Quito is a city flourishing with culture, history, and flavor. Formally named San Francisco de Quito, this high elevation city is home to Ecuador's capitol and is the oldest capital city in South America. Built upon an ancient Inca city, today's architecture boasts a beautiful blend of European, Moorish, and Indigenous styles.
Without an agenda, it can feel overwhelming trying to find something to do in this remarkable and gorgeous city. The best way to plan your itinerary in Quito is to decide how long you'll be there. This will determine what you can see and do in Quito with the time that you have. Next, figure out what's interesting to you. Are you really into architecture? History, culinary arts, or outdoor recreation? Picking a focus area can help narrow down your options. If you want to do a little bit of everything, that's okay too! We've rounded up our list of the best things to do in Quito Ecuador. Use it as a starting point to customize your own half-day or multi-day adventure in Quito.
Walk the historic center.
Quito's historic center, also known as "Old Town" or "Centro Histórico," is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit destination for history and architecture enthusiasts. As you stroll through its narrow, cobbled streets, you'll encounter stunning colonial buildings, beautifully preserved churches, and picturesque plazas. Admire the intricate facades of landmarks such as the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, and the stunning La Compañía Church. Don't miss the Plaza Grande, the heart of Quito's historic center, where you can sit on a bench and soak in the lively atmosphere while observing the local culture.
Ride the Teleferiqo.
For breathtaking panoramic views of Quito and its surrounding mountains, take a ride on the Teleferiqo, one of the highest cable car systems in the world. As you ascend to an elevation of over 4,000 meters, you'll witness the city's sprawling landscape unfold before your eyes. Once you reach the top, step out onto the viewing platforms to enjoy awe-inspiring vistas of the Andean peaks, including the majestic Cotopaxi volcano. You can also hike along the trails in the surrounding Pichincha Volcano, immersing yourself in the pristine Andean cloud forest.
Visit the Mitad del Mundo Monument:
Located just outside of Quito, the Mitad del Mundo Monument marks the equator, where the northern and southern hemispheres meet. Here, you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere and learn about the cultural and scientific significance of the equator line. Explore the interactive exhibits at the Intiñan Museum, where you can participate in gravity-defying experiments and experience peculiar equatorial phenomena. Don't forget to take a photo with the iconic yellow line that divides the world!
Climb the Basílica del Voto Nacional.
A visit to Quito wouldn't be complete without ascending the towers of the Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. As you climb the narrow spiral staircase, you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city's rooftops, squares, and mountains. Marvel at the intricate stone gargoyles and sculptures that adorn the exterior of the basilica, each representing different local animals and plants. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even cross the narrow walkway over the church's main nave for an adrenaline-inducing experience.
Explore the central market.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by exploring Quito's central market, Mercado Central. Here, you'll find a bustling array of stalls selling fresh produce, colorful textiles, handicrafts, and traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. Wander through the aisles, sampling exotic fruits and local delicacies, or browse the stalls for unique souvenirs to take home. Engage in friendly conversations with the welcoming vendors and soak in the lively atmosphere as you observe the daily life of Quito's residents.
Soak in hot springs outside of the city.
For a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, venture outside of Quito to the nearby hot springs. Located amidst breathtaking natural scenery, these thermal pools offer the perfect retreat from the city's hustle and bustle. Immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters as you take in the views of lush green mountains and cascading waterfalls. The therapeutic properties of the hot springs are believed to promote relaxation and provide various health benefits. Whether you choose to unwind in a luxurious spa or embrace the wild beauty of natural hot springs, this experience is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.