Expat Talk: Where to stay in Quito?
San Francisco de Quito, commonly known just as Quito is the capital city of Ecuador.
This mountainside city sits at an astonishing 2850 meters (1.771 miles) above sea level, making it the highest-standing constitutional capital city in the world.
In 1978, Quito became the first city to be named a World Cultural Heritage Site by Unesco.
The city sits next to the still-active volcano Pichincha, making for some great hikes on this unique landscape.
There are lots of areas that have a mix of modern and antique neighborhoods, so to narrow it down we used the following metrics:
- Close to the city center
- Plenty of things to do
- Reasonably priced
If you’re planning a trip to this historic city, here are some of the neighborhoods/areas we recommend you check out, as well as reasons to do so:
|Quito Old Town||Best for first-timers|
|Mariscal Sucre||Best nightlife in Quito|
Transportation – Getting around Quito
Although Quito has a metro line under construction, it’s projected to be opened by March 2020. For now, there are 4 main ways to get around the city:
- Bus – The city’s unique, narrow shape makes for easy to follow public transportation lines. The typical bus runs horizontally from one point of the city to another (top to bottom). The typical public transportation bus in Quito is gray, blue or green. It’s marked with a number, making it easy to search up its line and learn about the stops. On the front of the bus, you’ll find the information on (at least) the first and final bus stop displayed. They are fairly cheap and you can buy tickets once you board them.
- Trolleybus – These electric buses run on power supplied by two overhead cables. The advantage of trolleybuses is, they have their unique lane assigned, so getting stuck in traffic shouldn’t happen, making them quite efficient and fast. Their stops are recognizable by boarding platforms that align with the doors of the bus. They are also fairly cheap and you can just hop on them and a conductor will approach you, from whom you can buy a ticket.
- Taxis – They can easily be found on the streets and are also reasonably cheap for the extra convenience they provide. They are also a safer option (more on that later on). Taxis that operate legally will have taximeters that count the price, so if you don’t see one, leave. Official taxis are yellow and have a sticker with driver and company information on the front windshield or the side doors.
- Uber – Although Uber does exist in Quito, there is a catch – technically it’s illegal to use. There’s no denying that the country is corrupt, and that creeps into public transportation as well. So it’s no surprise that the service with full transparency is a problem for rivaling corrupt businesses. You can use the service and even if you’re caught, you won’t face any charges, but the driver will. Luckily, it’s not hard to mask, simply sitting on the front seat already makes it look like a normal passenger car.
The best area for first-timers in Quito—Quito Old Town
Quito Old Town, also known as Centro Histórico, is the perfect place to start for a simple reason – it’s in the middle of everything.
What to see and do in Old Town Quito?
Visit the churches of Quito
The Basilica of the National Vow is a Roman-Catholic church in the heart of the city and one of the largest neo-gothic landmarks on the American continents. Although the plan to build the monument was set in motion back in 1883, and even though today it stands at 140 meters (460 feet) tall, technically it’s unfinished. There’s also a local legend surrounding the church, saying that if it’s ever completed, that will mark the end of the world.
The two other notable churches are the 17th century La Compania de Jesus, covered completely in gold, and the 16th century San Francisco church, home to many works from the Quito school of art.
Explore Old Town
As mentioned, the town is a registered world heritage site. The reason for this is the largely unchanged architecture of buildings and squares since the town’s inception in Colonial days. Finish your exploration at the Plaza Grande (Independence Square) and visit the Carondelet Palace, the government seat of Ecuador.
Climb El Panecillo
El Panecillo is a hillside on the edge of Old Town Quito. On top of the hill is a giant statue known as the Virgin of the Quito (Woman of the Apocalypse). On a clear day, she can even be seen from downtown, watching over the city.
Where to stay in Quito Old Town? Our top
Affordable price range: Casa Carpedm – a great option for the price
Moderate price range: Arte Y Romance Loft – modern and spacious loft
Luxury price range: Old Town Quito Apartments & Boutique Hotel – dead center location, luxurious furniture, and commodities
Where to stay in Quito for the nightlife—Mariscal Sucre
This modern district of Quito will attract people looking for the most amount of fun in one location.
What to see and do in Mariscal Sucre?
Explore Artisan Market
Visit Artesanal de Mariscal for some bargain shopping. Visit the many gift shops offering a wide variety of items such as traditional clothing, souvenirs and more, all of which can be bargained for. Top it off by eating cheap, authentic Ecuadorian food.
Visit Plaza Forch at evening/night
The party in Quito is at Plaza Forch. The area is known for having a wide variety of street performers, street vendors, and the occasional musical or dance live performance. On top of that, it’s filled with many cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs to spend your evening in. We highly recommend checking in for Salsa nights, even if you don’t know how to dance salsa. At worst you’ll enjoy the atypical (South American) party music which is quite lively and upbeat, and you’ll likely learn a few salsa steps from both locals and enthusiasts.
Where to stay in La Mariscal? Our top choices
Affordable price range: this cute and cozy hostel
Moderate price range: Suite 73 at Swissötel Quito – modern apartment, highly-rated hoast
Luxury price range: luxurious and spacious hotel
Where to stay in Quito for bohemian/artistic souls — La Floresta
Nicknamed “The Forest” for its wide variety of trees and flowers filling the streets, this neo-classical area is known for being home to artistic souls and enthusiasts alike.
What to see and do in La Floresta?
Ocho y Medio Theater
Named after Federico Fellini’s iconic movie 8 And a Half (8½), this movie theater features atypical movie programs, playing foreign films, independent creations, and those considered movie classics. Along with the theater is a colorful, artistic cafe, where you can grab a drink in-between watching movies and admire the art displays.
El Pobre Diablo Jazz Club
The most popular jazz club in Quito hosts both local and international musicians alike. It’s the best nightlife experience in La Floresta and the party goes well into the night. It also houses a restaurant, so you can come by the day to enjoy some food or do it before the show starts.
Where to stay in La Floresta? Our top choices
Affordable price range: simple and well-equipped hostel
Moderate price range: 612 Boutique Suite – amazingly colorful and artistic
Luxury price range: High-end hotel
Is Quito a safe city for tourists?
Quito is a safe town for travelers, but it’s not perfect. Make sure to keep your valuables safe when you use public transportation, otherwise you might fall prey to a pickpocket. Similarly, you shouldn’t find yourself walking down unpopulated, dark streets at night. Although the city is doing its best to battle crime in an effort to boost the tourism economy, there’s no denying that these types of crimes still exist.