Founded in 1534, it was established with 204 inhabitants. Right now, nearly two million people live in Quito. During 360 years, its boundaries were marked out by Cerro del Panecillo on the South, Plaza de San Blas on the North, Volcán Pichincha on the West, and Plaza de la Marín on the East. Today the city is undoubtedly larger. Its growth started in the early 20th Century. In 1980, La Mariscal tourist area started developing, with Patria, Colón, Amazonas and 6 de Diciembre avenues. In 1978 it was declared a World Heritage site due to its extraordinary historical centre.
Quito offers a marvelous view from any point. The majestic snow-capped mountains that surround it -Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Ilinza and others- erect themselves as guardians of time. The bells from the old churches in the centre of the city resound all over, awaking the constructions in the North, South, and nearby valleys.
The city is distributed into five sectors: North, Central-North, Historical Centre, South and Valleys.
La Mitad del Mundo
We start this trip 25 kilometers to the north, 0 latitude, where the middle of the world (La Mitad del Mundo) is located. This is a monument in honor of the imaginary line that divides the earth into two hemispheres, North and South, drawn by the Geodesic mission. Here you can visit, among other interesting places, el Museo Etnografico and the miniature model of colonial Quito. You can also buy something in one of approximately a hundred places where artisans are selling their crafts. Nearby you will find Proyecto Arqueológico Rumicucho, a site with traces of the Incas, the ancient inhabitants of this territory.
In the North -now inside the city- we find the modern part of Quito. If you enter through Avenida de la Prensa, you will find the first stop: Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre. Take Amazonas avenue, which has some of the largest shopping centres. One such is Mall El Jardín, located right in front of Parque La Carolina, the largest recreational park inside the city.
In this part of the city you will find first-class restaurants such as Rincón la Ronda, which serves typical Ecuadorian food. Due to the rapid growth of the modern Northern zone, the new city is called Distrito Metropolitano de Quito. It is a very touristy and commercial area, where some of the most important hotels are to be found. This is the case of J.W. Marriot, one of the largest in Ecuador. Also the most important sports stadium can be found in this area: Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa. You will also find some large movie theaters such as Cinemark 7.
Its main road arteries are Amazonas, de los Shyris, Naciones Unidas, González Suárez, 6 de Diciembre, 10 de Agosto, Eloy Alfaro, and the biggest one in the North: La Occidental.
This area is the best for nightlife. Its main streets are: Juan León Mera, Calama, Reina Victoria, Cordero, 9 de Octubre, 12 de Octubre, a section of Amazonas, Colón and Patria. This area starts in Avenida Orellana and goes through to Avenida Patria. There are bars such as Papillón, Ice cream parlours such as heladería Baskin Robins, as well as restaurants such as como el Maple. There are hostels like Palm Garten or more costly places to spend the night at, such as the Swiss Hotel and the Hilton Colón. You will also find cyber-cafes and discos such as Zulu.
Once in Avenida Patria, in order to go to the historical centre, you should take either 12 de Octubre, 6 de Diciembre, or 10 de Agosto avenues. The former two lead into Plaza La Marín, and 10 de Agosto leads into the colonial area.
You are in front of the popular Alameda, park, constructed in 1596. La plaza de San Blas is practically the entrance to the centre itself. Then you get to the Plaza del Teatro and take calle Guayaquil, a street with intense commercial activities, towards the Plaza Grande. Near this square you'll will find el Palacio de Gobierno-the president's house also known as Palacio de Carondelet-, El Palacio Municipal, The Cathedral, and La Iglesia de San Francisco, among other buildings which form the treasures of Old Quito.
The border of this area is Calle 24 de Mayo, through which we go up to the al Cerro del Panecillo, an impressive and attractive observatory. We now go towards the South using the San Diego bridges. An old cemetery of the same name is located here. This Cementerio is where the famous dictator Velasco Ibarra was buried. La avenida Maldonado is the main artery of the Southern area. In front of the trolley-bus station you will find Mack's, a nightclub with various dance floors, which plays all sorts of music.
The nearby Valleys
If you wish to enjoy Quito's valleys, close to the city you will find San Rafael, with a pleasant climate and recreation centres. You can catch the bus that goes to this place on Avenida 12 de Octubre, in the Central North area close to the Swiss Hotel. Other important valleys are Tumbaco, in the Northeastern area, where you will find fruits from the region; and Cumbayá, where you will find the amusement centre Via Ventura. In the North, in Guayllabamba, you will find Zoologico (the zoo). You can take north-bound buses on Avenida 12 de Octubre.
History of QuitoThe history of this beautiful and colonial city, full of legends woven over more than 400 years, is still alive in the memory of its inhabitants. In order to find its official origin it is necessary to go back in time to the 6th of December in 1534, when the Spanish conquistadors founded the city, with 204 settlers.
It was inhabited initially by the Quitus, a tribe from the Quechua civilisation. The strip of land from Cerro del Panecillo in the south, to plaza de San Blas in the centre is the area where these first inhabitants lived. Today this strip has extended to become the great city it is now.
The original name of this city during the pre-Hispanic period was Reino de Quito. Initially the constructions were made of carved stone and sun-dried brick. Later, Spanish architects started to use different materials for their constructions, which were mainly stones brought from pichincha's pits.
During the 16th Century its name was changed to Real Audiencia de Quito. At the beginning of that century, the city adopted a monumental style in the construction of the impressive temples of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, La Catedral and San Agustín, by the various catholic missions. The main events during this period took place in or around these temples; they helped promote religiousness among the peoples of this city.
The truth is that Quito's history starts long before 1534, date of the Spanish foundation. Although pre-Hispanic traces disappeared with the conquistador's arrival, it has been said that before the Europeans arrived, Rumiñahuy, an indigenous warrior, set the city on fire and destroyed the temples of the Incas who lived there.
In compliance with these events, Quito became a city full of legends and hundreds of stories of characters that are told from one generation to the next. The Franciscan and convent city keeps inside its temples and squares, important memories that have become its official history and part of its tradition.
There are important characters such as Atahualpa, last emperor of Tahuauntinsuyo (The Inca Kingdom), who was executed in 1533 after being taken as a prisoner by the Spaniards, despite the fact that the Inca people paid a whole room full of gold and silver for his rescue; Xavier Chusig, who was discriminated due to his condition of being a 'mestizo' and changed his name to Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, to later be the founder of the first newspaper in the city, with the same liberating vision that led him to his grave; or Manuela Sáenz, the first woman to be part of the Bolivarian army, who was also the right hand of El Libertador Simón Bolívar. For them, as for many others, Quito was the setting of their resistance and struggle.
At the same time the Spaniards were coming into the city of Quito, the catholic missionaries, whose influence in the colony and the republican period can be seen in more than thirty convents, churches and chapels in the historical centre, were also entering. Their influence was not in vain, and the religious devotion was sown in people's souls. In 1649, more than two thousand people crossed the city from north to south various times during the day and night, praying for God to reveal them the identity of the thieves who had stolen the sacred chalice from Convento de Santa Clara.
The 28th of January, 1912, went down in history as a memorable day, when a crowd of people dragged the dead body of general Eloy Alfaro through the streets. Alfaro was the president of Ecuador, and head of the Liberal Revolution. He was assassinated in the city's prison and later incinerated at Parque de El Ejido. Another important event is the coup d'état attempt of the first of September, 1975, when the army attacked the Presidential House during the government of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.
Three years later, in 1978, Quito was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the intention of preserving its colonial architecture in convents, churches, and the historical centre in general. The city expansion towards the north and the south started during the 1980's, when also the main tourist area of modern Quito started growing, today known as the central-north area.
Quito, capital city of the Republic of Ecuador, is today an enterprising metropolis, site of the government, and political centre of the country. It has made an enormous effort to offset the damage caused by the natural disasters that have affected it over the years. This city offers multiple options for your visit and for enjoying an absolutely pleasing stay, surrounded by tradition, fantasy and legend.
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