Welcome to our guide to the best things to do in Quito, one of the best spots in Ecuador and South America. A city perched on valleys and surrounded by green tall Andes mountains. A city where buzz is out and you can more than geek-yourself-out. Without further ado – come with and explore.
We at Hostelgeeks put together secret tips and local things to do in Quito Old Town and around. And of course, we have visited the cities coolest hostels. Here is our extended guide to best hostels in Quito Ecuador.
The guide Quito is completely free and as always 100% awesome!
There are so many things to do and to enjoy in Quito.
But what to see in Quito when you are not wearing those tourist glasses? We compiled a list of 5 things of what to see in Quito. We at Hostelgeeks are always keen to share with you unique travel tips. Those are these kind of travel recommendations you only get by friends.
In this article we introduce you to the local Quito. It will give you an idea of our special guides here on Hostelgeeks.
At almost 3000m above sea level, the Ecuadorian capital is one of the highest in the world. Within easy reach of both the scorching coastline and the lush Amazon, Quito is an excellent launch pad for exploring the best of Ecuador. Nestled in the Andes, the city is surrounded by mountains and is warm during the day all year round.
So, what are the best cool things to do in Quito?
- Get lost at historical downtown
- Pic-Nic at the Pichincha volcano
- Have a foodie outing in the yuppie town of Cumbaya
- Modern Quito and Architecture
- Go out dancing to Latin Beats
- Venture at day into one of the local markets.
- Hot spring of Papallacta
- Bar full of locals: La Cleta bici cafe
- Cafe: Omama Coffee Shop
- Venture outside the city to: Laguna Quilotoa
- Take a stroll in: Parque Metropolitano
- Chill out and appreciate great street art in: Plaza Borja Yerovi
Here are unique tips to get under the skin of Quito.
1. Get lost at historical downtown
Get lost at historical downtown Quito by walking the famous “Calle de las Siete Cruces”.
You have to start with the first of the seven crosses at the northernmost cross which is at the Church of Santa Barbara.
From there, make your way South by mingling with locals at their stores, trying local foods [we love empanadas de morocho – yumm], and explore Latin America’s best preserved colonial centre.
Walk in this living museum as you make your way to the presidential palace, definitely go in and awe to the amazing ceilings of La Compania chapel and keep going up all the way to Carmen Alto and Capilla de San Lazaro for the 7th cross.
As in pretty much any big city nowadays, there are plenty of great walking tours. From paid to free walking tours. Just ask at your hostel. Again, here’s our list of the best hostels in Quito. Tours are available in Spanish and English. Taking the tour in Spanish will boost your Spanish language skills for sure. For the once starting out with Spanish, check out this guide on easy Spanish conversation tips. You will feel much more confident traveling South America afterwards.
Our best tip for Old Town Quito: End your visit with a selfie over sunset at one of the local cafes with terraces and crowds overlooking the sun setting over the old town in Quito, Ecuador.
We have two lovely rooftops in mind that see directly to the virgen of El Panecillo.
The first is Cafe Mosaico right below the Itchimbia park of and the other is El Ventanal right above the gothic cathedral La Basilica. Our recommendation is to have a hot chocolate, a great cocktail or as Quitenos would, a hot cup of vino caliente!
2. Pic-Nic at the Pichincha volcano
Take the Teleferico cable car for some spanning views but come prepared for a picnic at the top.
Bring a proper warm jacket and pack a nice backpack with local snacks + fresh fruits + maybe some vino. While at the top, try the famous tea of Coca leaf for the altitude and then go around the main building and hike on the back paths towards the back peak.
A short hike or a long hike can be done and both will be physically rewarding.
Make it as far as you can to have some awesome silence while enjoying the spanning views of the city below you.
Address: Av. Occidental (La Gasca), Quito, Pichincha
3. Have a foodie outing in the yuppie town of Cumbaya
Go down to the valley in mid-afternoon and go to the Ciclovia.
This is a green bike and walk path that starts in Cumbaya and goes all the way to el Quinche [a town in the outskirts of Quito]!
Take a bit of a hike on the path and enjoy the green air, the houses of suburban Quito and green parks. After your little hike, head back to the plaza of Cumbaya and restaurant hop tasting local and international delicacies.
Start at the outdoor garden of Bambu and try some ceviche de cameron [shrimpt ceviche] with a national beer.
Then move to next door new restaurant Patria for some upmarket Ecuadorian food.
And close your night off in style at the famous gourmet restaurant of Cire, a modern international restaurant that mixes awesome cocktails.
There are bars like Cats around the plaza where your night can continue!
Address: Small town Cumbaya, next to Quito
4. Modern Quito and Architecture
Spend a day in modern culture of Quito uptown [e.g. the North], and visit a place special for its architecture.
Feel the Capilla del Hombre which is the memorial built to Guayasim.
He was Ecuador’s most iconic painter of the 20th century whose works have sold for multi million sums at international shows at Christies and Sotheby’s. If possible, start this visit by first going to Guayasamin’s house which is a 5 minute walk from the Capilla as that will put the whole thing into context.
When you are done, if you crave more modern art, the FLACSO [also at the North of Quito] has some great new offerings of modern art from local and international artists.
And when your day ends, stop by at ZaZu which is perhaps the best long-standing restaurant of Quito.
Address: Capilla del Hombre, Mariano Calvache, Quito, Ecuador
5. Go out dancing to Latin Beats
If you want to dance and you want a wild night out, Quito has Latin beats everywhere. The crazy happens at what locals call the Zona Roja.
Head down to Boca del Lobo for a first cocktail and from there make your way. Bungalow 6 is a multi floor dance club with sweaty beats.
If that ain’t your thang… and the idea of a game of darts or good beer and cool music beats over conversation appeals more, then we would say go to the local pub Turtle’s Head.
There is everything in between. The point is that Quito can offer everything from fun watering holes with pumping DJs to a more upscale option.
Crawl around from place to place until you find the right one. There will be fun in between!
6. Venture at day into one of the local markets.
While a lot of these remain folkloric, they are a crazy experience and they have cool ceramics, local crafts on the cheap, and of course, they bring fresh fruit and vegetables from the rural areas on same day delivery so this the stuff is as fresh as it gets as well as being one of the only places where you find andean only proceeds like chochos, mote.
Beware, markets still are crazy, the women and men who sell there are at their commercial best, and haggling battles will await you.
7. Hot spring of Papallacta
This is one of our favorite fun things to do in Quito. Get up early and take a quick day trip to the nearby hot spring of Papallacta.
The public pools are clean, well maintained and their water is changed during the day.
It is only around $8.50 per adult and the trip is about 75 minutes away from Quito.
8. Bar full of locals: La Cleta bici cafe
La Cleta, a little bar in the heart of the La Floresta area of Quito, is always packed with locals and blasts out classic American tunes.
All of the furniture is made from bike parts, quirky bike illustrations cover the walls, and even the menu is in the shape of a wheel!
La Cleta bici café serves huge pizzas to share starting at $10, which are delicious.
You can find La Cleta Bici Café on Facebook for more information.
Address: Calle Lugo N24-250 y Guipuzcoa
9. Cafe: Omama Coffee Shop
Pretty Omama cafe, located in the bohemian Guapulo area, looks like a colorful Greek villa, and stands out next to the concrete constructions that surround it.
The cafe is conveniently located close to Casa Guayasamin, one tourist attraction that is worth checking out.
At Omama Coffee Shop in Quito you can buy fresh juices and fruit milkshakes, light meals and fantastic homemade cakes there. Sit out in the garden in the evening to enjoy the lights of Quito.
Address: Mariano Calvache E17-169 y Lorenzo Chavez
10. Venture outside the city to: Laguna Quilotoa
A huge pool of sparkling emerald green water in the vast crater of an extinct volcano, the laguna is a must-see and can easily be reached from Quito.
Many hostels organize excursions to Laguna Quilotoa but you can get there yourself on local buses for about half the price!
Staying the night in Quilotoa village allows you to support the tiny community and means that you are a 2 minute stroll away from the entrance to the crater in the morning!
11. Take a stroll in: Parque Metropolitano
To the east of the city lies this huge park with trails, barbecues and huge art installations.
You will forget that you are in a capital city while walking here. Many Quiteños go running in the park, and it is an excellent spot for a stroll or a picnic.
Get lost in the dense forest of Parque Metropolitano, play basket ball on one of the sports pitches, or admire the views of the mountains across the city.
12. Chill out and appreciate great street art in: Plaza Borja Yerovi
#NuevaBorjaYerovi is a new renovation project in La Mariscal.
All of the buildings in the square named Plaza Borja Yerovi have been painted with brightly coloured murals. Sit by the water fountains under a tree filled with lamp shades, enjoy the free street WiFi and admire the art on all four sides of the plaza.
Address: Plaza Borja Yerovi, 9 de Octubre y Jeronimo Carrion
Summary 12 Cool Things to do in Quito
There is more to explore in Quito than simply the old town, the Plaza de la Independencia, and Carondelet Palace. Those things to see and to do in Quito are really outside the tourist box.
Now that you know what to do in Quito as a backpacker, pick the coolest hostels in Quito Ecuador and go for it.
Did we miss anything? Do you have any question?
Then please, please leave us a comment. We want to have this guide to activities and backpacking Quito really useful.
Love and safe travels,
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