Casa Gangotena is often ranked by foreign media and guests alike as the most romantic hotel in Quito, at the heart of one of the most beautiful historic centres in the world.
The incredibly preserved Old Town way up in the clouds is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and has a history of adventure and revolution: vital ingredients for a special Valentine’s Day that doesn’t leave you with a bitter aftertaste. Below is your guide to the most romantic things to do both in your Quito hotel and in the surrounding neighbourhood: views to admire, restaurants to savour and rooftop bars to enjoy with the person you love, whether it’s February 14th or any other day of the year.
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without the proffering of chocolates, and Quito, the capital of one of the world’s finest cacao producers, is full of options of extraordinary quality. We’re not talking sickly-sweet milk chocolate in a tacky heart-shaped box: these truffles, nibs and bars will make you melt…
If love doctors really did exist, the chocolates at Chez Tiff would be available on prescription. Delicate, shimmering and downright delicious, the truffles are made with organic Ecuadorian ingredients like passion fruit and pajaro azul cane liquor and are guaranteed to make your Valentine fall head over heels (if not for you, then for the chocolate). From its prime location on La Ronda street, Chez Tiff also makes novelty chocolates fashioned into edible human figures and paintings by Ecuador’s famous painter, Oswaldo Gauyasamín.
Calle de la Ronda
Pacari set out to “change the history of chocolate in Ecuador” and, dozens of prizes and thousands of bars sold worldwide later, it looks as though the family business is on course. Drop into its flagship store in the heart of the Old Town to sample all kinds of organic variations and learn about their revolutionary biodynamic methods, before tucking into the richest hot chocolate that’ll warm you and your Valentine’s hearts, as well as your hands.
A Quito love story…
The most dazzling and influential love affair ever recorded in the Ecuadorian capital was between Manuela Sáenz and Simon Bolivar. Having left her wealthy but dull English husband in Peru in 1822, politically active Manuela returned to her home town of Quito. There, from her wooden balcony she spotted Simon the revolutionary parading through the streets. She threw a laurel wreath that hit him in the face, and when Simon looked up to see where it had come from, he was bewitched by her eyes. The two were instantly star-crossed, becoming lovers-in-arms. When the Liberator (as he was known) was abroad, the two would exchange beautiful love letters, and she continued her activism for the overthrow of Spanish rule, handing out leaflets about women’s rights. She even foiled an assassination attempt against Simon, earning her the title of the Liberator’s Liberator. But after her lover’s death in 1830, Manuela lived out the rest of her life in poverty, earning a pittance translating the love letters of whalers in Lima, Peru.
Visit Manuela’s former home, now the Manuela Sáenz Museum, and read her love letters. Junín y Montufar
Appear sensitive, erudite and creative all in one (brush) stroke when take your Valentine to one of Quito’s art galleries. Both classic and contemporary, these museums and exhibitions allow you to connect with quiteño culture – and are a great talking point should conversation run dry.
Museo Casa de la Acuarela y Dibujo Muñoz Mariño
The beauty of this museum lies just as much in the building itself as the lovely watercolours and prints it harbours: white-washed colonial-era architecture with an inner courtyard and light-flooded corridors provide the backdrop to the inspiring pieces. Many of the works are by the gallery’s namesake and founder, Oswaldo Muñoz Mariño, a 20th-century Ecuadorian watercolourist who (for extra arty points) fraternized with the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. If you’re wandering hand-in-hand around San Marcos on your romantic stroll, this should be one of your stops.
Junín y Almeida
Centro Cultural Metropolitano
A gloriously grand building just off Plaza Grande (and just minutes’ walk from your Quito hotel), the Centro Cultural Metropolitano contains several floors of Ecuadorian cultural treasure as well as a bookshop dealing in all things Quito. desMARCADOS Indigenismos, arte y política 1917 – 2017 is a brilliant exhibition of indigenous art and culture that runs until May this year; after you’ve got your cultural fill, head to the roof to take in the city from above.
Gabriel García Moreno y Sebastián de Benalcázar
Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Quito (And Café Democrático)
If you like your art ‘ping-pong table suspended in the air’ surreal, the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Quito, or CAC, is your kind of museum. Housed in a palatial former military hospital perched up on a hill in the San Juan neighbourhood, the CAC is the place to discover contemporary Ecuadorian artists working across various mediums. Hang around until sundown to wait for Café Democrático to open, an atmospheric bar within the museum where a sophisticated crowd come to sip cocktails and listen to live music.
Montevideo y Luis Dávila
Casa Gangotena’s most romantic experiences
Relax in a candlelit bath – all guestrooms in the Quito hotel are equipped with generous tubs.
Bask in the tremendous view from the roof of San Francisco at dusk – an exclusive activity for guests of the Quito hotel.
Sundowners and views
Golden sunset + stunning views + cocktails = Ultimate Romance in our book. A handful of bars have cashed in on the mountainous geography of Quito to bring you all three. Just bring a blanket to tuck over your lover’s shoulders as the light fades and the stars bring with them their nightly chill.
There’s a reason that Quito hotel Casa Gangotena’s third-floor panoramic terrace is often listed as one of the world’s best rooftop bars. The alchemic cocktails, the discreet service and extraordinary views taking in all the Old Town’s iconic buildings make this bar almost absurdly romantic. This is the ultimate people-watching opportunity; tucked away in a secret corner overlooking Plaza San Francisco, you and your beau can watch the world go by, unnoticed.
You and your date will feel on top of the world on this rooftop bar with 360° views of the Old Town. Count off the wonders of the World Heritage city, from the spikey towers of the Basílica del Voto Nacional to the green-tinged dome of La Compañía church over G&Ts and empanadas. Live music kicks off when the sun sets, dialling up the romance to 11.
Up on the eastern flank of the city in the sweet La Tola neighbourhood, Café Mosaico is spread over three floors, each with its own balcony opening onto spectacular views of the Old Town (the top floor is best). Staring straight out towards the Virgin of the Panecillo, you and your beau might find yourselves stunned. When you’ve come back to your senses and find that the temperature’s dropped, head inside to snuggle by the fireplace and listen to local bands playing live.
The perfect romantic stroll requires a quaint setting, preferably with flowers on display, charming shops and bars to pop into, and abundant photo opportunities. Setting out hand in hand from your Quito hotel, discover a new part of the city way up in the sky.
Selfie-sticks at the ready: this is one of the most photogenic spots in Quito. A glorious green park distinguished by its distinctive glass palace, Itchimbía towers over the Old Town, with views stretching from the deepest south to the furthest north. Stroll along the paved pathways and frolic on the verdant lawns before stopping into Pim’s, a restaurant located below the modern building, to share an ice-cream.
With it flowers hanging from wooden balconies, San Marcos is a chocolate-box quaint neighbourhood stretching along Junín Street. Steal a glance of charming inner courtyards as you peep through open doors, stopping into the galleries, cafes, the dance house and a carpenter’s workshop along the way. Once you’ve reached the far end, clamber up the creaking stairs to the top floor of Café Dios No Muere for wine and jambalaya.
By day, Quito’s oldest street has a similar picturesque attraction to San Marcos: colonial architecture and flags waving in the breeze, cobbled streets and quirky shops. As the light fades, the stretch transforms into a vibrant night spot dotted with street performers, the exotic sounds of salsa music carrying through open doorways. Warm up with a steaming canelazo drink from one of the dozens of bars, and if that fails, hit the dancefloor with the locals.
Dinner à deux
It’s often said that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly. But, we can assure you, the same can be said for a woman’s. In a seductively-lit room, served by graceful waiters, staring into a heaped, steaming plate of stew (or whatever it is that makes you say, “Mmm!”), passions are well and truly ignited.
A picture of laid-back elegance, the restaurant of the Quito hotel has way of making you feel a little bit special from the moment you come in the door. The real show-stopper here is the menu : a collection of dishes from all of the so-called ‘four worlds of Ecuador’, made magical with fastidiously sourced organic ingredients. There’s the lamb from the hills overlooking Quito, paiche fish from the Amazon, lobster from Galapagos and coconut stews from the coast. Desserts are dreamy, perfect for sharing with your beau.
Contact Casa Gangotena for more information about the special Valentine’s menu
There are only a handful of tables at this intimate restaurant, and service is welcoming and light-hearted. Housed in the newly revamped Teatro Bolivar, La Purísima specialises in top-notch Ecuadorian cuisine, the signature cocktails flowing like the Amazon. If you’re not ready to call it a night after dinner, head upstairs to Wonder 1933, a bar in a beautiful former theatre lobby space where the edgiest musicians and DJs play.
Guayaquil y Eugenio Espejo
For all-out, heart-stopping, head-over-heels, old-school romance, Theatrum cannot be beaten. In a sweeping ballroom in the same building as Teatro Nacional Sucre, the restaurant is a vision of sumptuous velvet curtains and chandelier lighting. Food is equally grand, with crispy curled octopus and rich pork fritada. After dinner, head to the splendid balcony looking over Plaza del Teatro, passions abounding as you take in the sights before heading, starry-eyed, back to your Quito hotel.