Conjunto monumental San Francisco. The church dates back from the 1570s and was devoted to San Francis, since the Franciscan order was the first to settle in the area. Hence the city's official name: San Francisco de Quito. The church contains masterpieces of syncretic art, including the famous "Virgin of Quito" by Legarda. The sculpture represents a winged virgin stepping on the devil's head (in the form of a serpent) and is displayed in the main altar. The virgin would later be inaccurately replicated on top of Panecillo hill. The museum next door to the church is arranged through the monastic compound and includes access to the choir.
Museo del Banco Central. Located across from the Casa de la Cultura and adjacent to the Parque El Ejido, you'll find perhaps Ecuador's most renowned museum with different rooms, devoted to pre-Columbian, Colonial and gold works of art, among other topics. Some of the famous pieces include whistle bottles shaped like animals, elaborate gold headdresses and re-created miniature scenes of life along the Amazon. The museum is well-organized, and it takes about 3–4 hours to see everything. Entrance USD 2. Guides who speak several different languages including English, French and Spanish are available for a small fee. NOTE: The Banco Central also has a small exhibit downtown, across from La Compañía church. This exhibit usually shows currency or stamps. USD 1. Casa de la Cultura station in Ecovía bus.
Casa de la Cultura shows a patchwork of local artists. Free entrance. Casa de la Cultura station in Ecovía bus.
Museo de la Ciudad
. The Museo de la Ciudad is in the Old Town, on Garcia Moreno street, directly opposite the Carmen Alto monastery
. A lovely museum with two floors encircling two quiet courtyards, the "Museo de la Ciudad" provides more of a social history of Ecuador than other museums in Quito. Re-enacted scenes from daily life of Ecuador's citizens through the years include a hearth scene from a 16th-century home, a battle scene against the Spanish, and illustrations of the building of Iglesia de San Francisco
. This is the world's second-highest cable car. It's located on the eastern flanks of the Pichincha Volcano
which overlooks the whole city. It hoists visitors up to an amazing 4,000 meters (12,000 feet). On clear days, one can spot half-a-dozen volcanoes and spy the entire city below. You can also hike up from here to the Guagua Pichincha Volcano, which is active. See Teleferiqo website for details . It is $4 for locals, but $8.50 (as of 3/15/2011) for foreigners. There is also an express lane option for more money. Get a taxi to take you to the teleferico.
Botanical Gardens. The Jardin Botanico is located on the southwest side of Parque La Carolina. It's a wonderful escape from the city, with all of Ecuador's ecosystems represented with a wide variety of flora. You can take a guided tour or just wander. The highlight for many people are the two glassed-in orchidariums.
Museo Mindalae. An extremely original project in the north part of the Mariscal District, this museum provides an 'ethno-historical' view of Ecuador's amazingly rich cultural diversity. You can find out about the country's different peoples, from the coast to the Andes to the Amazon, and their crafts in a specially-built and designed structure. The museum has a restaurant for lunch, a cafe and a fair-trade shop.
Itchimbia cultural complex and park. This hill lies to the east of the Old Town. It provides stunning views of central and northern Quito, as well as the distant peak of Cayambe to the northeast. The hillside was made into a park and an impressive cultural centre established here in 2005. The centre holds temporary exhibitions. At the weekends, there are workshops and fun for children. A restaurant, Pim's, opened at the complex in June 2007. The complex closes at 6 pm. Once it closes, you can head to the nearby Cafe Mosaico to watch the sunset until about 7 pm. It's a great spot to watch the fading of the light on the mountainside with the floodlights of the Old Town's churches.
Museo Guayasamin. This musueum houses the collection of Ecuador's most renowned contemporary artists, Oswaldo Guayasamin. It has a fine collection of pre-Columbian, colonial and independence art, as well as housing many of the artist's works. You can also visit the nearby Chapel of Man (Capilla del Hombre) which was built posthumously to house some of Guayasamin's vast canvasses on the condition of Latin American Man.
Calle de la Ronda. This street in the Old Town was restored by Municipality and FONSAL in 2007. It was transformed with the help and cooperation of the local residents. It's a romantic cobbled street just off the Plaza Santo Domingo (or it can be reached via Garcia Moreno by the City Museum). There are shops, patios, art galleries and modest cafe restaurants now, all run by residents. Cultural events are common at the weekends.
La Vírgen del Panecillo. Adjacent to the Old City, El Panecillo is a large hill on top of which is La Virgin del Panecillo, a large statue of the 'winged' Virgin Mary. She can be seen from most points in the city. Local legend has it that she is the only virgin in Quito. Never walk up the hill, always take a taxi or a bus as the walk up can be dangerous.
Mitad del Mundo. Just outside of Quito is where the measurements were first made that proved that the shape of the Earth is in fact an oblate spheroid. Commemorating this is a large monument that straddles the equator called Mitad del Mundo or middle of the world. Note, however, that the true equator is not at the Mitad del Mundo monument. Through the magic of GPS technology, we now know that it is only 240 meters away—right where the Indians said it was before the French came along and built the monument in the wrong place. The entrance for the park is $2 (included entrance to small museums). For some of the attractions you have to pay extra.
The Intiñan Solar Museum is right next to the Mitad del Mundo monument on the other side of the north fence. For $4 you can have a tour of this little museum. Note that they don't demonstrate the Coriolis effect but rather deceive you (ask for repeating the experiment on your own and they will deny it) . Other "experiments" showing effects that apparently only occur on the equator are also scam. The tour is completed by some untrue facts about indigenous cultures in Ecuador and is just straining after effect. The place looks like a total dump and is at the end of a dirt road, but for some people it is much more interesting and informative than the Mitad del Mundo. When you go to the middle of the world, you can just take a bus ($0.40) straight there, or go with a tour, or hire a taxi driver by the hour. The hourly rate should be in the $12 or less range. Buses leave from the Occidental or Av. America for $0.40 and have "Mitad del Mundo" clearly written large on the front. This is the most economical option and tours of the Intiñan Solar Museum are $4. Entry to the monument nearby is $2, but only worth it for a photo straddling the equator - which you can do at the 'real' equator nearby at Intiñan.
Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus. In the Old City, this church is regarded by many as the most beautiful in the Americas. Partially destroyed by fire, it was restored with assistance from the Getty Foundation and other benefactors. Stunning.