Restoration of Quito’s Centro Historico
In recognition of its considerable historic and cultural value, the older quarters of the city of Quito were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. However, the area had been allowed to deteriorate until in the year 2000, the mayor of Quito, Paco Moncayo, initiated an extensive restoration project to preserve the city’s prized “Centro Historico” district. The results of the $200 million project have been amazing, and today both locals and visitors to this city in Ecuador can enjoy the beauty and relaxed atmosphere of a by-gone era.
Eight years ago Quito’s Centro Historica was a crime-ridden ghetto to be avoided at all costs. But today the streets buzz with upbeat activity as people go about their daily business, while visitors enjoy the authentic Ecuadorian experience of locals dressed in colorful indigenous clothing, vendors selling roasted peanuts and pastries, restaurant patios filled with customers enjoying tasty delicacies and curbside musicians in the Plaza Grande completing the carefree scene.
While there is still some work to be done before the entire project is complete, more than 200 renovation projects have already been successfully completed in what locals refer to as the “Old Town”. The completed projects include entire blocks of homes and buildings, as well as Quito’s cathedral, plazas, theaters, churches and monasteries. Mansions that had previously been sectioned off into small, overcrowded apartments have been restored to their original state and newly pastel-painted façades add to the charm. The narrow, picturesque street of La Ronda, with its lovely white houses, complete with window boxes of flowers and cobbled paving, serves as a picture perfect example of superb restoration work. The interesting blend of Spanish, Mudejar and Incan architecture of the Church of San Francisco built in 1536 and the 17th century Palacio de Gobierno are two more examples of modern restoration bringing out historical beauty.
Increasing the appeal for tourists is the fact that four of the historical buildings have been transformed into luxury hotels, while a number of new restaurants have opened where visitors can expect to enjoy the very best in Ecuadorian cuisine. From a security viewpoint, the streets are all brightly lit and there is a strong police presence ensuring personal safety.
Thanks to the restoration of the Centro Historico district, the charming Ecuadorian city of Quito is no longer merely a stop-over point for tourists on their way to the Galapagos or the Amazon, but is the destination of choice for many who travel to Ecuador.