Must see attractions in Quito

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

    Capped by green-and-gold domes, La Compañía de Jesús is Quito’s most ornate church and a standout among the baroque splendors of the Old Town. Free guided tours in English or Spanish highlight 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 are hidden along the pillars).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    TelefériQo

    For spectacular views over Quito’s mountainous landscape, hop aboard this sky tram, one of the world's highest aerial lifts, that takes passengers on a 2.5km ride (10 minutes) up the flanks of Volcán Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. Once you’re at the top (a mere 4100m), you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (4680m), a 4km (five-hour) round-trip – ask about the safety situation before attempting the climb and bring warm clothes.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    Casa Museo Guayasamín

    In the former home of the legendary painter Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919–99), this wonderful museum houses the most complete collection of the artist's work. Guayasamín was also an avid collector, and the museum displays his outstanding collection of pre-Columbian ceramic, bone and metal pieces. Admission includes entry to the Capilla del Hombre gallery.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    Capilla del Hombre

    One of the most important works of art in South America, Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín’s Capilla del Hombre stands next to the Casa Museo Guayasamín. The fruit of Guayasamín’s greatest vision, this giant monument-cum-museum is a tribute to humankind, to the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous poor and to the undying hope for something better. It’s a moving place and tours (in English, French and Spanish, included in the price) are highly recommended. Admission includes entrance to the Casa Museo.

  • Sights in Quito

    Museo Nacional

    Located in the circular, glass-plated, landmark building of the Casa de la Cultura is one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art, with magnificent works of pre-Hispanic and colonial religious art. The museum collection includes more than 1000 ceramic pieces dating from 12,000 BC to AD 1534, with highlights being ‘whistle bottles’ from the Chorrera culture, figures showing skull deformation practiced by the Machalilla culture, wild serpent bowls from the Jama-Coaque and ceramic representations of tzantzas (shrunken heads).

  • Sights in Quito

    Catedral Metropolitana

    On Plaza Grande's southwest side stands Quito's cathedral. Although not the most ornate of the Old Town’s churches, it has some fascinating works by artists from the Quito School and houses the tomb of independence hero Antonio José de Sucre. Behind the main altar is a plaque marking where President Gabriel García Moreno died on August 6, 1875; after being slashed with a machete outside the Palacio del Gobierno, he was carried, dying, to the cathedral.

  • Sights in Quito

    Museo Franciscano

    To the right of the Iglesia de San Francisco’s main entrance, and within the Convent of St Francis, this museum contains some of the church’s finest artwork, including paintings, sculpture and 16th-century furniture, some of which is fantastically wrought and inlaid with thousands of pieces of mother-of-pearl. The admission fee includes a guided tour in English or Spanish.

  • Sights in Quito

    El Panecillo

    Topped by a 41m-tall aluminum mosaic statue of La Virgen de Quito (Virgin of Quito; completed in 1976), with a crown of stars, angelic wings and a chained dragon, the hill to the south of the Old Town called El Panecillo (the Little Loaf of Bread) is a major Quito landmark. From the summit there are marvelous views of the sprawling city and the surrounding volcanoes. Climb steps up to the base of the Virgin statue for an even loftier outlook.

  • Sights in Quito

    Plaza Grande

    While wandering around colonial Quito, you'll probably pass through the Plaza Grande several times. Its benches are great for soaking up the Andean morning sun and watching the bustle all around. On Monday, the changing of the guards takes place on the plaza at 11am. The white building on the plaza’s northwest side with the national flag flying atop is the Palacio de Gobierno, the seat of the Ecuadorian presidency. On the southwest side stands Quito’s cathedral.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    Palacio de Gobierno

    The low white building on the northwestern side of Plaza Grande is the seat of the Ecuadorian presidency. Visitors can enter by joining a free guided tour in Spanish and English which leave every 20 minutes; bring photo ID to the ticket office on Espejo to reserve a space. The President lives and works here, so sightseeing is limited to rooms that are not in use.

  • Sights in Quito

    Monasterio Museo del Carmen Alto

    The Monasterio Museo del Carmen Alto, built in 1653 and still home to an order of 20 Carmelite nuns, now houses an interesting museum. Exhibits explore the daily routines of the nuns who made their lives here, including Marianita de Jesus (1618–1645), Quito's patron saint. The whitewashed two-story building surrounds a sun-filled inner courtyard, and several rooms contain emotive, religiously themed paintings. Free tours in Spanish; tours in English $4.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Quito

    Museos Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana

    Newly reopened following a full-scale makeover, Museos Casa de la Cultura encompasses three museums in a single bright, modern space. The expansive Museo de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Museum) features canvases by some of Ecuador’s most famous artists, including Oswaldo Guayasamín, Eduardo Kingman and Camilo Egas, while the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales houses a curious collection of musical instruments. The excellent new Museo Etnográfico (Ethnography Museum) has interesting exhibits highlighting the spiritual beliefs, lifestyle and festivals of Ecuador's indigenous peoples.

  • Sights in Quito

    Jardín Botánico

    Parque La Carolina’s most popular attraction is this peacefully set botanical garden with native habitats covering páramo (high-altitude Andean grasslands), cloud forest, wetlands and other areas, plus an orquideario (orchid greenhouse), ethnobotanical garden (exploring the plants used by indigenous groups) and Amazonian greenhouse. Accessed by a bridge, there’s also a kids' play/discovery area, a Japanese garden and a collection of more than 100 bonsai trees.

  • Sights in Quito

    Mindalae – Museo Etnográfico de Artesanía de Ecuador

    Just north of Mariscal Sucre, this worthwhile museum has displays on the spiritual beliefs and practices, artwork, clothing and utensils of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Start at the top with the 4th-floor shamanism exhibition and make your way down via the spiral staircase at the center of the unusual curved building. It's run by the fair-trade organization Fundación Sinchi Sacha, and there's an excellent shop selling indigenous crafts from across Ecuador.

  • Sights in Quito

    Museo de la Ciudad

    This first-rate museum depicts daily life in Quito through the centuries, with displays including dioramas, model indigenous homes and colonial kitchens. The 1563 building itself (a former hospital) is a work of art. There are also a number of temporary exhibitions. Entry is free on the last Sunday of the month.

  • Sights in Quito

    Cumandá Parque Urbano

    The Old Town's old bus terminal has been converted into a sparkling covered cultural center and sports complex with a volleyball court, soccer pitch, climbing wall, yoga studios and several small swimming pools – all free of charge. Those not interested in getting their heart rate up can take in the temporary art exhibitions, theater performances, live music and other cultural events that are now held here. It's accessed from La Ronda.

  • Sights in Quito

    Casa del Alabado

    Housed in an elegant colonial-era home, this privately owned museum with contemporary displays showcases an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Thematically organized around subjects such as shamans, pigmentation and the afterlife, explanations in English and Spanish (audio guides are available) explore the indigenous beliefs represented by the finely crafted ceramic pieces and jewelry.

  • Sights in Quito

    Quito Observatory

    Opened by President García Moreno in 1864, this four-sided observatory is the oldest on the continent. It houses a museum of 19th-century pendulums, sextants, chronometers and other historical instruments. From February to May and July to August, stargazing sessions are held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights ($3; reserve ahead). It sits inside the small Parque La Alameda.

  • Sights in Quito

    Parque Itchimbia

    Sitting high on a hill above the Old Town, this grassy park boasts magnificent views of the city, running and cycle tracks and a children's playground. It’s the perfect spot to spread out a picnic lunch, soak up the sun and take in the panorama. It's a steep climb up here from the San Blas neighborhood; walk up Elizalde, from where steps lead up to the park.

  • Sights in Quito

    Santuario de Guápulo

    In an elegant square in Guápulo stands the neighborhood’s centerpiece, the 17th-century Santuario de Guápulo, surrounded by sheer valley sides. It has an excellent collection of Quito School art and sculpture, and a stunning 18th-century pulpit carved by master wood-carver Juan Bautista Menacho.