Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10 Best Places to visit in the Downtown area of Quito

Quito, well known as the city of volcanos as well as its better known name, the “Face of God” as the local people call it is the capital of the country of Ecuador. It is nestled in the Andean valley at an elevation of 2,800m (9,186ft) above sea level.

Quito Plaza de la Independencia Plaza Grande Main Square

The city is literally surrounded by volcanoes like the very active Guagua Pichincha. Quito is considered to be one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. It was founded in the 16th century by the Spanish conqueror on the ruins of an Inca town. This is one of the best-preserved cities with the least altered historic center in Latin America, which is why the UNESCO declared Quito a Cultural Heritage of Humanity back in 1979. All thanks to its pure examples of the Baroque School of Quito, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and of course, indigenous art.
Join us as briefly visit some of the sites this city has to offer and why so many people around the world come to visit.

Main Square:

Plaza Grande, as the local people call it, is surrounded by four building that represent the elements of Ecuadorian society. These are The Presidential Palace, the Cathedral of Quito, Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace.
The Main Square or Plaza Grande is one of the most popular meeting points for people in Quito. Elders sit to talk throughout the day, who nostalgically recall the past. Street vendors making a living like they used to back in the day, as well as photographers paying due attention to foreigners and locals alike who want to keep their memories of this city in a snapshot. 
The constant activity of Plaza Grande allows visitors to see a rich human landscape filled with all the cultural heritage Quito has to offer.

At the center of the square you will find the Monument to Heroes of the Independence, a memorial built in the early twentieth century, symbolizing the triumph of the Republic against the Spanish Colony. Every 10th of August we commemorate “El Primer Grito de la Independencia”, thanks to the efforts of Quito’s founding fathers back in 1809, turning this into a day of celebration. As a result, Quito is considered the Light of America, because here is where the fights for the release from the colony started and spread across the continent.

The Cathedral Church:

Quito Cathedral Church Exterior ViewQuito’s Cathedral was built by enthusiastic collaboration of those who lived in the neighborhood. Work was completed somewhere between 1562 and 1567. Later on, the altar-pieces were made and the pulpit carved. The temple was officially completed by 1572, delighting us all with what we can see today as the result of some of the best work carried out through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Quito Cathedral Church Altar
Considered to be the oldest cathedral in South America, among its attractions it hosts beautiful works of art, paintings and sculptures by major artists of the colonial and republican periods. One of the highlights is the Miguel de Santiago canvas - La Muerte de la Virgen (The Death of the Virgin) – as well as other pieces of art from artists like Caspicara with his “Descent of Christ from the Cross”. You will also find paintings created at the Quito School as you walk down the wall of the choir. Moreover, in this place like the remains of Antonio José de Sucre, one of the most celebrated Independence heroes of Ecuador.
The Cathedral’s Colonial design makes it an architectural marvel inside and out. It has a legend about the Cock of the Cathedral. As legend goes, the Gallo de la Catedral became the fear of drunken men who passed through the Plaza, because one of them, after insulting it, made the cock get down from the Cathedral and pecking him for his disrespect.

San Francisco Square:

This place, according to history, was where the palace of the Incan ruler Atahualpa (1497-1533) once stood. In addition to being a market center for indigenous Ecuadorians, it was also the location of the military seats for the chiefs of the indigenous armies. All told, the place had enormous strategic and historical significance for the indigenous people.

Today, the square is host to exhibitions by local artists performing. On weekends we are sometimes greeted with free concerts. If you are hungry not just for culture, then visit one of the various restaurants located in the area and while here, visit the shopping plaza called El Tinguez with an interesting stock of souvenirs and Ecuadorian Typical food.

San Francisco Church:

San Francisco, the most imposing of all of Quito’s architectural monuments, it once was a temple with a series of chapels as well as a convent. All these together take up nearly two whole blocks and rises up above a wide stone paved courtyard. Tourists from Spain call it the “Escorial of the Andes”.

Shortly after the foundation of the city in 1536, Fray Jodoco Ricke began the construction of the temple and the convent, helped byFray Francisco Benitez, who was in charge of the work throughout the last quarter of the sixteenth century, one of the master pieces of Caspicara’s genius: The Assumption of the Virgin before the astonished eyes of the apostles, and on the other side of the transept, the altar piece of tooled silver, with a large figure of St. Francis with silver wings also by Caspicara. And we could not forget “The Virgin by Legarda” in the central niche, and the baptis-mal group on the upper niche by Diego de Robles.
architects and craftsmen like

The atrium runs from one side of the square to the other, and the façade of the temple and convent rise above it, with a high retaining wall built of solid stone and interrupted in the middle to give access to the plaza by means of a double fanshaped staircase.

La Compania de Jesus Church:

 With over 160 years of age since its construction began, the architects of La Compañía incorporated elements of four architectural styles, although the Baroque is the most prominent. Mudejar and Moorish influence is seen in the geometrical figures on the pillars the Churrigueresque characterizes much of the ornate decoration, especially in the interior walls; finally the Neoclassical style adorns the Chapel of Saint Mariana de Jesus.

The Church of La Compañía  forms the shape of a Latin Cross with central, northern and southern arms. It has the conventional nave, transept, crossing, presbytery, antechamber to the sacristy, sacristy and chapel to form it. The central nave is topped by a 26 meter high barrel vault constructed of pumice and brick. This vault is decorated with plaster, polychrome and Mudejar figures in gold leaf. The Church reveals the Renaissance influence that Italians brought to Quito by Jesuit Marcos Guerra.

La Compañía’s columns, statues and larger details were executed in the quarry which the Jesuits had in the Hacienda de Yurac in the nearby parish of Pintag. The rest of the material was brought from a quarry on the western slopes of El Panecillo, adjacent to the city. All the artwork by artists of the Quito School; the church’s unique features, including its Moorish elements, perfect symmetry right down to the trompe l’oeil staircase at the rear, symbolic elements bright-red walls are a reminder of Christ’s blood and its syncretism Ecuadorian plants and indigenous faces hidden along the pillars, capped by green-and-gold domes, La Compania de Jesus is Quito’s most ornate church and a standout among the baroque splendors of the Old Town.

El Panecillo Hill:

The authentic name is “Shungoloma” that in quichua means “Hill of the Heart”. This natural elevation was baptized by the Spanish conquerors like a small bread or Panecillo. It is elevated in the middle of the city like a natural viewpoint from where we can appreciate the Andean beauty of the zone and the urban disposition of the city.

At the pre-inca time, a temple dedicated to the cult of the God was elevated to reach towards the Sun called Yavirac, which was destroyed by the Indian General Rumiñahui while resisting with his troops against the Spanish advance.

Nowadays it is a reference for the inhabitants of Quito, because it marks the division between the south part of the city and downtown. In 1976, the Spanish artist “Agustin de la Herran Matorras” made in aluminum the monument to the Virgin Maria who is the peak of the hill.

The momument is made up of seven thousand pieces and is considered to be one of the greatest aluminum representations of the world. The work is a retort of the sculpture of thirty centimeters made in XVIII (18th) century by the Quito sculptor “Bernardo de Legarda”, whose rests are kept in the baroque convent of the Church of San Francisco.

The Archbishops’s Palace:

Built back in the 1700s, the Archbishop’s Palace is considered one of the most influential institutions of the colonial era to the present day in the city of Quito. This palace, as a part of Plaza Grande in Quito, is the perfect place to observe the day go by in this city.  This is a unique place and you will always see people walking by. This place is the representation of all of who the inhabitants of Quito are. This is also the headquarters to the Archbishop.
Inside, there are several shops that offer different services, but we specially find some restaurants and the very famous “Sanduchería”.

La Ronda Street:

 La Ronda is a traditional old street of Quito. The place captures the essence of what was the city like back in the 19th century when this place was the main entry point to Quito travelers and visitors. Through time, the Ronda Street has had several names such as: Jatuna (Chorera) or Ullaguangayacu (Vulture’s Creek). At that time, this road served to the ancient people as an access point to the water source and use it in for house work.

Just walking at La Ronda is part of our wandering through Old Town Quito Tour. We enjoy the stroll through part of the history of Quito. The street is narrow and pretty; during the Fiestas de Quito it is full of people. Seeing a band playing under the small bridge that passes overhead, with a crowd gathered round, the small shops selling typical Ecuadorian snacks and just being surrounded in this place filled with people, is enough to feel enchanted by the city. While here, make sure to visit the little gift shops displaying a variety of crafts. A nice reminder of your time in this magnificent place.

Central Market:

The Mercado Central of Quito is located in the Old Town. It has a vast array of Ecuadorian fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, herbs, spices and flowers. The market is noted as “Primer Mercado Saludable” – First Healthy Market. It is the most traditional and with the best low prices, where you’ll find just about everything: from locro de papas (potato soup served with avocado and cheese) and seafood, to yaguarlocro (potato and blood sausage soup), not to mention the always succulent Fritada (fried chunks of pork served with hominy). Fruits and veggies, not to mention butchered meats, fresh fish, flowers and pharmaceuticals are also available, all congregated together in the clearly signposted sections.

Casa del Alabado:

 The Museo Casa del Alabado is an art museum devoted exclusively to the preservation of Pre-Columbian Art. Located in downtown Quito, the museum is hosted in a Spanish residence built back in 1671 as stated on the inscription at the doorway which also reads “Praised be the holy soul, the frontage of this house was finished in the year of the Lord 1671”.

The artwork displayed at this museum were created by anonymous artists from Valdivia, the oldest culture in South America, alongside art from Chorrera, Tolita, Jama-Coaque and other cultures who populated the landscape where Ecuador is now located.

This and many other wonders can be enjoyed and admired when you visit Quito. You may visit on your own or have one of our expert guides take you back in time as you tour this marvelous city.

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