Take a Stroll through the Historic Center of Quito

Featuring more than a hundred monuments and buildings with historic, architectural and cultural value, the historic center of Quito is considered to be one of Latin America’s most important historic areas, and was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Covering an area of around 320 hectares, the historic center includes El Panecillo, a 200-meter high volcanic hill upon which a 45-meter tall monument of the Virgin Mary, standing on an ornate pedestal, is visible from almost anywhere in the city of Quito. Made out of seven thousand pieces of aluminum, the statue was created by Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras and installed by Anibal Lopez of Quito, being inaugurated in March 1976.

Regarded as one of the most significant works of Spanish Baroque architecture in South America, the intricately decorated La Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), known locally simply as La Compañia, is another renowned attraction in Quito’s historic center. Construction of the church, which is in the shape of a Latin Cross, took place between 1605 and 1765, and while the beautifully preserved exterior is eye-catching, the interior with its spacious central nave, richly decorated with wood carvings, gilded plaster and gold leaf, is dazzling. Artwork in the church was painted by artists of the renowned Quito School – an artistic style developed in the colonial period in the area referred to as the Royal Audience of Quito (1563-1822).

The Church of Santo Domingo was built by the Dominicans in 1580. Its white-washed walls and single tower, topped with an ornate dome and cross are a well-known landmarks in the historic center of Quito. The neo-Gothic main altar was installed in the church by Italian Dominicans in the late 19th century, and the roof of the church features paintings of martyrs of the Order of Saint Dominic. There is a small museum at the church containing works by Quito sculptors.

The Roman Catholic Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) is considered to be the best example of Neogothic Ecuadorian architecture. Its construction was carried out according to a decree issued by President Luis Cordero on July 23, 1883, but was never officially completed.

Other attractions in the historic center of Quito include Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square) which features the municipal buildings of Quito, Palacio de Carondelet, the Cathedral of Quito, and a host of other historically significant buildings, as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Church of El Sagrario and the Church of San Agustín.