Top 10 Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador

posted in: City Guides, Ecuador, South America, Travel | 0

Quito, the capital, is most likely where you’ll either begin or end your journey in Ecuador. And what better destination than the first city ever to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Within the bustling metropolis, there is a lot to see and do so make sure to plan at least a few days to explore. From breathtaking viewpoints to extravagant cathedrals, here are my recommended best things to do in Quito.

We spent seven weeks in Ecuador, another helpful article to read next is Important Tips and Things to Do BEFORE Arriving in Ecuador.

San Francisco Monastery Bell Tower
View from the bell tower at the Convent of San Francisco in Quito.

1. Join a Free Walking Tour

One of the best free things to do in Quito is to join a walking tour. It is a fantastic introduction to the city and the perfect thing to do on your first full day in Quito, Ecuador.

You’ll meet other visitors as well and get a crash course on some of the traditions and history of the country.

Every tour is slightly different, but on ours, we walked to the city market, tried popular fruits and drinks specific to the region, visited a Cathedral and a beautiful boutique hotel, and learned about and sampled some famous Ecuadorian chocolate.
If you’d like to know who we booked through or more detailed info, read What to do in Quito for One Day – A Walking Tour.

One of the best free things to do in Quito is a walking tour where you might be able to try some of the many interesting local fruits.
Guayaba, also known as Guava, is just one of the many local fruits you can get in Quito.

2. Ride the Teleférico Cable Car

Another must-do on your itinerary is to take the Teleférico cable car.

At 12,943 feet high, it is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world.

The sky tram glides up the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano roughly 2,700 feet in a little over 10 minutes. It is quite the ride!

The viewpoint at the top of the Teleferico Cable Car, one of the many unique things to do in Quito, Ecuador.
The viewpoint of the Volcanoes at the top of the Teleferico Cable Car.

The views are stunning but at that high altitude, you will notice a difference in your breathing. It’s one of those experiences you want to do after being in Quito for a few days after you acclimate.

At the top, you’ll find a few things to keep you busy.  You can swing in the clouds which we thought was just a cheesy photo opp, but it ended up being a lot of fun!

Looking for another Do-Not-Miss-Experience in Ecuador?
How to Visit the Ecuadorian Amazon

One of the best things to do in Quito is to take the TeleferiQo Cable Car.
Swinging in the clouds looking over Quito, Ecuador!

There’s something special about being on a giant swing set in the sky overlooking the city. It’ll have you grinning from ear to ear.

3. Hike to the Summit of a Volcano

Another popular activity at the top of Cruz Lomo Plateau from the cable car is hiking Rucu Pichincha, a challenging trail that goes up over 15,000 feet.

But, oh is it stunning!

Panoramic view of Quito from Rucu Volcano.

You’ll be rewarded with extraordinary panoramic views of Ecuador’s magnificent volcanoes. Read more about the Ruca Pichincha hike here.

4. Tour the Towers at the Basilica of the National Vow

Even if you are not religious, put the Basilica of the National Vow on your itinerary.

We have visited countless cathedrals and churches during our travels, but this Basilica really stands out.

The stained glass windows inside the Basilica of the National Vow, the tower tour is one of the unique things to do in Quito.
When you tour the Basilica of the National Vow, one of the many attractions in Quito, Ecuador, you go inside and overlook the church from a balcony.

The grand building was designed by the French architect Emilio Tarlier, who was inspired by the Parisian Cathedral of Notre Dame.

You’ll see Ecuador-themed gargoyles watching guard outside and exquisite stained glass on the inside.

It is one of the largest neo-Gothic basilicas in the Americas and not only has stunning architecture, but you also get spectacular views of the city from the towers.

The tower ticket is only $3.00 per person which can be purchased outside at the entrance of Carchi and Venezuela.

It allows you to view the inside of the basilica from an elevated balcony before climbing three towers of one of the tallest structures in the city. It’s on your own and not guided which makes the experience one of the unique things to do in Quito. 

The two front towers are 377 feet high (115 meters) and the stairs keep going round and round inside until you reach the top.
Note: there is an elevator option but that just isn’t as much fun.

One of the unique things to do in Quito is to tour the Basilica of the National Vow and Towers.
It’s incredible that this is visiting the Basilica del Voto Nacional does not require a guided tour!

The third tower is open air and the steps are super steep making it a very special experience. Once you get to the top, you are rewarded with views of the two towers and the other side of the city.

Related: Best Restaurants in Quito

5. Visit the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve

Just a 45-minute cab ride from historic Quito is the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve – one of only two volcanic craters in the world inhabited by humans and the only one that is farmed!

Overlooking the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, a village inside a volcanic crater, one of the unique things to do in Quito.
As you follow the trail, you’ll get different views of the Pululahua Reserve.

It’s free to enter with an Uber ride roughly $11 and is a great combo with The Middle of the World City only 10 minutes away. If you do not feel comfortable taking public transportation, book an all-day tour that leaves from Plaza Grande here. 

The driver will drop you off at the top of the crater so you either take in the view at an overlook or make a hike of it.

The 1.2-mile (1.8 kilometers) trail is tough but worth it. It’s a steep and rocky trail that winds down to the small village at the bottom.

The tree-lined path down to the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.
The tree-lined path down to the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.

On the weekends, there are a few restaurants open in the village but if visiting during the weekdays plan ahead. The souvenir shops and one cafe with drinks and snacks are open for business at the top every day.

6. Straddle the Equator 

With the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve only three miles away from the Middle of the World City, combine the two for a day trip. 

What to do in Quito for 3 days? Add the Middle of the World City to your list of places to see.
The equator line in Quito is located just 26 km (16 miles) north of the city.

Take an obligatory picture standing on the equator, conduct interesting experiments, shop for artisanal souvenirs, visit the monument, see a live performance, and experience the cultural exhibits at the Mitad del Mundo.

7. See the Church of the Society of Jesus

The Church of the Society of Jesus is one of those buildings that even if you didn’t have on your list of places to see and you walked by, you’d stop in. 

With its ancient-looking volcanic stone and twisted columns, the facade beckons travelers to enter. 

Once inside, you’ll be amazed at the amount of gold-covered ornamentation and elaborately decorated artwork. 

The front of the Church of the Society of Jesus in Quito, Ecuador.
The Church of the Society of Jesus, also known as Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, is known for its elaborately carved gold altar.

Related: Things to Do in Quito at Night

8. People Watch at Plaza Grande

The heartbeat of Old Town is found at Plaza Grande, the historical center of the city. It’s where locals and visitors alike soak in the colonial architecture and bustling atmosphere. 

Things to do in Quito Old Town include the Plaza Grande, also known as Independence Square.
Even though it’s a touristy area, you can find some fantastic restaurants with traditional food at Independence Square.

At the center is a large monument, Heroes of the Independence, standing tall in honor of the first attempt at independence from the Spanish Monarchy.  

Surrounding the square are important buildings such as the Presidential Palace, City Hall, Archbishop’s Palace, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. 

Enter the Arch Bishops Palace on the north side to find restaurants on balconies overlooking a charming patio serving up traditional Ecuadorian food. 

Tip: If you’re visiting Quito on a Monday, plan to visit around 11:00 am for the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Presidential Palace. 

9. San Francisco Monastery and Church

The Convent of San Francisco was started by three Franciscan Monks between 1537 and 1560.

Inner Courtyard of the Convent of San Francisco
Peaceful inner courtyard of the Convent of San Francisco. Make sure to look for the pet parrots!

For a small fee, you can walk around part of the vast complex and see a few of the cloisters, more than 3,500 works of religious art, try a local craft beer in the Antigua Cerveceria (where the monks used to brew their own beer), take in a special overlook of the San Francisco Church from a balcony, and climb the bell tower for more views of the city and plaza.

Craft beer at the San Francisco Antigua Cerveceria
Why not take a break at the Antigua Cerveceria to enjoy a craft beer?

10. Parque La Carolina and the Quito Botanical Gardens

The sprawling Parque La Carolina provides the perfect escape from the hecticness of the big city. 

Parque La Carolina, the biggest park and one of the many attractions in Quito.
Parque La Carolina is a natural oasis in the middle of the big city of Quito.

The beautifully landscaped park is home to a small lake with paddleboats, lovely botanical gardens, a children’s library, multiple playgrounds, an auditorium, bike paths, a skatepark, tennis courts, and numerous food stalls. 

The Quito Botanical Gardens is found in Parque La Carolina.
The Quito Botanical Gardens is a peaceful area with a great selection of plants, flowers, and trees.

What to Do in Quito for a Week

If you’re staying for more than a few days, here are other things to do in Quito that we enjoyed. 

  • La Ronda
  • El Panecillo
  • Parque El Ejido
  • Banditos Brewery
  • Espejo Street

If you are asking yourself, is it worth visiting Quito Ecuador? The answer is yes! Quito offers plenty of things to do and see!

Pin it for Later!

Basilica of the National Vow, one of the top things to do in Quito, Ecuador.

Follow Angela:

Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.