City of Quito

Province of Pinchinada, City and Canton of Quito
N0 0 14 W78 30 0
Date of Inscription: 1978
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Property : 320 ha
Ref: 2

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

Isolated in the Andes at 2,818 m. altitude, the city of Quito is spread along the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano and is bordered by the hills of Panecillo and Ichimbia.  Founded by the Spanish in 1534, on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito proudly possesses one of the most extensive and best-preserved historic centres of Spanish America.

The city offers a remarkable example of the Baroque school of Quito (Escuela Quitena), that brings together the indigenous and European artistic traditions and which is renowned for providing the greatest contribution of Spanish America to universal art.  The height of this art is represented by veritable spiritual citadels, among which are San Francisco, San Domingo, San Augustin, La Compana, La Merced, the Sanctuary of Guapulco and the Recoleta of San Diego, to name just the principal ones. These are recognized not only for their artistic value from the architectural viewpoint but also for their decorative elements (altarpieces, paintings, sculptures).

The city of Quito forms a harmonious ensemble where nature and man are brought together to create a unique and transcendental work.  The colonizers knew how to adapt their artistic sensibility to the reality that surrounded them, building their architecture in a very complex topographical environnent. Despite this, the architects were able to confera stylistic and volumetric harmony to the ensemble. The urban routes are based on the original plan and include central and secondary squares as well as checkerboard-patterned streets and are aligned on the cardinal points of the compass. In the city centre, there are convents and churches as well as houses (1 or 2 floors with one or several patios), usually built with earthen bricks and covered with stucco, combining the monumental with the simple and austere.

The city of Quito, the cradle of Pre-Colombian cultures and an important witness of Spanish colonization maintains, for the time being unity and harmony in its urban structure despite centuries of urban development.

Elevated to the title of capital of the Audience of Quito, it assumed the political direction and patronal control over the villages and towns. This is the maximum representation of the step towards forming socio-economic development, creator of a true national idiosyncrasy expressed through its unique tangible and intangible heritage.

Criterion (ii)The influence of the Baroque school of Quito (Escuela Quitena) was recognized in the cultural domain, especially art – architecture, sculpture and painting – in all the cities of the Audencia, and even in those of the neighbouring Audencia.

Criterion (iv): Quito forms a harmonious sui generis where the actions of man and nature come together, to create a unique and transcendental work of its kind.

Suggested Base:

Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. Today, two million people live in Quito. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 (along with Kraków in Poland). Quito lies between two mountain ranges and its altitude is 2,850 m (9,350 feet). It may take you a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude. Quito is roughly divided into three parts: the Old City at the centre, with southern and northern districts to either side [read more].

Santo Domingo de los Colorados is the main transportation hub between Quito and the coast in Ecuador. There are several buses hourly to Quito (3 hour and about $2.50). Hotel Patricia, opposite to the bus station, offers budget rooms for those travellers who need to stay the night waiting for their connection. Single/double $5/$10 [read more].

Ambato is a city in the central Andean Highlands of Ecuador. Ambato is an important industrial hub in Ecuador and as such, most tourists won’t see much more than the bus terminal as a stopover on the way to Baños. Given its central location in the country, Ambato is well connected to all parts of the country. Buses run from Quito (2.5 hr), Baños ($1, 1 hr), Cuenca ($6, 6 hr), Riobamba ($1.25, 1 hr), and many others. Much of the city has been devastated multiple times by earthquakes, most recently in 1949 [read more].

4 replies »

  1. Since Quito tends to be sunnier in the morning, start the day with a bird’s eye view over the city. To do this, there are a few options:
    1. The Basilica del Voto Nacional provides wonderful views of the Old Town and the Virgen de Quito statue on a nearby hill. Be warned that accessing the viewing platform requires crossing a bridge under the roof of the church, then climbing a few narrow ladders.
    2. Else, do instead walk up to Parque Itchimbia for magnificent views of the city and lots of grassy areas to spread out a picnic lunch.
    3. Those with the soul of an eagle can also ride the telefériQo (cable car) up the side of Pichincha volcano. Reaching a height of 4100 meters (13,451 feet), it will give the most expansive view over the city and surrounding countryside.

    In the afternoon, visit Mitad del Mundo, a 20-minute bus ride north of the city. This location marks the site of the Equator, represented by a monument and a line painted on the ground. Have photo taken with a foot in each hemisphere. Yes, everyone does it!


  2. I recommends walking to Casa del Alabadao, the museum of pre-Columbian art. A handsome 17th-century house is the setting for this small museum, whose eight galleries contain more than 500 pieces. Works are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, which makes the engaging free audio guide particularly useful. Take a seat in the tranquil courtyard and try to imagine the proud conquistadores who lived here nearly 400 years ago. If you’ve time, the gift shop makes a solid souvenir stop, its shelves full of local handicrafts.


  3. If you only have one day in Quito, spend it in Old Town. Covering more than 800 acres, this is the largest historic center in the Americas, with an over-abundance of ancient thick-walled, tile-roofed colonial buildings, churches, museums, and more. I’ll never get tired of exploring the gold-gilded La Compañia de Jesus Church and the neo-gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional adorned with animals native to Ecuador instead of gargoyles. I dare you to climb to the top of its bell tower…

    Art lovers, go directly to the Bellavista neighborhood to the former home of famous Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín and one of the city’s most impressive art museums, the Capilla del Hombre, dedicated to the indigenous and exploited people of Latin America. Call me a voyeur, but I always love snooping around in an artist’s studio and this one doesn’t disappoint. The museum itself, with its large-format murals, is hauntingly impressive.

    Shoppers will love La Mariscal, also called “Gringolandia” because of the hordes of tourists and backpacker hotels here. Plaza Quinde, at the intersection of Calles Reina Victoria and Foch, is my favorite place to settle in with a cocktail at an outdoor cafe and do some serious people watching. This is also the place to satisfy your shopping lust. Take a few bucks (that’s all you’ll need) and poke into the handicraft shops lining Avenida Amazonas or head for the large artisan mercado at the corner of Reina Victoria and Jorge Washington Streets. You’ll find carved items, ponchos, sweaters, scarves, rugs, ceramics, gourds, textiles of all kinds, and my weakness…artisan chocolate.


  4. A walking tour of Quito’s Old City, which is the largest historic centre in Latin America, revealed Spanish and Moorish architecture built around ruins left by the Incas. The city’s churches are decorated in a distinctive style that is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art known as the “Baroque school of Quito”. I was struck by the contrast between the opulent interiors of La Compania church – which took the Jesuits 16 years to build and is adorned with gold leaf on its ceiling and walls – and the streets around it. Around the streets, there were men selling coca tea and lollies; mothers walking the sidewalks with babies slung in crochet backpacks; women with long plaits peddling lottery tickets on street corners, and cloth shops advertising cheap tailored pants for $5.


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