A giant letter N and letter S are formed on the ground, falling either side of a yellow line. Each represents a hemisphere of the earth, alerting visitors to the fact that they are straddling the equator! With the country’s official name translating to The Republic of the Equator, it’s geographic position plays an important role in Ecuador’s history and culture. Mitad del Mundo isn’t just about stepping over a line for a photo, you can visit an ethnographic museum and learn of the country’s natural history as well as the obscure physical phenomena associated with being on the middle of the earth. Mitad del Mundo is an essential element of Quito travel.
Visit the Virgin of El Panecillo
Once home to a temple in which Indians worshiped the sun, the 200-metre hill of El Panecillo has history and spiritual significance that dates well before the stone Madonna statue was built there in 1976. Visiting the monument offers extensive views across Quito, as well as the chance to shop local arts and crafts on sale in the area. Not surprisingly this is one of the most popular things to do in Quito.
Cheer in Atahualpa Olympic Stadium
Capable of hosting more than 35,000 sports enthusiasts, Atahualpa Olympic Stadium was built in 1948 and opened in 1951, named after an Incan prince. Located just 7-kilometres from Quito’s historic centre, it is an easy day out that should feature on any visit to the city, particularly if there’s a chance to catch a football match. It is currently used for home matches by Deportivo Quito, El Nacional and Universidad Católica, and is a regular playing field of the Ecuadorian national football team.
Take Pichincha Teleférico
The gondola lift of Quito, coined the TelefériQo, takes those without acrophobia along the edges of the city, nudging past the active stratovolcano of Pichincha. It finally arrives at Cruz Loma lookout after ascending some 800-metres over nearly 20-minutes, making it one of the highest air cable cars in the world, reaching almost 4,000 metres above sea level. The reward is breathtaking views at a little cafe to enjoy it from. A glass of water and carb loaded meal may be in order to beat of the altitude sickness.
Explore La Floresta
Enchanting boutique art galleries, bustling cafes and streets filled with statement graffiti - this is just some of what you’ll find tucked in Quito’s urban parish of La Floresta. Neoclassical mansions and wild flowers make the area distinctly different from other parts of the city, owing to the reputation it is gaining both locally and abroad. Catch a foreign film in the area cinema or waste a night in a moody jazz bar, this district is sure to cement your love affair with Quito.
Visit the Artisan Market in Plaza Foch
The brightly coloured woven works of Ecuador have become adored across the globe, and nowhere will you find them in more abundance than here at the markets of Plaza Foch. From hammocks to bags, blankets to beanies, you can expect the insides of your backpack to look a lot brighter after a trip here. Many other local goods can be picked up here such as jewellery, paintings, and leather goods, as well as many snacks to keep your inner shopperholick fueled.
Things to do in Quito
Day of the Dead
Known locally as Día de los Difuntos or “Day of the Deceased”, Ecuadorians honour their ancestors on this special day with plenty of sweet food and drinks as well as a trip to their local cemetery to cover their beloved's graves and tombstones in flowers, photos and trinkets. Employ the skills of a Quito guide to truly understand this festival.
Fiestas de Quito
Opera and theatre performances, flamenco dancing, and bull running are just some of the cultural activities that bring Quito to life during Fiestas de Quito. Honouring the foundations of Quito as a city, the celebrations last for one week commencing at the end of November. The open party busses that roam the city with live bands on board are not to be missed.
Festival Internacional Quito Jazz
Global, contemporary jazz music lifts the city of Quito to new heights during Festival Internacional Quito Jazz. Films, music and discussions on the topic of jazz fill 11 energetic days, with unique ancestral sounds overlaying traditional beats, inspiring interest from thousands of Ecuadorians.
Festival de Cine Planeta Azul
Ocean conservationists take note: this is a festival worth flying to Ecuador to attend. The Blue Planet Marine Film Festival or ‘Festival de Cine Planeta Azul’ celebrates films about the ocean, simultaneously focusing on its conservation.
Festival Encuentro Intercolegial de Danza
The talent of Ecuadorian youth is front and centre at Festival Encuentro Intercolegial de Danza, an intercollege dance festival held at Capitol Theater in Quito. Brightly coloured costumes, performance and movement nod to the country’s current culture and the bright future that sits ahead.
Top 5 Festivals in Quito
Community and family are central to life in Ecuador, and nothing unites and embodies this spirit quite like a festival. Celebrating the talents of their youth, the foundations of their city and the love of their deceased ancestors, the tempo can change dramatically from one Quito festival to the next.
La Capilla del Hombre
Though the subject of human suffering and violence in Latin America doesn’t sound too uplifting, visiting La Capilla del Hombre offers a wealth of insight into the culture and politics of the region. The building itself is found in Bellavista and offers impressive views over the city of Quito, making it one of the most popular Quito attractions.
Spearmint ceilings and delicate arches mark the City Museum found in Quito’s historic colonial centre. From 1565 to 1974 the building operated as a hospital, a history now told by the exhibits of the museum.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo
Just 13 countries in the world sit over the equator, with Quito being the nearest capital city to the important geographic line. Not surprisingly important museums and monuments mark its presence, at Ciudad Mitad del Mundo you’ll find a terraced museum and a yellow line which allows you to skip from one hemisphere to the other in a matter of seconds.
Museo Casa del Alabado
Ancient mythology and artistic history run deep in Quito’s Museo Casa del Alabado, where a privately owned collection of pre-Columbian era art and relics feature throughout the 8 rooms of a 17th Century colonial house. With a quaint courtyard and an elegant interior Alabado is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Ecuador for art lovers.
Jump from northern to southern hemisphere in a matter of seconds at Intinan Solar Museum, the so-called home of the “true equator.” Here at latitude 0° you can take the equator water test to discover which way will it drain down a sink, and stroll around dioramas and interactive demonstrations portraying Ecuadorian life.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in Quito
Creep through crumbling colonial mansions and peel back layers of history long forgotten, in Quito’s unique curation of museums and galleries. The country’s most iconic monument can be found just out of the city, allowing visitors to hop from one hemisphere to the other in a matter of seconds.
Corn smothered in butter or garlic and topped with parmesan cheese, so simple yet so, so delicious. Occasionally served as kernels but more often on the cob, it can be enjoyed from street vendors the country over or restaurants like La Tortilla Restaurant in Quito. Simply delicioso!
Best eaten at La Tortilla Restaurant, 161 y Gonzalo Salazar, Quito 170150
Cuy (Guinea Pig)
Not for the faint of heart, spit-roasted guinea pig known locally as 'cuy' was once the staple meat of Ecuador and a symbol of wealth. Ecuadorian guinea pigs are large in size and offer a surprisingly strong taste, and locals will encourage you to get in and chomp it down with two hands.
Best eaten at Mama Clorinda, Reina Victoria, Quito 170143
An obscure crustacean often compared to a prawn, lobster and crab, the Ecuadorian langostinos should be eaten without too many questions of heritage. Coming in many varieties across the country, head to Los Pinchos De Langostino in Quito to try them skewered and barbecued with sides like jacket potatoes, grilled plantain and salad.
Best eaten at Los Pinchos De Langostino, Quito 170138
Once you’ve recovered from the slightly nauseating concept of eating guinea pig it’s time to dive into librillo, known more bluntly as cow’s stomach lining. Often served simply with creamy sauce and rice, it’s most commonly enjoyed in mountain towns like Banos.
Best eaten at any street market in Quito
Arroz con Pollo (or Camarones)
A sibling of the much adored paella dish, arroz con pollo is a simple chicken and rice meal that comes in many variations across Latin America. The Ecuadorian edition often features peas, carrot, garlic, and a side of ripe fried banana. It’s best sampled at Quito restaurant, My Kitchen.
Best eaten at My Kitchen, De Diciembre y Aleman 6, Quito 170150
Food in Quito
It’s all about balance when it comes to the food scene in Quito; a balance of squirmish cultural experiences and satisfying can’t-go-wrong dishes. Switch from cow’s stomach lining and guinea pig for one meal to langostino prawns and cheesy corn the next.