Historic center

Historic Center

Quito has many churches. Inside them, incalculable treasures of culture and history are kept, as a reminder of the best-preserved place in the world. Since Quito was a main city for the Inca empire, Spaniards reflected that importance undertaking construction and design of a fabulous religious architecture with particular care.

ARCO DE LA REINA

From La Compañía de Jesús Church, you can see the famous Arch of the Queen (Arco de la Reina) “Of the queen who never came,” as those who pass under it, say in whispers. The arch was built in 1727, to protect people from the sun and rain when they came to pray to the Virgin located in the chapel, on the left wall of the arch. It is named in honor of the Virgin of the Angels, whose devotion began with the first Saint of Ecuador, Mariana de Jesús.

She lived in front of the chapel, in what is now known as the Carmen Alto Church and Convent, and worshiped the Virgin with fervent devotion from her bedroom window. It was decided to build an altar and a chapel for the image of the Virgin. As more people came to pray there, and to shelter them from the rain during masses, the arch was built. Now the chapel is closed, but its oversized plaque continues to proudly display its title “Queen’s Arch.”

In the vicinity, you have several points of interest to explore. You can visit the Museum of the City, and learn about the history of Quito or cross the street and visit the Carmen Alto Museum, which shows the religious fervor in an old cloister that still works in the 21st century. Nearby is El Manto Sagrado store, with all kinds of outfits for Baby Jesus figures, or you can try typical sweets such as sugar-covered peanuts and toasted corn with raw cane, which is the favorite in the candy store. In every corner there is something you may like.

BASÍLICA DEL VOTO NACIONAL

It is seen in the distance, from many places in Quito. It is a monumental structure, in fact, one of the most important in the city. Its construction has taken more than 100 years, with details that are still being built today.

It is located in the San Juan neighborhood where the Huanaucari, a sacred hill in pre-Columbian times, was. Today, it is the most outstanding temple in the city, made in a striking neo-Gothic style. Its construction was arranged to confirm Quito’s religiosity at a time of great changes (“liberalism”, “secularism” and revolution) in the late 1800s and officially marks the consecration of Quito to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It has not yet been fully finished. Among its charms, are the colorful stained-glass windows and gargoyles that represent emblematic species of Ecuadorian fauna: the iguana, the alligator, the giant Galapagos tortoise and the Blue-footed Booby. On the roof of the monument you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Climbing to the top of the Basilica can cause vertigo but it is a highly recommended visit!

CAPILLA DEL ROBO

In a hidden corner of the restored 24 de Mayo Avenue, is this small chapel with an interesting story to tell.

Capilla del Robo “The Chapel of the Robbery” was named after the events of a Wednesday, January 20, 1649, when thieves entered the church of the Poor Clares nuns, to steal the tabernacle and sacred cups full of hosts. The news reached Bishop Ugarte y Sagavia, who called the Quito people to the Cathedral to report the robbery and ask for help in the search for the culprits. Likewise, he ordered the entire population to attend the 18:00 mass every day and dress in mourning for a period of time.

An air of fear was breathed in the city and it was believed that God was going to send a rain of fire on Quito as punishment. People took to the streets in procession and begged mercy from heaven. Eventually, the tabernacle was found in the Jerusalem ravine, now known as 24 de Mayo Avenue, and a ciborium appeared in the church of San Francisco. The thieves were found and excommunicated from the church, and a legend tells that they were dismembered as an act of divine justice. The chapel was erected at the site of the find.

The ravine where the relic was found was filled and then became Avenida 24 de Mayo, which for many years was the red zone of Quito until the end of the last century. Today, after important restoration work, this icon of the old city has been converted into a pedestrian promenade, or “boulevard”.

EL CARMEN ALTO MONASTERY

It is worth feeling and knowing the spiritual peace of the Carmen Alto convent. One of the newest museums in Quito is located in the facilities of this emblematic cloister and is the ideal place to experience that peace.

The barefoot Carmelites inhabit this building of more than 300 years, which serves as a sanctuary. They continue to maintain their faith with great dedication, offering the contemporary bustle of Quito, a unique space, stopped in time, of silence and contemplation.

It is possible to buy honey, wine, herbs, natural and medicinal products (all made by the nuns themselves) through the lathe. There are small squares and gardens, where it is possible to know aspects of their daily routine, beliefs and prayers, far behind the wall.

You can visit the museum rooms and admire some of the special pieces from the convent’s collection, see the house where Santa Mariana De Jesús, the first Ecuadorian saint, lived, and the cross on which she crucified herself to save the city.

Like many colonial buildings in Quito, its solid walls have been deeply affected by earthquakes, and have required restoration works on several occasions.

Its temple, built in 1653, is a masterpiece full of meticulous details and iconography, with an altar, pulpit and other images carved by the renowned Colonial artist Diego de Robles.

CARMEN BAJO CONTENT

The fabulous wooden gates of the Carmen Bajo convent are worthy of admiration, and cannot be overlooked when you see them, on Venezuela street.

The convent of El Carmen Bajo was founded in 1669, in Latacunga (a city located two hours from Quito), but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1698. Years later, the remains of the convent were brought to Quito, where it was rebuilt between 1718 and 1726. The final inauguration occurred in 1745.

During its opening hours, you can visit part of the convent and discover the religious and cultural heritage of the Carmelite order in Quito. The cloister nuns live in the convent, maintaining their life of contemplation and spirituality. The beautiful church, the monastery rooms and the orangery are some of the highlights. In the middle of the crypt of the church, the Marchioness of Solanda, Mariana Carcelén, secretly placed the remains of her husband, Marshal Antonio José de Sucre. Years later, at the beginning of the 20th century, they were transferred to the Cathedral, where they remain to this day.

METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL

It is the oldest Cathedral in South America, and one of the oldest Spanish temples in America. Its walls and domes have witnessed some of the most important events in the capital. 

It is a special, unique place, located in the heart of the city. It has been a resting place for rulers and a place of devotion to the heroes of Independence. The Cathedral is full of stories.

Its beautiful façade, its atrium with its curious spheres, or “Carondelet balls” as they are colloquially called, each with a different motif, and its beautiful stone steps, make it one of the most important attractions of the Plaza Grande in Quito.

The Cathedral shows a very interesting fusion of forms: Gothic arches lead to a Moorish ceiling, while the neoclassical choir is adorned by an episcopal chair, surrounded by colonial sculptures with three clearly Baroque naves. Among this mixture of styles, one also discovers the history of life in the seventeenth century priesthood, the choral books and silver objects that were left by the parishioners and the robes worn by the priests.

‘The Descent of Christ from the Cross’, a Caspicara masterpiece, dominates the main altar, one of the great reasons to stop and contemplate it again and again. It is a jewel of colonial art and also a landmark of religious architecture. A painting of the Virgin, made by Manuel de Samaniego, which is surrounded by a mural by Bernardo Rodríguez, is also striking.

Here rest the remains of the most famous figure of the city’s independence, Antonio José de Sucre, and a small altar commemorates with a plaque, the death of President Gabriel García Moreno, assassinated on the morning of August 6, 1875, minutes after having visited the temple.

METROPOLITAN CULTURAL CENTER

This cultural center, located diagonally to the Plaza Grande, is one of the icons of the city and a place where important temporary exhibitions of national and international artists are held.

The Metropolitan Cultural Center is located in what was historically the Jesuit headquarters in Quito. They were expelled from the colonies in 1767 due to their great influence in the region. The departure of the Jesuits dramatically marked the history of this building. This administrative operations center of the most productive estates in the city was suddenly transformed in prison, into a tobacco factory, mint, and finally, into a bar. It had already been Quito’s first pharmacy, the first library (one of the most important in America), and home to the city’s first newspaper. Today it is a Cultural Center.

Remember to also visit the Mena Caamaño Wax Museum for an interesting historical account. Also, don’t miss the temporary exhibitions. Some of the country’s leading artists have exhibited their work here as well as international exhibitors. A store at the entrance of the Cultural Center offers crafts, art books and other souvenirs.

CONVENT OF SAN DIEGO

Discover its coffered ceilings, art gallery, pulpit; the mysterious legend of Father Almeida and the supposed painting of Bosco that has eluded the radars of art historians.

This Franciscan recollect, in its museum and convent, offers a very interesting visit, including a possible painting by El Bosco, a beautiful entrance courtyard with an imposing cross in the center, much art and history. Don’t miss the colorful mural dedicated to the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, or the crucifixes of some of the great sculptors of the Quito School.

The mischievous Father Almeida

There are two protagonists in the legend of Padre Almeida, linked to this religious temple: the father himself, who escaped every night in search of forbidden pleasures, and the figure of Christ that the father used as a ladder to leave the convent. Legend has it that the Father forced the inanimate object to turn around and claim: “How long, Father Almeida?” Supposedly, the Father answered him: «Until the return, Lord». Manuel Almeida, the historical character, really existed, although the debauchery attributed to him is surely false. The Christ, on the other hand, attributed to another Manuel, Manuel Chili, or “Caspicara”, can be visited in the convent. It is also said that the face of the sculpture changes expression depending on the angle at which you look at it

San Diego cemetery

Next to the convent, there is the cemetery, an excellent place of visit although little known. The guards are not prepared to receive the visit of tourists. Do not show your camera if you decide to enter. Surprise yourself with the architectural drama of some mausoleums and the special arabesque church. It is also worth discovering the view of the city from the upper parts of the cemetery.

EL SAGRARIO

A beautiful chapel located next to the Municipal Cathedral is, in its own right, one of the important churches to visit in the Historic Center of Quito.

Sometimes overlooked in front of other more renowned churches, this temple boasts a fascinating history and great relics. Connected to the Cathedral, it is included in the First Cadastre Book distributed among the Founders of the Villa de Quito, although its construction began in 1617 and by 1694 it had not been completed. The reason why none of the previous attempts to build the temple had been successful is because there was a prominent ravine (called “de Sanguña”), which descended from the Pichincha volcano to the Machángara river, where there was a geological fault, which for the era was practically impossible to circumvent.

Despite the difficulty, it was decided to build it on foundations of more than fourteen meters, forming a set of robust arches that supported the structure. The parish church was then built on a sanitary landfill stationed on these arches, proof of the technical progress of that time.

The overwhelming mastery of the baroque style reached its climax at the mampuerta, generously invading all the available space, an outstanding work by the highly renowned Bernardo de Legarda. All the elements of this mampuerta, “the best in Quito”, attract attention, its polychrome and decoration, once again demonstrate the mark left by this master of Jesuit art in Quito. Legarda also worked on the window frames and other church decorations.

The parish church of El Sagrario has also gone down in history for the presence of Manuela Cañizares, who rented an apartment on the top floor of the property. It was at her home that many of the secret meetings were held, which led to the proclamation of independence on August 10, 1809.

GUÁPULO CHURCH

The Guápulo church is the magnificent axis of the most unique town / neighborhood in the city, with its beautiful green dome, its colonial art and the fantastic view that opens from its square.

Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe has its home within the Church of Our Lady of Guápulo. Originally, the devotion was brought by Spanish conquistadors, and the design of that building has a Baroque and Mudejar style. Inside the sacristy, you can see several pictures representing the miracles of the Virgin, painted by the colonial artist, Miguel de Santiago.

The Guápulo church has been named by several researchers as an architectural jewel of the 16th century, above all for its characteristic 60 meter Latin cross, turned into a sacred place of pilgrimage. Works by renowned artists such as Diego de Robles and Luis de Ribera are also exhibited inside.

CHURCH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

In the monastery, a group of nuns live completely isolated from the outside world. There are few opportunities to get to know this historical relic of Quito. 

The cloister of the Monastery of La Concepción was founded in 1577, but the church and convent were built in the 17th century. Its patron saint is Our Lady of Good Success, to whom apparitions and miracles are attributed. At the “Candelarias” celebration on February 2, people bring candles to be blessed. The cloister also opens its doors on Christmas Eve.

Despite being in the Plaza Grande, this church goes unnoticed and overshadowed by the Palacio de Carondelet next to it. The monastery is considered the oldest in Quito and has been under the direction of Franciscans since its origins. Additionally, it was the clergyman Juan Yáñez who proposed that it be converted into a nunnery. Today, the nuns are the ones that sell products made by them in lathes. The Immaculate Conception Church had great treasures inside its building, however, a fire caused significant damage and loses. The rehabilitation of the church and the convent passed into the hands of the FONSAL (Salvage Fund for the Cultural Heritage of Quito). The church is within the route of the Street of the Seven Crosses “Calle de las Siete Cruces”.

CHURCH OF SAN BLAS

The church, recently restored with a new plaza (and a striking vertical garden), is one of the oldest religious buildings in Quito. Located on the outskirts of the city, this was the place where the natives were allowed and forced to attend mass. Later it became the home of the first mestizo priest in Quito. 

The north access to the Historic Center is San Blas with its origins that date back to the 16th century. Along with San Sebastián, it is the oldest parish church in Quito. It was built on a hillside that reaches Itchimbía and the current La Alameda park. Although it was rebuilt, its original design was in the form of a cross, with pyramidal walls (1620). The main façade is made of adobe, it has a stone bell tower and the door has a pair of corinthian corrugated columns that support the triangular pediment. The interior, fabulous despite its modesty, has a small altarpiece on the back wall and a pulpit with the image of St. Blaise “San Blas”.

SAN SEBASTIÁN CHURCH

One of the oldest churches in the city, located at the foot of Panecillo, has become an important community recovery project. 

The Church of San Sebastián made news a few years ago when, during its recovery process, the existence of an old colonial painting, the Lord of Justice, was revealed. The work is exhibited with other important ones that make your visit more interesting. The temple is sober and reveals a special peace inside. Built in the 16th century, it is one of the first churches in the southern sector of the Historic Center. It is modest, with a single nave and adobe walls. 

A construction recovery process is currently underway and the community is working hard to improve the infrastructure and comfort of the religious temple. Close to the Cumandá park and the old bus station, San Sebastián is one of the traditional and old neighborhoods of the city, at the foot of Panecillo, with a lot of history and character.

EL BELÉN CHURCH

El Belén used to be called Veracruz, and it was where the Spanish conquistadors attended their first mass after the founding of Quito.

With captivating simplicity, the small El Belén church exudes a sense of peace, which has little to do with the bloody colonial past that was lived in this corner of Quito. The northern end of the current La Alameda park was the scene of the battle between conquerors in the 16th century, that culminated in the beheading of Viceroy Blasco Núñez de Vela. In commemoration, a modest chapel was built on the site, one of the first in Ecuador. Later, El Belén Church was built, in the late eighteenth century.

It has a wood-carved crucifix by Caspicara, a key artist of the colonial era, and despite its humble façade, its most precious treasure is its beautiful 18th-century altarpiece that has been kept in good condition.

The Malayerba theater group, considered one of the best theater groups in the region, has a workspace next to the chapel. Book a show by calling + (593 2) 223 5463.

ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH

The beautiful Saint Augustine gates, with their characteristic silver hearts pattern, can only anticipate the beautiful visit that awaits you.

Shades of mint green, light blue and rosewood line the interior walls and frame the crowded arches of painted saints; the singular choir shines in gold leaf, and is displayed alongside life-size angels. In its renowned Chapter Hall are the reasons to visit the temple, one of the most important in Quito.

Restoration has been of great importance in this temple, given its hectic history. The church is famous for being the place where the heroes of Quito signed the Declaration of Independence “Grito de Independencia”.

The church and convent were also a temporary headquarters during the war between liberals and conservatives at the end of the 19th century, and it is even said that a soldier entertained himself shooting the decorative elements of the convent with his carbine. In addition, the cracks show a history of fierce earthquakes.

The restoration process saved more than 40 works by Miguel de Santiago and the formidable coffered ceilings (note the hanging pineapples in the corridor) that contrast with the immaculate white walls. In the church, on each side of the majestic altar, there are gigantic canvases from this Colonial artist. More works from the Quito School are also exhibited in the very interesting Miguel de Santiago Museum, which is part of the cloister. The artist’s remains lie below this temple.

CHURCH LA COMPAÑÍA DE JESÚS

La Compañía, leaves anyone breathless: a perfect jewel, cluttered from head to toe in gold leaf (7 tons!). It is one of the most precious architectural creations in America. 

With light inlets that gloriously illuminate its interior and a carving work where Jesus on the altar, during a peak of the day, receives the sun on his face during the equinox, is only a detail of the beauty of this temple. It is enough to surprise anyone, but, like everything baroque, its greatness is in the details.

La Compañía de Jesús is considered the most important religious-colonial architectural and artistic temple of Quito. This Jesuit church began to be built in 1605 and its construction took 163 years. The Mudejar sensibility, the trompe l’oeil, the vacui horror, its symbolism, everything together in perfect harmony.

This is an incredible example of Baroque art for the world. The fabulous paintings, ceilings and carved walls with an almost didactic sense of Renaissance symmetry, are enough to leave any visitor open-mouthed. We suggest you sit on one of the benches and appreciate the wonderfulness of this place.

It all starts with the facade, the most attractive in the entire city. It is basically an altar, but posted on the street, with images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the more important Jesuit saints; the heart of Jesus and Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, the Holy Spirit and the symbol of the Eucharist covering the building, like a relief mural from floor to ceiling. For Quiteños, in addition to its architectural, historical and aesthetic value, the Church of La Compañía has enormous mystical value, since this temple is where the first Saint of Quito, Mariana de Jesús, rests, and where, in the chapel accessible from Benalcázar street, the miracle of the Virgin Dolorosa happened at the beginning of the 20th century: the image in the painting, closed its eyes and shed some tears in front of 35 young students from the San Gabriel School.

Miracle in its restoration:

In 1868, an earthquake destroyed the beautiful church tower, the tallest in Quito. Another earthquake in 1987 partially destroyed the church, which led to an intense restoration program. A fire in 1996 affected several more sections, which forced the work to be suspended for a time. However, it was finally reopened to the public in 2006, in all its glory, as if nothing had happened.

LA MERCED CHURCH AND MONASTERY

The Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy is a building of deep historical and architectural significance, ready for you to discover! 

The construction of this monumental complex began in 1559 and includes an area of 29,000 square meters (church and monastery). Its style is Baroque and Moorish. It was initially called the Chapel of San Juan de Letrán. Inside there are sculptures of Bernardo de Legarda, works by Miguel de Santiago, Francisco Albán, Manuel Samaniego, Goríbar and other great colonial artists … a pictorial series of more modern artists also stands out. Two of the artists are Luis Cadena and Joaquín Pinto from the 19th century and with special importance, the “piece of resistance” by the painter Víctor Mideros.

La Merced tower houses the remains of an Inca wall at its foundations. This church has been rebuilt several times due to the damage caused by earthquakes occurred at different times. Its library, holds just over 22,000 books, and its stone fountain in the central courtyard are details of high consideration.

The veneration of the Virgin of the volcano

The relationship between the people of Quito and Our Lady of Mercy, grew stronger over time. According to the historian González Suárez, the Mercedarians transformed an indigenous stone idol from Manabí into a statue of Mary, seeking to bring the natives of Quito to the cult of the Virgin of Mercy. The first inhabitants of Quito would go to ask for help, especially in times of volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. For this reason, in 1575, the City Council proclaimed September 8 as a day of thanksgiving to the Virgin of Mercy, for saving the city from catastrophe, when in the midst of a great storm of thunder and lightning, a rain of ash darkened the city.

The Pilgrim of Quito

In order to raise the funds for the works and decoration of the temple, the Mercedarians undertook a pilgrimage throughout America in 1706 with a small statue of the Virgin. The trip ended in the Spanish city of Cádiz in 1733. The statue was very popular in Latin American lands and was baptized The Pilgrim “La Peregrina de Quito”. Apparently, the original statue was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.

MONASTERY OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA

Santa Catalina is one of the important cloisters of the city, a living museum of our traditions.

At the corner of Flores and Espejo streets, stands the striking Monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, another temple that has been a victim of earthquakes, with a cloister painted in orange and a museum that presents religious souvenirs and more than 100 paintings of baroque art.

The Catalonian sisters prepare and sell radish and eucalyptus syrups for coughs, water for nerves, creams, candles and more products from their lathe that claim to cure “everything”, from warts, wrinkles and even cancer. It is, in fact, a great experience, to listen to the people of Quito who come to the nuns’ remedies. On the second floor, as a prelude to the museum visit, you will see a wooden bench. They say that any woman who sits on it will soon become pregnant!

LA PLAZA GRANDE

It is the core of the city and perhaps the best place to start the visit of the center of Quito: its Independence Plaza.


It took over 150 years for this plain of dust and earth to become the most important grid in Quito, where the distribution (and confrontation) of powers in the country was defined around the original small stone fountain, which today it is a proud monument to independence: our own Statue of Liberty.


The beautiful Plaza de la Independencia, in the heart of the Historic Center, is surrounded by the four pillars of society, the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipality. Under the watchful eye of the Pichincha Volcano and the beautiful Andean blue sky, the plaza protects the secrets and legends of the city, its political traditions, its pacts and hidden treaties: it is the witness of the chronicles of Quito.

The city’s activity is part of this center spot, which has remained, over the years, as the heart of its community, a space proper to each citizen and with which each one identifies in their own way. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Monument to the Heroes of Independence was erected in the center of the square, the symbol of the triumph of the Republic over Spanish rule, but the place has also witnessed great popular revolts that have managed to overthrow presidents and change the course of politics.

The Plaza is a great place to observe the color, humor and drama of life in Quito. Here, you will find old men gossiping to each other on their benches, shoe shiners passing from one customer to another, curious people looking at the latest headlines, new mothers who proudly push their babies’ cars, candy vendors who offer their delicacies, indigenous women with their “guaguas” (children) wrapped, carried on their backs, women weaving, photographers capturing the beauty of the city, foreigners walking, police and guards taking care of their people with impeccable boots. Choose a bench, get comfortable and enjoy the show.

SAN MARCOS CHURCH

The plaza and church of San Marcos is the center of one of the most special neighborhoods in the Historic Center, located on the peaceful Junín street.

A small park adorns the front, which is the meeting point for neighbors. Its pediment, restored in the last century, shows the influence of neoclassical lines, elegantly displaying a bell tower at the base.

The gabled roof maintains its original atmosphere and the interior of a single nave shows the main altarpiece structured under the Baroque model; the pulpit reveals the ancestors of the parishioners; the statue of Saint Joseph with baby Jesus, a piece worthy of admiration that explains the religious and artistic heritage in this small parish church.

SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH

The Church of Santo Domingo is one of the important temples in the Historic Center, where we find one of the most treasured chapels in the entire city.

It has a style different from that of most of the main churches in the capital. Much of the original work was replaced by new pieces from the 19th century, since the Italian priests of the time decided to favor neoclassical elements.

Dominated by celestial high ceilings and beautiful coffered ceilings, combined with lively pink tones and the gilding of wood, Mudejar designs predominate. Santo Domingo has one of the most colorful church interiors. To the right of the main altar is the rococo of the scarlet chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary “Virgen del Rosario”, decorated with gold leaf. This striking altarpiece is a true visual delight. The Virgin of the Rosary was a gift from Carlos V at the time of the colony to the church of Santo Domingo and today it is one of the most beautiful chapels in the city. Its carving in cedar and alder wood, bathed in gold leaf, with polychrome backgrounds, reveal two doors that lead to the “Virgin’s bedroom”, a room where the flowers, ornaments and clothes that have been presented to the virgin for her faithful believers. These gifts reveal not only love as such, but the passionate custom of dressing (and dressing well) the icon of devotion. The place is overflowing with velvet clothing that we may never see the virgin in. Only the sacristan can enter this place.

Fray Pedro Bedón Museum

Since 1586, Fray Pedro Bedón lived and worked in the church, where his artistic legacy began. The museum offers an overview of the maximum expression of religious colonial art, showing the techniques and cultural syncretism of important icons and mangers.

A little history

When you approach the Historic Center from the south of the city, you will be greeted by a beautiful tower adorned with an elegant clock, which is part of the fascinating complex of Santo Domingo. The Plaza was the entrance to Quito, where you could find the famous “cajoneras”, female vendors of linen products and the traditional rag dolls.

The construction of the church and monastery began in 1581. It turned out in one of the most important religious structures in the city. In 1880, the destiny of this church changed radically. A group of Italian priests came to the city with the aim of modernizing the cult and the physical spaces. In their desire to “develop”, they decided to update the image of Santo Domingo: they changed the color, modified the pictorial themes and even the baroque altarpieces. They made functional reforms, which fulfilled the requirements of a new cult idea imposed by Europeans. Now we have a church with three naves, neoclassical painting and a roof full of color and Mudejar style.

SANTA BÁRBARA CHURCH

The style of the surrounding buildings is integrated with the church, including the buildings of the early twentieth century. Its construction was made in the 16th century and is the work of the architect Juan Pablo Sanz. After the earthquakes of 1987, the reconstruction and structural consolidation works began on the walls and in the dome, by the FONSAL Fund.

BOLÍVAR THEATER

We may say, without a doubt, that Bolívar Theater is the greatest expression of art-nouveau architecture in the country. The theater´s story began in the 20th century and includes having survived an era of movie theaters that offer multiple films simultaneously and a fire in 1999.

It was built in 1933 with a capacity for 2,400 spectators. At that time, it was the largest stage in Quito where opera, ballet, theater and zarzuela shows were offered. When the 80s arrived, the public stopped attending, because people preferred television and video. Between 1988 and 1997, the Bolívar worked exclusively as a cinema. In 1997, the Theater Company resumed its management, restored it and the theater regain its status as a cultural stage. In the following two years, 65 activities were held in this place. Unfortunately, in August 1999, a fire consumed 70% of all facilities. However, a few weeks after the tragedy, the curtain rose again and from the seats blackened by the fire, the audience applauded a different version of Don Quixote on the roofless stage. The crusade for the reconstruction of the Bolívar has been an example of the tenacity and love from the citizens looking to preserve the cultural icons.

On the ground floor of the theater, try delicious food at the La Purísima restaurant or a bite at the Galleti café; in its mezzanine, the iconic Wonder Bar 1933 is a cultural center with a more contemporary offering where events and concerts are held.

CAPITOL THEATER

The Capitol Theater is part of La Alameda neighborhood. It is a stately building that belonged to a distinguished Quito family. For several decades it functioned as a movie theater.

The presence of the Capitol on Gran Colombia Avenue allowed business, social relations and moments of recreation for Quito society to flourish. It was also one of the attractions around the park, along with the lagoon, the little horse of the souvenir photos or the churo. Like them, it is almost a character who talks and tells his own story. A long story that had a new chapter since 2016 when it reopened its doors.

Built by the architect Giacomo Radioconcini in 1908, and initially known as the Samaniego Theater, the Capitol Theater was part of the modern city of Quito, offering “cinema”, which at that time was a novel entertainment for the people of Quito who were beginning to create their lives north of the Historic Center.

A network of projection rooms boomed and remained in operation for more than half a century, until they declined, being replaced by today’s modern cinema complexes.

The Capitol was one of the most famous cinemas, with its imponent columns at the entrance and located in front of the Alameda Park. After being briefly used as a church, and after a major municipal intervention, the Capitol Theater rose from the ashes, with renovated infrastructure, including a mobile platform and a 12-square-meter stage, to offer performances of music, dance, and the arts in general.

This cultural space opens its doors again to citizens, to artists and cultural managers, becoming an inclusive and participatory theater.

SUCRE THEATER

The relevance of this theater is due to the importance in its cultural offer. It has become a mandatory visit on the way to the Historic Center. The square where it is located bears its name as well, Plaza del Teatro, due to the presence of what can be said to be The Theater of the City.

In 1879, President Ignacio de Veintimilla ordered the construction of the “National Theater”, which would later be named after the hero of Pichincha, Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre. Veintimilla’s order was, in reality, the request of his niece Marietta, an important voice in Quito politics and society, who replaced his uncle as president when he travelled outside the country. She is remembered as the woman with the most power in Ecuadorian history. The building was constructed under the design by German architect Francisco Schmit and was inaugurated on November 25, 1886 with a musical presentation by the French pianist Captain Voyer, accompanied by the National Orchestra.

In 1900 a necessary renovation was carried out by Schmit himself. The eardrum with its golden relief that characterizes the structure, was built by him. You will see figures representing a scene of Orpheus and his nine muses, a breathtaking combination of gold and white colors. The characters of Greek mythology are believed to protect the Sciences and the Arts. Orpheus, who occupies the central space of the eardrum, was a poet and a musician, and his talent for playing the lyre tamed the wildest animals. Terpsichore inspired dance, Talía presided over comedies and parties, and Euterpe was the muse of music and lyric poetry. The figure that resembles a shell lies above that triangular pediment and represents none other than Marietta de Veintimilla herself, nicknamed by so many Quiteños of the time as “la Generalita”, the Little General.

Today, almost 140 years later, the Sucre National Theater is still the most emblematic place for the performing arts in the city, and its Teatro Sucre Foundation hosts some of the most important festivals in the city, including the Festival of Sacred Music and Quito Jazz Fest, with participation of international artists.

VARIEDADES ERNESTO ALBÁN THEATER

Located in the Theater Plaza, diagonal to the Sucre National Theater, the Variedades Theater offers a special approach to the performing arts in a historical place that pays tribute to Ernesto Albán, one of the great actors of Quito, who represented the “chulla” of Quito, gallant character with exquisite humor, satire and social criticism.

It is a space that opens its doors to the most diverse artistic expressions, in an intimate format with a capacity of no more than 250 people. Theater Variedades was designed by the architect Giacomo Badiconzinni and purchased, in 1940, by the Mantilla cinema chain (which also owned the current Teatro México), and functioned, for more than fifty years, exclusively as a screening room. It was in 2006, when the Quito Salvage Fund (FONSAL) carried out a deep restoration work and reopened it.

SHORT PLANNER

If you have a morning:

  • Quito Tour Bus
  • Tour of facades through the Historic Center
  • Towers of the Basilica + Church of the Society of Jesus

f you have a day:

  • Basilica + Domes of the Cathedral + La Compañía de Jesús Church + Convent of San Francisco + La Ronda
  • Panecillo + Convent of San Diego + Santa Clara + Colaciones at La Cruz Verde + Quinde Visitors Center
  • City Museum + El Carmen Alto Museum + Domes of Santo Domingo + Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena + San Marcos

If you have two or three days:

  • Street of the Seven Crosses (Santa Bárbara + La Concepción + La Catedral + El Sagrario + La Compañía + Carmen Alto + Hospital San Lázaro) + San Francisco Market + La Ronda
  • Towers and domes (Basilica + Cathedral + San Francisco + Santa Clara + Santo Domingo)
  • Crafts in San Marcos + Paila Ice Cream Tasting + Convent of San Agustín + Plaza Grande + Compañía de Jesús + San Francisco Church and Museum.
  • +593 2993300
  • mercadeo@quito-turismo.gob.ec
  • Passage Oe3 Río Amazonas N51-20 & Street N50B
    Old airport, Quito

© All rights reserved

Quito Turismo - Visit Quito

  • +593 2993300
  • mercadeo@quito-turismo.gob.ec
  • Passage Oe3 Río Amazonas N51-20 & Street N50B
    Old airport, Quito

© All rights reserved

Quito Turismo - Visit Quito