How to Spend Your Time in Quito Before Your 4x4 Rental or Motorcycle Adventure Tour
Quito has a lot to offer when in town for a few days before setting off to discover Ecuador's amazing country on a motorcycle adventure or in a 4x4. The waiting and anticipation of getting on the road may be hard to handle, so here are some things to do in Quito that will add some fun to your adventure here.
The capital has historic plazas and churches, up-and-coming neighborhoods, a vibrant art and music scene, and a bevy of breweries and international restaurants that cater to a discerning crowd of locals and travelers alike.
Far from the standard fare found elsewhere, there is a fresh vibe amid the daily sunshine and random rain showers - one that makes spending time as an urban explorer worth walking the streets.
You can see a lot in two days, including the historic center - where the Spanish left a legacy of towering cathedrals, plazas where people gather in protest, and neighborhoods where the heroes of the revolution lived.
In the new part of the city, a more modern community is thriving-complete with international restaurants, museums built by one of the county’s famous artists, and parks where residents flock to on days off to enjoy time in the outdoors.
Day One-The Historic Center
Quito's historical center introduces you to the country’s past, and the culture-each block has a different landmark and every corner a different story to tell. Tales of political intrigue and cultural sites that date back to before the Inca become part of the landscape, giving reference points for those who dig deeper than the hustle and bustle of merchants, politicians, and plebeians walking the cobblestone avenues.
La Ronda is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the historic center. The pedestrian-only district was once home to poets, artists, writers, and musicians in the republic's early days.
Today the tradition lives on weekends see people strolling the streets and enjoying the evening alongside musicians, vendors, and artists. There is a festive spirit in the air that respects the past while bringing the present arts and culture into focus. A night out in La Ronda is Quito at its most authentic-fun times in good company that highlights the Ecuadorian people's warmth and charm.
Many of the local eateries and bars also feature live music and entertainment. You'll want to get a cup of the local drink called Canelazo to warm you as you walk from one to the other at night. Canelazo is made from a combination of the citrus fruit naranjilla, cinnamon, and cane liquor called aguardiente. It is served hot in a to-go cup.
During the week and in the daytime, craft stores, bakeries, and chocolate makers open their doors for those looking for an out-of-the-way spot to find some of the true artisans of the capital.
Independence Plaza and La Compania Church
Independence Plaza is part of the fabric of Ecuador’s history. The Presidential Palace stands on one side, where a daily changing of the guard takes place- and when available- tours take you through the lower levels of the building.
The plaza itself has been a meeting place dating back before the Inca and serves as a community center of sorts where people from all over the city and the country come to make their voices heard in peace and protest.
Adjacent to the palace and across from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito is the Palacio Arzobispal-formerly, the Archbishop’s Palace, and now a fun place to explore shops with arts and crafts from Ecuador and grab lunch at one of the many restaurants.
After walking the plaza, exploring the sites, and shopping-there are a few Ecuadorian chocolate stores around- take a short walk to the nearby La Compañía de Jesús, a baroque-style church built by the Spanish in their heyday. Seven tons of gold leaf adorn almost every surface, while intricate woodwork and paintings show masterworks from the Quito School of Art at its best.
The Basilica is one of the historic center's most recognized landmarks, seen at a distance standing guard and watching over the city. It’s one of the recent additions to the collection of Spanish-era churches in Quito, and travelers who want a view of the city from the two towers can climb into the spires. After ascending flights of stairs, crossing over the sanctuary roof, and climbing an outside metal ladder, the view of the city opens up to include the neighboring volcanoes on a clear day.
Paris's Notre Dame was an inspiration for the design, as were the animals of the Galapagos Islands-who take the place of the traditional gargoyles along the rooftop. While structurally sound, the cathedral is considered incomplete. Local folklore tells that when the century-old Basilica is finished, the world will supposedly come to an end!
Day Two-The New Town
The new town and the surrounding areas contrast the historic center with hipster neighborhoods, town centers where bars and clubs cater to those looking for a rousing night out, and off-the-beaten-path parks where locals go to enjoy time in the sun away from the crowded areas of the capital. Ecuador Freedom has its office in this part of town.
Located down the hill from Hotel Quito and between the city and its nearby suburbs, Guapulo is an up-and-down neighborhood with a small collection of cafes and restaurants overlooking the valley of Cumbaya and Tumbaco in the distance. It’s a local’s secret spot for a low-key night on the town and home to one of the city’s spacious parks. Walking the paths and relaxing away from the crowded streets is a favorite for those who make the journey on weekends. Down the way from the park’s upper entrance is the Plaza Monasterio de Guápulo, and the Guapulo Church, the site of an annual neighborhood fiesta that brings people from all around the city.
Located a few blocks from El Ejido Park at the edge of the new town -Mercado Artesanal is full of Ecuadorian crafts, clothes, and keepsakes to take home after a trip is done. Stalls are stacked high, and there is a wide variety of items for sale, making finding more space in your luggage a challenge.
A fifteen-minute walk from the center of La Mariscal-the tourist-oriented district of the capital, La Floresta is Quito’s hipster neighborhood. Streetside cafes, an independent art-house movie theater, and boutique shops dot the landscape, offering some variety to the chains found in other parts of the city.
For a dining experience that reflects the heart of the capital’s culinary stars, try El Laboratorio. The small restaurant makes way for new chefs and their innovative menus every few months-changing formats according to the kitchen's talents.
For 27 years, El Pobre Diablo, located on Católica and Galavis, has been the most famous jazz club in Quito, presenting both local and international musicians. Great for night owls; shows generally start late, around 10 PM, and continue well after midnight. This is not something you should do the night before your trip, however.
Bandidos del Páramo
Five years ago, Quito had four craft breweries that were pale comparisons to their counterparts in the States and Europe. Bandido Brewing changed that, bringing a fresh take on craft beer to the city and starting a wave of breweries that continue to grow with each passing day.
The American owners teamed up with Paramo Brauhaus, a German brewery, to form Bandido del Paramo-a fun fusion of the two brands in the Mariscal. The two-story bar/restaurant has an ample selection of ales, including La Guapa, a pale ale made with Guayusa tea from the jungle, and Weissbier-a typical Bavarian wheat beer.
Capilla del Hombre
Oswaldo Guayasamin is one of Ecuador’s famous artists-known for his striking paintings depicting Latin America's people as stark figures. The Capilla del Hombre housessome of the artist’s largest murals-tributes to the suffering of South America's people. His paintings and the Capilla del Hombre-Chapel of Man-bring vivid portraits to the table-telling stories and giving a voice to often overlooked chapters in Ecuador's history. The museum is built on a hill that overlooks Quito’s sprawling streets on one side and the suburban valleys on the other. It is a vantage point that is just as picturesque as the works found inside.
La Carolina Park
La Carolina Park is a fun place to head to on weekends- its winding paths, soccer fields, and botanic gardens fill with people while paddleboats on a small lake find families making the most of their playtime. It is a block away from Ecuador Freedom's offices - convenient if you want to rent a mountain bike and explore on your own.
Food vendors and artisan markets hit the spot, bringing a festive aspect to the day. The park is home to Vivarium, a reptile center with 40 species of snakes, iguanas, turtles, frogs, and caimans. Close by is a natural sciences museum where stuffed condors, tapirs, and harpy eagles represent some of the creatures found in Ecuador.
A short walk from the park is Via Partenope, a favorite Italian restaurant behind the Ecuador Freedom Shop on Republica del El Salvador. It’s a cheerful eatery with plenty of pizzas and pasta on the menu and reasonably priced bottles of wine.
Hotel Dann Carton
Known for its outstanding service and above the bar amenities, Hotel Dann Carton is one of the charming hotels close to the Ecuador Freedom office and a great place to use as a base during your time in Quito. Amenities include a gym, swimming pool, two cafes, a bar, and a first-class restaurant.
Avenida República de El Salvador y Irlanda
Another option that’s close to our office, Le Parc checks all the boxes for a luxury, modern hotel that is close to Ecuador Freedom's office, shops, restaurants, and La Carolina Park. Amenities include a rooftop bar with a great view of the city, a spa and gym, and a bistro-style restaurant where a breakfast buffet is held daily.
Av Republica de El Salvador y Irlanda
Another option for those who want a great hotel that doesn’t break the bank, Hotel Finlandia, is super convenient as our shop is on the same block. It has a fantastic, in-house restaurant that serves Ecuadorian and international dishes. There is a gym on the property. We can book a room for you at a discounted rate - just let us know when you book your motorcycle rental or motorcycle tour with us!
Finlandia y Suecia
Ecuadorian Food: Zagun - Address: Guanguiltagua n37-139 Y Arosemena Tola, 170515, Quito - Real Ecuadorian cuisine, generous portions - excellent service and a beautiful view. Just a 5-minute cab ride from Ecuador Freedom.
About the Author
Jon Jared first experienced the itch for travel during summer trips with his grandparents to England, Scotland, and Wales. After visiting Zambia and traversing Colorado's mountain towns, he moved to Ecuador in search of a new understanding of the world around him. In Ecuador, Jon has worked at hotels, restaurants, and bars, served as a local guide, and a freelance writer and editor. His work in print includes Delta Sky Magazine and the 2015 Moon Ecuador and the Galapagos guidebook.