Modern Quito

Parque La Alameda to Parque El Ejido

Just north of the colonial city is
Parque La Alameda
with an impressive equestrian monument to Simón Bolívar at its southern tip, a lake where row boats are hired and, at the northwest corner,
El Churo
, a spiral lookout tower with good views. An exceptionally good
light and music show
,
can be admired by the lake. In the centre of the park is the 19th-century
astronomical observatory and
museum
. On Av Gran Colombia are the maternity hospital and Hospital Eugenio Espejo. The original hospital building is now the
Centro de Convenciones Eugenio Espejo
.

To the east of La Alameda is
Parque Itchimbía
,
a natural lookout over the city with walking and cycle paths and the
Centro Cultural Itchimbía
,
housed in the Palacio de Cristal, a 19th-century metal structure imported from Europe, once one of the city's markets. There are restaurants nearby with lovely views.

In
Parque El Ejido
, along Avenida Patria, there are exhibitions of paintings on the weekend, when the park fills with local families. Opposite El Ejido along Avenida 6 de Diciembre is
Parque El Arbolito
, its northern end occupied by the large
Casa de la Cultura
complex, housing a library, several theatres, exhibit halls and museums. Many cultural events are held here.

Parque El Arbolito is also home to the most comprehensive of Quito's museums
, the
Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador,
www.museobibliotecabce.com, with three levels and five sections. The Sala de Arqueología is particularly impressive. It consists of a series of halls with exhibits and illustrated panels with Spanish and
English explanations. It covers successive cultures from 12,000 BC to AD 1534 with excellent diagrams and extensive collections of beautiful pre-Columbian ceramics. The Sala de Oro has a good collection of pre-Hispanic gold objects. The remaining three sections house art
collections. The Sala de Arte Colonial is rich in paintings and sculptures especially of religious
themes. The Sala de Arte Republicano houses works of the early years of the Republic. The Sala de Arte Contemporáneo presents contemporary art. There are also temporary exhibits, videos on Ecuadorean culture, a bookshop and a cafeteria. For guided tours in English, French or Portuguese call ahead and make an appointment. Highly recommended.

The
Casa de la Cultura
,
operates several museums of its own:
Museo de Arte Moderno
, paintings and sculpture since 1830;
Colección Etnográfica
, a collection of traditional dress and adornments of indigenous groups;
Museo de Instrumentos Musicales
, an impressive collection of musical instruments, said to be the second in importance in the world; and
Museo del Libro
, with the first book printed here and works by Ecuador's early explorers.

La Mariscal

The district of La Mariscal, extending north of Parque El Ejido, is the heart of Quito's nightlife, with a multitude of restaurants, bars and clubs. It is also the most important tourist area with many hotels and cybercafés. A focal point in La Mariscal, at the intersection of Reina Victoria and Foch, is
Plaza El Quinde
(the hummingbird) or
Plaza Foch
, a small plaza with a fountain and sculptures where concerts are often held. Around the plaza and in the surrounding two blocks are many restaurants, cafés and bars. The area is a very popular meeting place throughout the week, attracting a young crowd. Following El Quinde's lead, other areas such as
Plaza de los Presidentes
, at the intersection of Amazonas y Washington, with a 24-hour café, some restaurants and live music on Friday and Saturday night, as well as the corner of Reina Victoria y La Niña, with another 24-hour café, restaurants and bars, attracting a somewhat more mature crowd, are being revitalized. At the latter location is
Mindalae, Museo Etnohistórico de Artesanías del Ecuador
, www.sinchisacha.org,
 an excellent museum. Beyond displaying Ecuadorean crafts, it places them in their historical and cultural context in five halls of interesting displays. Also runs a fair trade crafts shop, restaurant and café. Recommended.

La Floresta and around

To the east of La Mariscal is the residential neighbourhood of
La Floresta
dating to the mid-20th century. Some of the homes here have been converted to restaurants, others to lodgings, a good option for those looking for a quiet location. The area has a number of universities and towards the south is the
Coliseo Rumiñahui
, a sports facility where many popular concerts are also held.

Along Avenida 12 de Octubre to the northeast of Parque El Arbolito is the
Universidad Católica
which offers Spanish courses. Its
Centro Cultural
,
houses a memorial to President Velasco Ibarra, archives about President Juan José Flores, temporary exhibits and two museums. The
Museo Jijón y Caamaño
 has a private collection of archaeological objects, historical documents and paintings by Ecuadorean artists.
The
Museo Weilbauer
,
has an important archaeological collection from many cultures in all regions of Ecuador, a photo display from Oriente and a library, collected by Arthur Weilbauer over decades of travels in Ecuador.

At the
Politécnica Salesiana
, north of Universidad Católica, the
Centro Cultural Abya Yala
runs the
Museo Etnográfico Culturas Amazónicas
,
with interesting displays of Amazonian flora and fauna, tribal culture and shows the effect of oil exploration and drilling. There is also a bookstore (mostly books in Spanish).

Casa Cultural Trude Sojka
, www.trude-sojka.com, is a cultural centre which promotes peace, tolerance and art. It exhibits the works of Trude Sojka (1909-2006), a Czech-born painter and sculptor, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who emigrated to Ecuador
. The centre offers art workshops and also has a Holocaust memorial, a temporary exhibits hall, library, crafts shop, and cafeteria.
Folklore Olga Fisch
, www.olgafisch.com, is an exclusive crafts shop with a very good, small museum with crafts and archaeological pieces. Housed in Olga Fisch's home, it honours the memory of a special lady, an immigrant to Ecuador who for five decades worked side-by-side with Ecuadorean artisans to encourage them to excel and rescue native designs and techniques.

To the north of La Floresta are more modern neighbourhoods such as
La Paz
and
González Suárez
, with rows of high-rise apartment buildings dominating Quito's eastern skyline. The views from here to Guápulo and the valleys to the east are lovely. There are a few hotels in this area and many upmarket restaurants.

La Carolina

To the north of La Mariscal is the large
Parque La Carolina
, surrounded by Quito's banking district, many of the city's modern shopping centres, as well as a growing number of hotels and restaurants.

The park is a popular place for weekend outings among Quiteños who enjoy ball games, aerobics, paddle-boats and cycling. Here is the city's nice
Jardín Botánico
,www.jardinbotanicoquito.com, with a good cross section of Andean flora and an extensive orchid display. Also within the park is the
Vivarium
, www.vivarium.org.ec,
run by
Fundación Herpetológica Gustavo Orces
, an organization striving to protect endangered species through an education programme. They have a large number of South American and other snakes, reptiles and amphibians and run a successful breeding programme. Staff are friendly and the Spanish explanations are good (English, French and German on request).

The
Museo de Ciencias Naturales
,
has exhibits of Ecuadorean fauna and
flora, extensive specimen collections for the use of scientists and a library. At the east side of
the park is
Dinosaurios
, www.dinosauriosecuador.com, an interactive museum about dinosaurs.

The
Parque Metropolitano
, east of Estadio Atahualpa, is the largest park in the city and is good for walking, running or biking through the forest. There are some picnic areas with grills.

Flanks of Pichincha

Several Quito neighbourhoods climb along Pichincha's steep slopes which afford nice views of the city and surrounding mountains. Above these is
Bosque Protector
 Pichincha
, a belt of eucalyptus forest. There are old haciendas in this area offering accommodations, one of these to the northwest of the city is
San Jorge
, www.eco-lodgesanjorge.com
.

Further south, southwest of colonial Quito is
Cima de la Libertad
(
Museo Templo de la Patria
),
a national monument on the site of the decisive 1822 independence Battle of Pichincha. It has a large mural by Eduardo Kingman, a history museum and great views.

A recommended activity on a clear day, and a great way to admire Quito and the surrounding mountains, is to take a ride on the cable car to the west of La Mariscal: the
teleférico
. The cable car is part of a complex with an amusement park, shops and food courts. It climbs to Cruz Loma (4050 m) on the flanks of Pichincha, where there are walking trails; one leads to Rucu Pichincha . It gets busy at weekends. At the top, horses can be hired just past the fence of the teleférico .

North of the teleférico is
Parque arqueológico y ecológico
Rumipamba
,
a 32-ha park where vestiges of human occupation of several pre-Inca periods, dating from 1500 BC to AD 1500, have been found. On one site, several superimposed dwellings separated by mud flows can be seen. There are stone walls, circular mud dwellings, burials of different periods, grindstones and ceramics. In 2009, the site continues to be studied. In its most recent occupation, the park
was an hacienda and pastures cover most of the grounds. In a few forested pockets 36 native species of plants including three endemics have been identified. There are some walking trails including a
colunco
, a path in a gully surrounded by vegetation, characteristic of the trade routes which linked Quito with the lowlands to the west.

Northwest of Rumipamba, in the neighbourhood of San Vicente de la Florida is another archaeologic site:
La Florida,
a necropolis of the Quitu people (AD 500-1500), where 10 17-m-deep burial chambers were found. The burials included ceramics, spondylus shells and gold. The elaborate dress found in the tombs suggests most were prominent citizens; for example, one body was dressed in fine cotton, highly decorated, topped with a poncho adorned with 50 pieces of gold, 50 of copper and semi-precious stones. A less important person was just buried inside a sack.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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