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While wandering around colonial Quito, you'll probably pass through the Plaza Grande (formally known as Plaza de la Independencia) several times. On the southwest side stands Quito’s cathedral. Although not the most ornate of the Old Town’s churches, it has some fascinating religious works from artists of the Quito School. You’ll also see the ornate tomb of Mariscal Sucre, the leading figure of Quito’s independence. And 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.

In the cathedral, don’t miss the painting of the Last Supper, with Christ and disciples feasting on cuy asado (roast guinea pig), chicha (a fermented corn drink) and humitas (similar to tamales). The Nativity painting includes a llama and a horse peering over the newborn Jesus. Admission includes a free guided tour in Spanish.

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. When the president is in residence, it's closed to visitors. At other times, sightseeing is allowed but limited to a couple of staterooms, possibly, the balcony for views over the plaza and a peak at Guayasamin's brilliantly hued mosaic depicting Francisco de Orellana's descent of the Amazon. On Monday, the changing of the guards takes place on the plaza at 11am.

On the northeast side of the plaza, the Palacio Arzobispal, a former archbishop’s palace is now a colonnaded row of small shops and several restaurants, located between García Moreno and Venezuela. These restaurants – a couple of fast food and other more upscale options with inner balcony seating – are worth noting because these are among the few options open Sunday nights in Old Town. Referred to as Noches Patrimoniales, concerts are often held on the covered patio Saturday from 6pm to 10pm.