A capital city high in the Andes, Quito is dramatically situated, squeezed between mountain peaks whose greenery is concealed by the afternoon mist. Modern apartment buildings and modest concrete homes creep partway up their slopes, and busy commercial thoroughfares lined with shops and choked with traffic turn into peaceful neighborhoods on Sundays. Warm and relaxed, traditional Ecuadorian Sierra culture – overflowing market stands, shamanistic healers, fourth-generation hatmakers – mix with a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.
The city's crown jewel is its 'Old Town,' a Unesco World Heritage Site packed with colonial monuments and architectural treasures. No sterile museum mile, everyday life pulses along its handsomely restored blocks with 17th-century facades, picturesque plazas and magnificent art-filled churches. Travelers, and many locals too, head to the 'gringolandia' of the Mariscal, a compact area of guesthouses, travel agencies, ethnic eateries and teeming bars.