Quito’s Old Town is a treasure trove of historic, architectural, and cultural marvels, filled with century-old Colonial buildings, Baroque churches, and fascinating museums and galleries. And although you could spend days, weeks even, exploring the Historic Centre and discovering its secrets one by one, Casa Gangotena allows you to enjoy many of these Quito attractions without even leaving this boutique hotel in Quito.
The third-floor terrace offers a spectacular, panoramic view of the first ever UNESCO World Heritage site, allowing you to bask in each of these wonders over a morning tea, afternoon coffee, or sunset cocktail – it is the most romantic rooftop bar in the city. The best moment to see each of the sights is at dawn, when the rising sun casts a violet light over the city and the sky is free of clouds. But on a clear day, the brilliant Andean sky is the perfect backdrop to your tour from the terrace.
Where to stay in Quito? Choose Casa Gangotena and get the most wonderful view of Quito’s Old Town Hotel!
The Virgin of El Panecillo
As you enter the terrace, turn left and walk around the edge of Casa Gangotena. Now, look up! Your eyes will immediately spot the dramatic and winged Virgin Mary statue, standing imperiously on the hill known as The Panecillo, the Spanish word for “little bread roll.” Made from 7,000 aluminium pieces that have been welded together like patchwork, her hands are the size of a person and her great wings are as big as cars. Even though this is a relatively new edition to the Quito skyline (the statue was officially unveiled in 1976), the Virgin serves as a vital pillar of Quiteño consciousness: her presence has spawned a myriad of legends and even inspired the Ecuadorian movie ‘A Tus Espaldas’ (‘Behind Your Back’).
Yaku Water Museum
Moving your gaze clockwise along the slopes of the mountain, you’ll find a striking, glass-fronted building tucked into its folds – a vision of utilitarian, modern architecture. This beautiful structure is perhaps one of the most family-friendly of Quito’s attractions and it is known as the Yaku Water Museum. Built on the site where ancestral societies had ceremonial baths in waterfalls, the museum celebrates the city’s connection with water. Specifically, it focuses on how it managed to obtain this vital resource throughout the centuries and how it has managed to maintain a healthy balance between civilization and thirst, aiming to never exploit this precious resource.
San Francisco Church & Plaza
Impossible to ignore is the San Francisco church and plaza. Built in the 16th century by one of the first Catholic orders in the country, this beautiful religious structure is home to one main church and two chapels, complete with courtyards and patios, vegetable gardens, catacombs and even a football pitch and an old brewery. It once housed some 160 monks, yet nowadays is only occupied by around three dozen Franciscan friars, which you might even be lucky enough to see them cloaked in their brown, hooded robes hurrying across the plaza! The square is a popular spot for people watching, where religious devotees and curious tourists mingle with Quiteños going about their day-to-day business.
Basilica of the National Vow
Looking straight from the terrace, your eyes won’t resist being drawn to the jagged, twin clock-towers that make up the Basilica of the National Vow. This impressive, colossal and Neo-Gothic church is, in fact, one of the largest of its kind in the region. Technically, it still hasn’t even been finished despite having opened its doors back in 1988, after nearly a century of construction. Local superstition and folklore warns that, if it were to be completed, the world would end. One of the structure’s most interesting features is its assortment of grotesques that are shaped like Ecuador’s most iconic animals. Instead of gargoyles or dark angels, dolphins, armadillos, iguanas and tortoises can be seen emerging from the flanks of the giant structure.
In spite of sitting some 70 km (43 mi) away from the city itself, Ecuador’s third highest peak can often be spotted from Casa Gangotena in the early hours of each morning. Simply look towards the Basilica of the National Vow, and there looms Cayambe Volcano – standing at 5,790 metres (18,996 feet) above sea level with a permanent snow cap. It is one of the highest points along Earth’s equator and was first climbed by British adventurer Edward Whymper back in 1880. It recurring volcano on the wish list of many climbers!
La Compañía Church
Unmistakeable with its green-tinged dome sitting right in the foreground of the view from Casa Gangotena, La Compañía is one of the most coveted of all of Quito’s attractions. Its stone façade is adorned with archangels, saints and spiralling columns. True to the Baroque style, every single space inside the church is decorated with finery – if it’s not gold, then it’s probably decorated with a painting of a saint in sumptuous technicolour, created by the great artists of the renowned Quito School of Art. Constructed by Jesuits between 1605 and 1765 – taking some 160 years to complete! – the church was inspired by two emblematic Jesuit temples in Rome: Il Gesú and San Ignacio. When the Jesuits were expelled from the country in 1773, the church was abandoned and many of its artefacts were stolen. As a result, only 52 kilograms (114 pounds) of gold remain.
These are all just a handful of the dozens of Quito’s attractions that you can spot from your tour from the terrace! Once you’ve been inspired by the view, which one will you explore first?