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Quito Old Town
Narrow street in Quito´s Old Town
Old Town Quito with the Virgin statue on the hill above
Colonial Quito´s narrow streets and impressive architecture
Santo Domingo plaza and church in Quito's Old Town
Quito city map and guidebook, all you need for a city tourThe Virgin of Quito statue on the Panecillo hill above old town Quito

Old Town Quito has colonial churches, narrow streets and attractive squares, all overlooked by the Virgin of Quito.  It's also known as the Historic Centre or Colonial Quito.


Quito Old Town -  Ecuador Destinations

Quito's "Old Town" in the south of the city is also known as the Centro Historico (Historic Centre) or Colonial Quito.  In a compact area you will find many ornate churches, attractive streets full of fine examples of colonial houses and three main squares ("plazas") in which to sit and watch the world go by.  Some of the Quito old town hotels are amongst the most attractive in the country.
Quito Old Town is the focus of a Quito city tour offered by many travel agents and tour operators, or your hotel may arrange a guided tour.  Some offer a night ride around the Historic Centre in a horse-drawn carriage, when the many churches with their ornate colonial architecture are illuminated.  A more economic option is to grab a Quito city map and a guidebook and take a do-it-yourself walking tour of the Old Town - but don't try this at night.  
The Plaza de la Independencia is the centre of Old Town Quito, for both religious and administrative purposes - the Archbishop's Palace is here, along with the Cathedral, the City Hall, and the Government Palace.  It's an attractive place to sit, as many locals do, and people watch.  There's almost always a group protesting about something in the square, so you can get some insight into the social issues of the day as well.  
From the Plaza, there are dozens of churches and museums to explore within walking distance.  Unless you are on some kind of pilgrimage you will probably be all churched out after 3 or 4 of the thirty or more churches, convents and monasteries.  La Compañía and San Francisco are a couple of dramatic options to visit and feature on most versions of the Quito city tour.  The Basílica del Voto Nacional with its twin spires is impressive to photograph and can be seen from much of the city, making it a useful reference point.  
The Old Town also has various museums and a couple of old houses preserved as they were in colonial times to give an idea of how people used to live.
The Old Town is fascinating to explore during the day, but not a safe place to walk around at night - always take a licensed taxi after dark.  
Quito Old Town Hotels: If you decide to stay in the old town, there are some atmospheric and attractive hotels in beautiful old colonial buildings.  Given the security issues in the evenings, it may be best to pick an Old Town hotel with its own restaurant.  Alternatively, Hotel San Francisco de Quito with its attractive internal courtyard, on the corner of Sucre and Guayaquil, has rooms with a kitchenette for $40 to $50 so you can go self-catering.  For more basic Quito old town hotels, the austere but clean Huasi Continental, on Flores and Sucre, is a budget option at around $10 with private bathrooms, and there are many more like it.
The plazas and streets of Old Town Quito are overlooked by the huge Virgin of Quito statue up on the Panecillo hill (literally the "little bread roll").  Don't be tempted to walk up to the statue, as there have been many muggings on the path and the local dogs are not always friendly.  Take a taxi to the top of the Panecillo, from where you have peace and quiet with great views over the city.  At Christmas, the Virgin is joined by illuminated wire frames of shepherds and kings to make a complete nativity scene.
Travelling north to the New Town and the tourist area of La Mariscal is easily accomplished for 25 centavos on either the Trole bus (stops at Plaza Santo Domingo or Plaza La Marín) or the EcoVia line (La Marín) from the main plazas of Old Town Quito. 
Useful Spanish Vocabulary for Old Town Quito, the city's Historic Centre:
Centro Histórico: historical centre, the Old Town of Colonial Quito with many churches
Museo: museum
Trole: trolley bus system along 10 de Agosto
EcoVia: bus line along 6 de Diciembre
Ecuador Destinations: Quito Old Town
Old Town Quito, the Historic Centre of Ecuador's capital, Quito, has many fine examples of colonial architecture and attractive churches.  Colonial Quito, as it's also known, is the perfect location for a city tour through narrow streets and pretty squares.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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