Quito is a dynamic and diverse city with many neighborhoods and sectors that have their own lodging and restaurant options. However, while you will always enjoy your time in the capital, not every area is equal, and not every location will optimize your time in Quito. As we already know, the specific place and the neighborhood where we choose to stay can make or break our trip, as many things can affect how much we get out of our visit. Come on a journey with us as we explore the advantages and disadvantages of several options, including their location within Quito, the logistics of staying there, and surrounding tourist attractions.
La Floresta is known as Quito’s most chic parish thanks to its many brightly painted, mosaic-covered walls that demonstrate an appreciation for modern art and food. During the day, you can wander down picturesque, tree-lined streets and enjoy the local galleries and cafés that seem to appear around every corner. On Fridays and Saturdays, there are a couple of small farmers’ markets that give residents and visitors the chance to pick up locally grown fruit and vegetables from nearby farms. There is also a huge concentration of restaurants ranging from the quintessential American burger joint to the upmarket sushi restaurant. All eateries are within walking distance as long as you aren’t venturing out too late at night. While your taste buds will definitely be satisfied with the options in this neighborhood, you should be aware that there are very few tourist attractions or daily activities that you can experience close to this stylish neighborhood.
González Suárez abuts La Floresta to the north and rests along the eastern side of the city’s central valley, overlooking both Quito and the valley of Cumbayá – as long as you choose a hotel with a good view. This neighborhood is a little more reserved and quiet in comparison with La Floresta, allowing visitors to get a good night’s sleep. A number of restaurants can be found scattered amongst the buildings and homes that occupy this relatively young residential area, including some delicatessens, breweries, cafés, and cozy specialty restaurants. González Suárez is situated close to one of the most beautiful metropolitan parks in Quito, which, on a clear day, offers park-goers exquisite views of the city and surrounding mountains.
La Mariscal is famous for being the nightlife hotspot of Quito, especially around Plaza Foch. Many bars, clubs, and restaurants are found in this vicinity, which inevitably means that getting to sleep at a reasonable hour isn’t always possible. Although this area can be described as the best nightlife in the city, caution should be taken while walking around at night. During the day, you can walk to the Artisanal Market, where you can haggle and acquire all the handcrafted souvenirs you can fit into your bag or, if the weather is nice, take a walk to El Ejido Park, where many artists gather to display and sell their paintings. Many visitors like to purchase an original piece of art to take home with them.
Despite its difficult pronunciation (Gwan-gwil-TA-gua), visitors and residents appreciate that this neighborhood offers some of the best views of Northern Quito. It is situated north of González Suárez and just below Metropolitan Park, also along the eastern bank of the valley, which means that you can take an early morning stroll alongside the park’s formidable trees while being mesmerized by a breathtaking sunrise over the Andes. This area is also known for its hip bars and various restaurants that line the length of the main street.
An excellent place to visit while staying in this area is the La Capilla del Hombre Museum, which overlooks the city. This museum was originally created by Oswaldo Guayasamin, easily Ecuador’s most famous painter, and is dedicated to the people of Latin America.
La Carolina is located along the flattest part of Quito’s main valley, in the area known as Centro Norte. In the very center is one of Latin America’s largest urban parks, La Carolina, functions similarly to New York’s famed Central Park and includes dog walking areas, horseback riding, dozens of fields, and several courts designed for different sports. The southern edge of the park even has a paddle boat lagoon with water fountains and bridges.
La Carolina is also home to one of the continent’s top-ranked botanical gardens, which is host to an extensive and impressive orchid collection along with a tremendous variety of plants and flowers from around the world, plus an award-winning bonsai collection. This neighborhood is considered the city’s modern financial center and is therefore highly commercialized. The perimeter of the park features numerous shopping malls and plazas, interspersed amongst various restaurants and cafés.
Although Cumbayá offers little in terms of cultural attractions, it is a great place to chill. Located about 20 minutes from the center of Quito, it is situated at a lower altitude than the capital and partially sheltered by the surrounding mountains, making the climate somewhat warmer. Cumbayá’s center hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays, while the town square is also home to conveniences like cafés and restaurants. Also, there are a number of movie theaters very close by.
For those who are a little more active, the Chaquiñán Trail, which runs along old railroad tracks from Cumbayá to the adjacent town of Puembo, located another 12 mi (20 km) east, gives hikers and bikers a scenic view of the countryside. Another great place for a relaxing walk is around the Reservoir, which has views of the surrounding valleys. La Esquina, which is a colorful group of shops, cafés, and restaurants is located opposite one of the corners of the Reservoir, can be the perfect spot to cool down and replenish your energy.
The Historic Center of Quito was the first to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the very place where Quito came into existence, the streets and buildings of the Historic Center speak of the world that once was. Not only was it one of the preeminent centers of the Inca Empire, in the 16th century when the Spanish first arrived, it was also the location of one of the region’s primary marketplaces, which is now known as San Francisco Plaza.
The Historic Center isn’t just home to countless stories and fascinating history; it also contains beautiful and extraordinary churches, galleries, and museums – all within walking distance. La Compañía de Jesús boasts one of the most intricately decorated church interiors in South America, almost entirely covered in gold leaf, and La Basilica del Voto Nacional(Basilica of the National Vow) represents the pride of Ecuador. This enormous cathedral features statues of animals native to Ecuador instead of more traditional gargoyles and a huge stained-glass window.
As well as churches and museums, the La Ronda area offers a small glimpse into old Quito, with its cobblestoned street and colorful colonial-style doors that lead into numerous artisanal shops, typical Quiteño restaurants and bars, and courtyards. In La Ronda, there’s a thriving nightlife of bars for those who just want to enjoy a drink and some live music, and nightclubs for those seeking a little more exercise.
Of course, the Historic Center also includes many plazas, such as the Plaza Grande, home to the majestic government palace, and the aforementioned San Francisco Plaza, home to the towering San Francisco Church and Convent. Choosing to stay in the Historic Center means that most of the city’s visitor sites will be within a short walk, and what better than to stay in a boutique hotel that caters to your every need? Casa Gangotena, for example, set along one edge of San Francisco Plaza, is a beautifully restored mansion originally belonging to some of the capital’s first aristocratic families. Steeped in history and offering unparalleled levels of service and luxury, staying at Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel means that you will not only experience Quito as a destination but also as part of a family.
In general, the neighborhood in which you choose to stay will define your overall experience in Quito, either adding to or diminishing the enjoyment of your trip. Do you want to enjoy cafés and restaurants? Do you want to experience the city’s many tourist attractions? Do you want to be immersed in the culture and traditions of Quito? Or do you want all the above? Only one neighborhood is definitely able to offer you everything you want on a trip to Ecuador’s capital with the most well-preserved Historic Center in South America. It’s up to you! (And, should you decide to stay at Casa Gangotena in the Old Town, you’ll certainly be able to explore all those other neighborhoods we’ve mentioned.)