All About Old Town Quito Ecuador

The capital of Ecuador is Quito, the main political and cultural center of Ecuador. Old town Quito got its laconic name from the ancient Indian tribe Quito, which once lived in this territory. Quito is the second largest city of Ecuador, after Guayaquil.


Quito’s population is mixed and diverse. The Andean native Americans from these territories are called Quechua. During the Spanish ruling, many Europeans came to Quito. Nowadays, both the Quechua and the Europeans are minorities. The majority of the population is mestizos, which is a mix of Europeans and Native Americans.


The Spanish brought Catholicism to its colonies. Ecuador was no exception. Catholicism has been Ecuador’s main religion over the last 5 centuries. In Quito, this is very apparent due to its many impressive cathedrals. 


Where is Quito located? The city is located in the intermountain basin of the Andes on the slope of the Pichincha volcano and very close to the equator. Due to the capital’s geographical location, the city is very narrow (east to west) and very long (north to south). One could divide Quito into 3 main sections: the modern north, the old city center and the residential south.


The historical city center (or old town) is where most tourists go. It’s the best-preserved colonial city of Latin America and therefore recognized as world heritage by UNESCO. Quito is full of beautiful churches, interesting museums and cozy bars and restaurants. The panoramas of this mountain city are extraordinary.


 The north of Quito is known as the business area and the wealthier part of the city. Here, you’ll find several shopping malls, cinemas and fancy bars and restaurants. There are not so many tourists here, but the locals love going out here. This area is worth a visit.


 The south is purely residential. Generally, not many people from out of the city go here. This part of the city can also be a bit more dangerous and therefore it’s recommended not to wander around in the south without local escort.



How many feet above sea level is Quito? The elevation of the city of Quito in Ecuador is at 9,350 feet (2.850m) above sea level. That makes Quito the second highest city in the world after La Paz (Bolivia).

Climate and weather in old town Quito

Throughout the year, the day temperature ranges from +18 to +22 degrees Celsius. However, differences between day and night temperatures are pretty noticeable. At night, temperatures can drop to around 9 degrees.


Your location within the city has a major impact on the temperature, because the altitude has a cooling effect. The lower altitude areas are a lot warmer. Neighborhoods in the valleys have average day temperatures of around 25 degrees.


Quito, Ecuador, lies in the sub equatorial climate zone which would normally mean tropical heat. However, its considerable altitude suppresses the heat.


The city’s proximity to the equator reduces the annual temperature fluctuation. There are two seasons in the capital, wet and dry. Wet lasts from December to March, dry from June to September.

How to get to Quito city?

Most flights to and from Ecuador go through the international airport in Quito.

Most European flights come from Madrid. For other European cities, a connection through Madrid is often the cheapest option. However, there are also daily direct connections with Amsterdam, Lisbon, Paris, Rome, and Frankfurt.


There are plenty of daily international connections with the US. These are generally cheaper than the flights to and from Europe. Sometimes even as a connection to a European final destination. However, this may imply additional visa requirements.

 Where is Quito airport? The modern airport is around 40km away from the city. It is named after Antonio José de Sucre, the hero of Ecuador and Latin America.


The previous airport was within the city and known by all pilots due to the special landing conditions. It was one of the highest in the world. The elevation of the airport at Quito, Ecuador, was 9186 feet (2.800m) above sea level and right between mountain tops.

Visas, currency, accommodation

You do not need a visa to visit Ecuador. Only if you decide to stay more than 90 days within a calendar year, you would need to request a visa. You can do so with an Ecuadorian embassy, or in Quito at the municipality within the first 90 days of your stay. The latter is generally a lot cheaper.


Ecuador uses the US dollar. The country switched to the dollar in 2000 because of the high inflation on the Sucre.

It’s easy to find accommodation in Quito. You can book it included in tours or you can easily find it yourself. Prices start at 10$ a night. For fairly decent hotel rooms, you’ll pay $30-$70 per night. But you can also find more expensive hotels such as the Marriott.


Quito, Ecuador, has many apartments, hotels and Airbnb options. In the old town, you can stay in more colonial buildings. While in the north, you’ll find more modern buildings. For instance, Carolina park is surrounded by modern flat buildings. Most with astonishing panoramas over the city and the Andean mountains. A light jet lag would not even be so bad here. You’ll get to enjoy the impressive sunrise in the early morning.


Most backpackers go to Mariscal. Therefore, the locals call it Gringolandia. Here, you’ll find many bars and restaurants. The area is completely focused on young travelers. In this area, you should be extra aware of pickpockets, particularly at night.


Quito entertainment and attractions

Tourists are most interested in the historic center of the old town. Here, you’ll find the main square of the city: The Plaza Grande, where it’s always crowded. At Plaza Grande is the presidential residence. The building is finished with artsy decorative balconies and elaborated murals. It’s open for the public and a guided tour is worth it.


You will find more than 50 churches in Quito’s old town and 7 of the largest and most famous ones (e.g. Basilica del Voto Nacional, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Catedral) are within walking distance. All cathedrals are open to the public, are active and you can take guided tours.


Furthermore, you might be curious about the old colonial architectural houses with an intricately woven system of courtyards and terraces. Also, don’t forget to visit some of the extraordinary restaurants with panoramic views over this exceptional old mountain city.


Speaking of panoramas in Quito. You may want to take the teleférico up. It will bring you to a mountaintop just outside the city. You can overlook the city while enjoying a drink. Or you’ll enjoy the panorama during a hike. Many locals bring their mountain bikes with them in the teleférico and go down on their bikes. You could join them during your holidays.

Quito museums

If you want to get a closer approach to the history of Quito, do not miss the Museo de la Ciudad (museum of the city). Also, the Museo Casa de Sucre is a vital stop to learn about the independence of the city. Cultural museums such as Casa Museo María Augusta Urrutia and Museo Camilo Egas will give you a closer look at the history of art. Museo del Alabado is also highly recommended. There, you will find archaeological pieces of the ancient cultures of Quito.


 What must you do in Quito, Ecuador?

  • Take an (evening) drive through the historic district in a convertible carriage. The cost of the trip for four passengers is 12 to 14 USD. Try to avoid Friday afternoons. At this time, you may get stuck in traffic.

  • Buy colorful souvenirs at the famous indoor Indian market, which is open until late. Bargaining for the lowest possible price, is the primary entertainment for both the seller and the buyer. A poncho with an Indian ornament, for example, can cost from 10 to 30 USD, but it all depends on your bargaining skills.

  • Walk through the central La Carolina Park. It’s full of locals doing all sorts of sports: running, skateboarding, football, etc. On Saturdays, you could join a free aerobics class. Don’t forget to visit the zoo located in the park.

  • Watch a football game at el Estadio Olympico. Visiting teams always fear playing Quito at their home stadium, because playing in the altitude makes it harder. There are matches most Sundays and Wednesdays.

  • Try to see the peaks of the volcanoes – Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Antisana – in the sky-high distance. You can spot them from the city. But for the best view over the Andean Volcanic belt and the city, you should take the teleférico.

  • Taste the monastery ice cream, which is prepared in the local monastery.

  • Buy fans for kindling coals woven from palm leaves as souvenirs. These adorable crafts cost around 1 to 1.50 USD.

  • Ride a Chiva (festive tour bus). You need to buy a ticket, and then you will sit down, be given a hot, specific alcoholic drink, and go according to your chosen program.

  • Play cuarenta, an Ecuadorian card game. In particular on December 6th, the Quito City Day, this is played a lot. You could participate in a tournament.

  • Visit the many churches and museums. Quito has the most cathedrals per square meter anywhere in Latin America and a very interesting history. Most churches and museums are within walking distance in the old town of Quito.

Quito parks

Old town Quito’s attractions include numerous parks.


  • Metropolitano is the largest city park in South America, mainly occupied by a eucalyptus forest, crossed by paths. From the eastern parts of the park, panoramas open to the Cotopaxi volcano, Antisana, and the Guaylabamba river valley. The park is ideal for hiking and mountain biking.

  • In the shades of fragrant magnolias, it is pleasant to wander in the giant La Carolina park. There are many sports fields for football and basketball, as well as facilities for skateboarders and cyclists. There is a small lake in the center of the park where boats are available to rent. You’ll also find a dinosaur museum, a terrarium and an exhibition center.

  • El Ejido Park has a souvenir market every Saturday and Sunday, where you can buy copies of famous paintings made by local artists, as well as traditional sweaters, ponchos, carpets, and jewelry from Otavalo. El Ejido Park is connected to La Alameda Park. La Alameda Park is home to the oldest astronomical observatory in South America.

Equator line

Not far from Quito, Ecuador, you’ll find a small town called Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world). Here is a memorial complex where the equator line passes through. It houses the Equator Monument as well as the Mid-World Museum of Ethnography and Culture and the picturesque ruins of Rumicho. The monument on the equator line is one of the most visited places in Ecuador

Day trips from Quito

One of the best things about a visit to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is that it is a hop for day trips to other travel destinations in Ecuador. A few hours are enough to take you to a completely different world (volcanos, cloud forests, the lake district, indigenous markets, Andean hiking routes, etc.), where you can escape the madness of Quito and exchange it for new experiences. Its geographical location and the resulting versatility are some of the many reasons why Quito is a great tourist destination.

 Here are a few examples of activities just outside of Quito:

  • Hot springs of Papallacta. These hot springs are high up in the mountains and are naturally heated by hot water coming from deep underground between the Andean volcanoes. There are several baths in this village, both public and private. Papallacta is situated halfway along the highway from Quito to the Amazon jungle. The best days to truly relax are the weekdays, as the hot springs will be less crowded.

  • Ibarra. An authentic Andean city two hours north of Quito. The city is surrounded by mountains and several lakes with a pleasant mild climate. The historical center is known as the white city, due to its colonial white architecture. Its parks, beautiful weather, and famous helado de paila (ice cream) make a day trip from Quito a delightful and unforgettable experience.

  • Otavalo. Otavalo is known for its authentic indigenous handicraft market. It’s the perfect place for souvenirs shopping. We recommend the colorful ponchos made from alpaca wool

  • Quilotoa. Quilotoa is a lake in the crater of an inactive volcano. The Andean lake district has plenty of hiking possibilities, including multi day hikes which finish at the Quilotoa. However, you can also decide to skip the hike and go straight to the impressive Quilotoa lake to enjoy its beautiful view.

  • Cotopaxi. The Cotopaxi is an impressive 6.000m high snow-capped volcano. There are loads of things to do at the Cotopaxi. From mountain climbing to mountain biking or just comfortably enjoying the view with a drink.

Safety in Quito, what to watch out for?

  • Quito, Ecuador is at 9,350 feet (2.850m) above sea level. Due to the high altitude, some people suffer from altitude sickness. Over a period of a week, your body adopts gradually. In particular during the first few days, it’s important to drink enough water and not to do too heavy physical activities. For instance, if you’re planning to climb the Cotopaxi, don’t do it on day one.

  • No matter how beautiful it is, we must not forget that Quito is in South America and therefore not as safe as Northern-Europe. Is Quito safe? In terms of the level of tension, the capital of Ecuador does not compare to Venezuelan Caracas or Colombian Bogota, but it is still necessary to be careful here. The southern part of the city is the most unsafe (and least interesting). So, you may want to avoid this area. Furthermore, it’s wise to stay out of parks in the dark and use Cabify in the evening. In the touristic city center, you have to look out for pickpockets and if you take the bus and put your backpack in a separate place, it’s best to keep your valuables with you.

  • Ecuador uses the USD. However, 100$ and 50$ are never used. It’s best not to accept these to avoid becoming a victim of a counterfeit money scam.

Quito is a great destination for a holiday. It has one of the best maintained historical city centers of South America. It’s a rich cultural city with interesting museums and beautiful churches. This Andean city in the mountains has exceptional panoramas. Quito is a hub for a great variety of activities such as mountain biking, hikes, volcano visits, jungle tours and even visits to the beach. Quito and Ecuador are ready to give any tourist an unforgettable experience.

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