to the top, where you have the option to hike further for spectacular views! At 13,000 ft it can get pretty cold, so dress accordingly. If you want more information on hours, tickets, and directions, click here!