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Ecuador: Quito old city

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Quito old city | Ecuador | Americas

[Visited: December 2011, August 1992]

Already during our Christmas Eve dinner the evening before, we had noticed that the historic centre of Quito looked great in the lights of the street lanterns. Early the next morning, we drove back through empty streets to the Ciudad Vieja for a long morning walk. The weather looked great: the sun had just started to appear above the horizon and a warm light had begun to fill the streets. The Plaza Grande, or Plaza de la Independencia, was empty bar a few persons. Here, we saw not only the Catedral Metropolitana with its white-washed bell tower, but also the Palacio de Carondelet, named after an early 19th century president, the town hall, and the small park and fountain in the middle of the square.

Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): One of the most beautiful churches of the historic city centre of Quito: the Compañía de Jesús

We turned a corner, and walked to the Compañía de Jesús church, made by native Americans who decorated the exterior in baroque style and which is one of the many gems in the crown of the Ecuadorian capital. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we had to be content with admiring this masterpiece from the outside. We walked to the Plaza de San Francisco: a rectangular square where we had been the night before to see part of a Christmas Eve mass with singing Franciscan monks. Close to an open-air photo exhibition on the square, we saw a truck from which goods were distributed among the people, in true Christmas spirit. We started cruising the narrow streets in the neighbourhood, stumbling on many churches and monasteries (there are over 80 in the historic centre alone!), shops, colonial buildings, and women walking with small cradles with Jesus inside. Remarkable is, that we saw many policemen and -women, most of whom were doubling as tourist guides for questions about the city.

Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): The heart of the historic old city centre of Quito is the Plaza de la Independencia or Plaza Grande

After walking up and down to the Panecillo and climbing the Virgen de Quito, we continued our exploration of the Ciudad Vieja of Quito. When we found an open door in one of the colonial houses, we had the chance to take a peek inside a courtyard which proved much bigger than we had anticipated. The historic old city of Quito was one of the first places to be inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage List in 1978, and walking around the city, it is easy to see why. Moreover, the old city seemed to look much better than in the early 1990s, or at least, that is what my memory told me. After visiting beautiful Plaza Santo Domingo with yet another church, we cruised more streets, and found ourselves surrounded by always more people. Surprisingly, most of them were from Ecuador, which gave the pretty old city a distinct local taste. After our walk in the old city, we ended our explorations on the Plaza Grande where a crowd had gathered; in stark contrast with the empty square we had seen in the morning.

Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): The Basílica del Voto Nacional dominating the skyline of the Ciudad Vieja of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in the historic heart of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Cobble-stone street in the Ciudad Vieja of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): White bell tower of the Catedral Metropolitana of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Basílica del Voto Nacional towering above the Ciudad Vieja of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Female statues with lanterns on the roof of the Bank of Ecuador
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Detail of an old colonial church in the historic centre of Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Ecuadorian woman surrounded by an open-air photo exhibition on the Plaza de San Francisco
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Looking up the church and monastery of Concepción
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): The wide square of San Francisco with the Iglesia de San Francisco
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Monasterio de Santa Clara in the foreground, Capilla del Robo in the background
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Close-up of a frieze of a church in Quito
Picture of Quito old city (Ecuador): Courtyard of an old house in the historic city centre of Quito

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