Quito is the second largest city in Ecuador and offers visitors a unique blend of cultures and landscapes. There is a vast selection of things to do and see in the area, from outdoor adventures to cultural experiences. So whether you are looking for a relaxing stay or an action-packed holiday, there is something for everyone in and around Quito.
In this article, we will provide an overview of the things to do in Quito, Ecuador:
The capital of Ecuador, Quito, is located in the northern Andes Mountains at 9,350 feet and is the second most elevated capital city in South America. Surrounded by volcanic peaks, caves, and lagoons, it’s one of the best cities to explore nature. The world’s highest volcano (6310 meters), Chimborazo, and the steepest street can be found here! Spend a weekend getting to know Quito and its surrounding valleys with these experiences:
- Experience a Latitude Zero tour: This tour takes you through the heart of Ecuador. Panoramic views include impressive volcanoes like Cotopaxi and Cayambe. You will visit Cotopaxi National Park to learn about its wildlife, ecological sinks, and limestone shrines and observe mysterious northern lights such as Magellanic clouds.
- Visit historic colonial churches: Over 250 landmark churches are located within 10km of Quito’s center, making it one of Latin America’s most extensive collections of colonial churches. Quito’s most important religious sites include Churches Basilica del Voto Nacional and La Compañia de Jesus; both are must-see attractions that display attractive architecture with elaborate designs.
- Explore Otavalo’s artisan markets: Visit Otavalo Market to glimpse the traditional Andean culture. Over 3,000 vendors gather every Saturday morning to display handmade crafts, from jewelry to textiles, such as rugs and tapestries for sale. Here you can find unique artisan products such as musical instruments made from guayusa wood roots or necklace pendants featuring traditional animal designs inspired by this region’s warm hillsides and forests.
The climate of Quito is considered a subtropical highland, with an average temperature during the day of 16-18ºC (60.8-64.4ºF) and night temperatures of 10-12ºC (50-53.6ºF). The city has a dry season between June and September and a wet season between October and May, with December and January usually recording the most precipitation.
Quito’s elevation is approximately 2800 meters above sea level, making its weather cooler than other cities in Ecuador located at similarly low latitudes. However, this also brings the risk of high altitude sickness, which visitors should be aware of when planning their trip.
Quito is known for its breathtaking scenery and vibrant culture. With plenty to see and do, Quito has some of the best attractions in Ecuador, but to make the most of your trip, you need to know which attractions are the top ones!
In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most popular attractions in Quito, Ecuador, that should be on your itinerary:
La Ronda is one of the most traditional streets in the historical center of Quito. Located east of the Plaza de San Francisco and between Calle Larga and Calle Flores, this narrow street is home to many traditional restaurants, shops, and smaller boutiques. In addition, an old colonial house, symbolizing Quito’s culture and tradition, sits at this cobblestone road’s entry point, leading to other attractions such as Carcelén Square, La Compañía Church, and El Panecillo crag.
Experience a unique guided tour of La Ronda and discover some of the best cultural activities. As an early independence street in 1534, this 400-year-old gem captivates its visitors with musical performances such as marimba music (wooden wind instruments), bands playing folk music, and African drum shows. Take a free walking tour or try local dishes like Quipuitous (cold corn soup) or Humitas (savory corn cake). Wander through art galleries exhibiting local artworks, visit teahouses offering hundreds of tea varieties, or enjoy strolling around while admiring quaint stores stocked with handmade crafts and souvenirs.
La Ronda’s vibrant atmosphere has something for everyone; many consider it one of Quito’s most important landmarks, with an aura that will transport you back to peaceful Ecuadorian days.
The Teleferico cable car system is a great way to take in Ecuador’s majestic views at one of Quito’s highest points. For just 4 US dollars, you can take a gondola to the top of Cruz Loma, enjoying breathtaking 360-degree panoramas of the city and surrounding landscape.
You’ll pass by active volcanoes, lush greenlands, and wild animal species. You’ll also be able to find an observation deck at the peak where you can spend some time relishing in all this beauty.
The Teleferico car system is open daily from 8:00 am – 7:00 pm, making it an ideal activity for early risers and night owls!
Basilica del Voto Nacional
The Basilica del Voto Nacional is a top attraction in Quito, Ecuador. Located in the heart of downtown Quito on Calle Garay and Mariana de Jesus, visitors can marvel at this magnificent piece of ecclesiastic architecture at no cost.
Originally completed in the late 1800s by leading Quito architect Luis Morales, this four-level architectural masterpiece stands tall with its tall transepts and four towers, which create a stunning image against the Quito skyline. The walls are decorated with figures depicting saints and religious motifs – all designed to inspire devotion and awe among the faithful who visit its doors. Visitors will find impressive galleries adorned with oil paintings that reflect notable moments from Ecuador’s past and many pieces of modern art created by local artists.
The basilica is also home to many unique features, such as its 16th-century clock tower, which also functions as an observatory where one can enjoy stunning views across Quito from above. As well as guided tours focusing on both its historical significance and contemporary use, there are also two additional public points of interest for travelers such as a traditional library containing 16th-century books and maps detailing Ecuador’s ancient cities and a truly fantastic sight for anyone to experience, the Basilica del Voto Nacional is worth visiting when in Quito!
Parque El Ejido
If you’re looking for a great place to spend the day in Quito, Ecuador, the Parque El Ejido is an excellent option. It is located in the north of the city, and this green space provides plenty of area for walks, football games, and other activities. Ideal for families, there’s plenty to do and see here.
Parque El Ejido offers visitors many entertainment options, including a theater, a puppet show, and amusement park rides. Throughout the park, you’ll also find musical sculptures which ring when visitors run their hands over them, modern artworks by local artists, and playground equipment for kids to enjoy.
For nature lovers, there are two large garden sections – Jardin des Plantes and Jardin Bosque Turi – while those wishing to explore further can wind through the park’s many trails or visit its on-site arboretum, where exotic trees line pathways. Here visitors will learn about reforestation efforts that are taking place within the park grounds.
Throughout Parque El Ejido, you will also find places to picnic, such as picnic areas near small man-made lakes or terrace tables offering views of El Panecillo and Cotopaxi volcanoes. There is something here for all ages – don’t miss the chance to experience Parque El Ejido during your time in Quito!
The Plaza Grande (also known as the Plaza de la Independencia) is one of Quito’s most iconic and notable attractions. This city’s main square was initially known as Plaza Mayor in 1550 when Rodrigo de Luque founded the city. Since then, it has seen several modifications due to historical events such as earthquakes and fires. Still, its architectural style has recently been restored to its original colonial design.
Today, the Plaza Grande is surrounded by some of Quito’s most important religious and political buildings, such as the Presidential Palace, City Hall, Cathedral Basilica of Quito, and other historical sites like the Diego de Almagro Monument. On weekends, it is full of street performances, a popular place for locals to meet and show their culture. In addition, many souvenir shops sell traditional Ecuadorian goods, including colorful indigenous textiles, leather goods, jewelry, and more.
Plaza Grande also offers a good selection of restaurants where you can sample Ecuadorian delicacies or enjoy international cuisine in one of the many cafes. During certain times throughout the year, this beautiful open space also hosts music festivals and art exhibitions for local artists, often part of a larger spectacle, such as parades or representations.
Quito, Ecuador, has a rich history and offers visitors various cultural experiences. From exploring the colonial architecture and taking day trips to the nearby indigenous villages to visiting local museums and attending cultural events, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the culture of this vibrant city.
In this section of the article, we will explore the various cultural activities Quito has to offer:
Museo Casa del Alabado
Located near the old colonial neighborhood of San Blas, Museo Casa del Alabado is undoubtedly one of the most exciting art and cultural experiences in Quito. Founded in 2003, it was the first private museum in Ecuador to showcase Pre-Columbian artifacts. The main goal of this museum is to promote knowledge and an appreciation for the traditional art and culture of Ecuador’s prehispanic past.
The prehistoric art objects currently on display are divided into three significant collections – Mesoamerican Figurines, a group of artifacts from various cultures throughout Ecuador’s history, and the Esquemel Collection, which displays local indigenous rituals from centuries ago. Notable exhibits include an impressive jaguar mask from 6 BC and a ceramic figure representing an Inga King from 1288 AD.
In addition to its collections, the museum also features rotating temporary exhibits every six months.
In addition to its fantastic collection of archaeological artifacts and artwork, Museo Casa del Alabado hosts various events throughout its exhibitions, such as lectures and workshops on topics related to its readers. Furthermore, as part of their educational mission, they also have school programs for students from around Quito where they can learn about prehispanic cultures with interactive activities such as guided tours and face painting workshops.
Museo Casa del Alabado is genuinely a fantastic experience that educates both local citizens and foreign visitors about Ecuador’s diverse artistic heritage in a beautiful setting. It is one stop that you should not miss when visiting Quito!
Centro Cultural Metropolitano
The Centro Cultural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Cultural Center) offers an array of historical, artistic, and cultural experiences in one of Quito’s oldest and most vibrant neighborhoods. Built in a reconstructed colonial complex with numerous galleries and exhibition spaces, it is an active meeting place for emerging Ecuadorian and international artists and performers and a cultural heritage center. The Municipality of Quito initiated it to promote a new vision of culture that makes it more accessible to different social groups.
The complex houses several permanent exhibitions related to Quito’s colonial past, including the Street of Santa Domingo Art Gallery, showcasing local art from renowned professionals and up-and-coming artists. Alongside this is an exciting History Museum with four rooms containing objects from different eras, such as Spanish colonization or Republicana times, that let you discover the evolution of this great city throughout time. You can also find workshops for children to help educate younger people about their culture on topics such as traditional medicine or popular music.
Furthermore, the center hosts diverse temporary exhibitions, from tributes to performing arts like belly dancing classes or jazz concerts, alongside independent film screenings or photography shows. There are also book presentations with recognized authors talking about their literary works and hosting book clubs with special guests throughout the year. Additionally, special activities take place during holidays like Christmas or Easter, so visitors can enjoy themed celebrations featuring open markets and live music outdoors in front of its impressive building façade.
Museo Mindalae is located in the hills of Quito and is a center for ancient indigenous cultures and traditions. You can learn about Ecuadorian culture’s art, music, and history through exhibits and workshops here. The museum also offers visitors a chance to experience Ecuadorian culture firsthand with traditional cooking classes and activities such as weaving and pottery making.
The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 500 artifacts from pre-Columbian civilizations, including Inca ceramics and textiles. In addition, there are regularly changing exhibits of contemporary Latin American work. The museum also features a gift shop filled with handicrafts made by local artisans that use traditional techniques.
Throughout the year, the museum hosts special events featuring music, theater performances, lectures by renowned scholars, workshops for children and adults, and guided tours of unique archaeological sites in Quito. Museo Mindalae also participates in local cultural events, such as the National Day of Culture on December 8th each year which celebrates Ecuador’s diversity in indigenous culture.
Visiting Museo Mindalae is an excellent way to gain insight into Ecuadorian cultural heritage that spans centuries.
Located in the Centro Histórico of Quito, the Teatro Bolivar is a must-see place to explore Ecuador’s vibrant culture and history. The building houses four differently-themed rooms exhibiting various artwork, sculptures, and literature. The plays in this theatre range from classical ballets and operas to contemporary theatre and dance productions.
The theatre’s attached museum offers a unique perspective on traditional Ecuadorian music, and visitors can browse through the various artifacts showcasing Ecuadorian history and culture. In addition, visitors can further appreciate and understand this remarkable country’s culture through various presentations, lectures, and workshops hosted in Teatro Bolivar’s auditoriums each week.
For an immersive cultural experience and an incredible view overlooking Quito’s cityscape from atop the theatre complex, Teatro Bolivar is an incredibly rewarding realization for travelers visiting Ecuador.
Museo Nacional is located in Quito’s historic center and is the largest museum in Ecuador. The museum houses a collection of artifacts, artworks, and historical objects that tell Ecuador’s history, from pre-Columbian to modern times.
The permanent collection discusses the many cultures that have helped shape and define the country – from its pre-Inca Indemayerian people to its Spanish settlers. Outstanding pieces include a gold mural of an ancient Inca sun god, a British steam train, and an exhibition featuring unique objects from indigenous cultures.
Two temporary exhibition spaces feature more modern works, such as contemporary paintings, installations, and sculptures by Ecuadorian artists. A café serves drinks and light snacks with fantastic views over Quito’s old town área.
With so much to explore at Museo Nacional – from archaeological artifacts to the latest works in modern art – it is not to be missed for anyone looking for an educational and cultural experience during their time in Quito!
Quito, Ecuador, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, Quito offers many activities to make your trip more memorable. From adventurous hikes and treks to more leisurely activities like biking and exploring wildlife, there’s something for everyone looking to explore the outdoors of Quito.
Read on to discover the best outdoor activities Quito has to offer:
Hiking in Cotopaxi National Park
Located less than an hour south of Quito, Cotopaxi National Park is the perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park has various flora and fauna, including pumas, bears, wildcats, Andean Condors, and more. Hiking can be done at low or high altitudes, with multiple trails ranging from beginner-level to more advanced routes.
Whether it’s a day hike on one of the accessible trails or an overnight trek up one of Cotopaxi’s magnificent volcanoes, such as Rumiñahui or Sincholagua —hiking these incredible landscapes will bring nature lovers unparalleled adventure and exploration.
For those seeking a safe but exciting experience led by experienced guides, companies such as Adventureline Ecuador offer professionally guided hikes through some of Ecuador’s most stunning terrains. In some regions of the park, multiday hikes include services such as camping gear and transportation within various pre-determined routes for groups of all sizes.
With designated paths ranging from 5km to 18km in personalized guided excursions, personalized hiking holidays can be tailored to your unique needs, allowing you to explore different parts of the national park safely and comfortably.
Rafting on the Rio Toachi
Rafting on the Rio Toachi is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Quito, Ecuador, and to get your adrenaline pumping. The rapids are fun and exciting yet safe enough for people with varying experience levels. You will get a professional orientation and preparation before heading out on the water.
The Rio Toachi is a whitewater river with Class I, II, III, IV, and V rapids spanning up to 36 miles (58 kilometers). From May to October, depending on the time of year and the water level of the Toachi River, you can decide whether you want to take a full-day (11 hours) or half-day (5 hours) rafting excursion with experienced instructors who know how to make sure everyone stays safe while paddling alongside a stunning stretch of wilderness.
A day trip may include stops along some swimming areas and local attractions such as traditional Ecuadorian towns or ancient ruins along the banks. Various guided tours also offer options such as lunch or dinner on an island during longer trips, guaranteeing unique experiences for any traveler.
Rafting down this beautiful river provides stunning views and exciting rapids, providing an unforgettable experience for thrill seekers who want to explore nature by getting close to it!
Horseback Riding in Quilotoa
Horseback riding in Quilotoa, Ecuador, is an exciting and adventurous way to explore the natural and cultural beauty of this vibrant South American city. This region is home to a stunning volcano crater lake and quaint villages surrounded by the majestic Andes Mountains. Horseback riding allows visitors to experience this region intimately, taking in breathtaking panoramas.
There are several routes that riders can take to explore Quilotoa and its surrounding areas, enabling horse-riding fans of all skill levels to immerse themselves in new sights and sounds. Experienced equestrians might choose one of the more challenging trails that meander into the Andes, navigate the sacred sites dotting the countryside, or journey through traditional highland farming villages. Unique half-day rides are also available for those looking for a less strenuous experience, offering riders beautiful views from atop their horse with plenty of resting stops throughout their tour.
Regardless of skill level or experience, all riders receive instruction from expert guides in horsemanship techniques and information about Quito’s natural and cultural history before heading into the stunning countryside. It is an unforgettable way to truly appreciate all that this amazing part of Ecuador has to offer!
Zip Lining in Mindo
Zip lining in Mindo is a popular outdoor recreational activity for visitors to Quito, Ecuador. Located just thirty minutes from the city, zip lining through the lush green mountains of Mindo allows visitors to experience nature firsthand and take in breathtaking views of the region.
Mindo is a small town nestled in the western highlands of Ecuador, surrounded by natural forests, rivers, and crystal-clear waterfalls – making it an ideal destination for zip-lining enthusiasts. Home to over 500 species of birds, the area boasts some incredibly unique and beautiful scenery.
The zip lines in Mindo offer beginners and experienced riders an unforgettable adventure with over 15 different lengths varying from 750 m to 1000 m at the height of more than 500ft! People can enjoy a thrilling ride across spectacular tropical landscapes while learning about the local vegetation and ecology.
Safety equipment is provided on-site, with staff on hand to help ensure participants have a safe and enjoyable experience zipping across one of Ecuador’s most stunning landscapes. Zip lining in Mindo offers adventurers both thrills and education about this incredible ecosystem – where better to explore the world from above?
Kayaking on the Rio Guayas
Situated in the heart of Ecuador, Quito boasts not only beautiful scenery but also a plethora of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayaking on the Rio Guayas is one of these activities, providing an exciting and unique experience that can be enjoyed year-round.
The Rio Guayas meanders through Ecuador’s mountainous region, fed by numerous other rivers originating in the highlands. The river is flanked by captivating scenery, and wildlife sightings are common along its banks. As you navigate the river’s various currents, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding areas from a unique perspective.
Before embarking on your kayaking adventure, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with water safety procedures and always have someone accompany you. It’s best to book a tour with a local guide who has years of experience paddling these waters and knows the best spots to ensure your trip runs as smoothly as possible and that you experience minimal difficulty navigating the river current.
In addition to organizing tickets for boat rides upstream or downstream along the Rio Guayas, tour companies provide all necessary kayaking instruction and gear, such as life jackets, helmets, and paddles. With unique excursions throughout Quito in paddling-friendly creeks, lakes, or rapids – there’s something for every level of a kayaker, from beginner to expert! So if you’re looking for an unforgettable tourist experience in Quito, grab your paddle and explore this incredible waterway!
Dining and Nightlife
Quito, Ecuador, is a bustling city that offers an array of dining and nightlife experiences. So whether you want to enjoy a local craft beer or a traditional Ecuadorian meal, you’ll find it in Quito. Quito also offers plenty of lively bars, clubs, and lounges, which make it a great place to experience the nightlife.
In this section, we’ll cover some of the best dining and nightlife experiences Quito has to offer:
Quito offers a wide selection of restaurants for visitors of all tastes and budgets. From traditional Ecuadoran cuisine to international favorites to fusion options, the city’s eateries reflect global influences and creative culinary excellence.
When dining in the capital, there is a varied mix of restaurants that specialize in Ecuadoran favorites such as ceviche, llapingachos (potato-and-cheese patties), mote pillo (corn porridge), and fresco de estofado (stew with potatoes, yams, bananas, and greens). If you are looking for something familiar or trying to stick to a budget, several pizza places and sandwich shops are available throughout the city. For more upscale dining experiences, try one of Quito’s many fine restaurants that feature Mediterranean-, Latin American- or Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine.
Whichever restaurant you choose for your dining experience in Quito, you will likely get a flavor of the city through its cuisine – from locally sourced ingredients to specialties from around the world served with Ecuadoran flair!
Bars and Clubs
Quito has a vibrant nightlife and is an attractive destination for partying after dark. Quito offers something for everyone, featuring various bars and clubs, from luxurious spots to low-key lounges and bustling multi-level spaces. Let’s check out some of the most popular places in town:
- Bars and clubs: Quito is home to some of South America’s best bars and clubs for a truly unforgettable night out. You could start your evening at one of the elegant rooftop bars before hitting one of Quito’s renowned dance floors or basking in live music at a funky downtown lounge. Check out popular venues such as La Preferida, La Mandarina Bar & Disco, La Pinta Club & Salón de Eventos, and Kastel Loungeclab to experience Ecuadorian nightlife at its finest.
- Breweries: If you want something more relaxed than your typical club scene, visit some of Quito’s excellent breweries. There are numerous options around town offering craft beer, creative cocktails, and great food served with style – ideal for a chilled-out evening with friends or significant other. Some notable establishments include Sleeping Giant Pub & Brewery, which serves exquisite South American beers; Mamanson Brewing which specializes in quirky flavors; Aba Cerveza Artesanal offering artisanal beer brewed on-site; and Church Eight Craft Brewing Co, which features plenty of eclectic tastes on tap as well as tasty grub on the side!
- Live Music Venues: Live music fans can find plenty to satisfy their thirst around town, too – Quito plays host to numerous styles, including jazz, salsa, rock ‘n’ roll, folkloric music, and even opera! Catch renowned acts in venues such as Teatro Nacional Sucre or visit classic haunts like Desert Rocks Music Bar & Art Cafe for more intimate entertainment. Enjoy splendid performances from vibrant musicians who will leave you wanting more!
Live Music Venues
Quito, Ecuador’s vibrant capital city, offers visitors a variety of venues to listen to live music while exploring the city’s culture and culinary delights. From jazz cafes to salsa clubs to bars with Latin American bands, you can find musical experiences for all tastes.
Suppose you’re looking for a lively night out – head to Guapulo. This area is renowned for its bars and live music performances by some of Quito’s most famous Latin American artists and bands. Bar La Parroquia is one of the most popular spots in Guapulo and has been known to attract big names from Colombia and all over South America.
For jazz lovers, Café Mosaico is considered one of the best places in Quito – with an intimate environment, this cafe books blues and jazz acts from around Ecuador who play their particular mixture of Caribbean rhythms and African beats. Elsewhere in the city, Biko Latino Lounge provides an upmarket setting with house music spun by DJs playing everything from classic rock to R&B until dawn.
In Quito’s more traditional Old Town neighborhood, you’ll find a scene buzzing with local musicians at Plaza de Fernando Ayala every weekend evening following sunset. The changing line-up in this public square usually consists of Mariachi bands playing revival songs alongside Afro-Cuban performances that draw a diverse crowd of locals and travelers alike.