If you have a few days in Quito on either end of your Galapagos tour, but don’t want to hit the usual tourist attractions, you may be wondering where you can go for a rewarding experience a bit off the beaten path. Wonder no more, as the list below should give you some good options.
Monastery Shopping Madness
Most of the convents in Historical Quito have a small gift shop where you can buy interesting goodies made by cloistered nuns. Although the nuns specialize in homeopathic remedies made from plants and herbs prominently displayed at the front counters, head instead to the other cabinet filled with wines and anise flavored mistela to discover the secret way the locals plump up the collection plate. If you don’t drink, other good finds include homemade cookies, and desoured lemons filled with caramel crème. The best part is that most of your purchases will feature handmade nun labels, which makes them excellent and unusual gifts.
Monasterio de Carmen Alto, Calle Rocafuerte and Garcia Moreno
Leave your wallet at home, but do bring some cash to this sprawling market full of Quitenos bartering for legitimate and not so legitimate brand name clothing. This market isn’t for the faint of heart, or for those who suffer from claustrophobia. The narrow passageways are packed with people and it quickly becomes apparent that what looks like an indoor market is actually an outdoor market enclosed by various tarps covering hundreds of stalls and spread out across almost 3 blocks, giving it an alleyway, maze-like feel. You are likely to be the only traveler there, so try not to stand out or look bewildered, and definitely don’t wear a fanny pack!
Centro Comercial Parqueadero La Merced, Calle Chile and Calle Imbabura.
Located in beautiful Bellavista, a charming residential neighborhood in the eastern hills of Quito, sits the Guayasamin Museum, once home to Ecuador’s most famous painter Oswaldo Guayasamin. The museum houses some of his most beautiful work meant to represent the strife and injustice suffered by the indigenous workers in Latin America. The painter’s own art collections, a staggering representation of both colonial art and pre-Columbian ceramics, are inside different rooms in the museum as well. After you wander through the galleries, you can visit La Capilla del Hombre, Guayasamin’s final vision illustrating both man’s cruelty and potential. Then spend the afternoon strolling through this picturesque neighborhood and up to stunning Guapulo, full of small winding roads and lovely vistas. Wear your sneakers as the roads are steep!
Calle Jose Bosmediano 543, at Jose Carbo. Capilla del Hombre: Mariano Calvache y Lorenzo Chavez Esquina
La Ronda Street
Misinformed guidebooks still warn tourists away from this area at night which is a real shame considering it is the only nightlife in Centro Historico. This pedestrian only, cobblestoned road is one of the oldest in Quito and incredibly picturesque with flower-filled balconies, colonial architecture, wrought iron gates, and artist’s galleries. The best time to visit is Friday and Saturday nights after 7pm when all the restaurants, cafes, bars, and art galleries are open and people sell hot canelazo from doorways. Hundreds of people flood the streets to hear live music, socialize, and sample the homemade wine. Street performers and dancers normally make an appearance around 9pm. There are policeman at either end of the street happy to help tourists flag a taxi.
Calle La Ronda, Centro Historico
El Pobre Diablo
Easily the coolest venue in Quito, this small jazz club hosts live music a couple days a week and is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy local and international musicians, while knocking back a few whiskeys or glasses of vino. This bohemian club doesn’t get the music started until after 10pm and shuts down around 2am. If you really are a poor devil keep in mind that they charge a small cover fee and drinks are a bit pricier than usual.
Isabel La Catolica, and Galavis, La Floresta
Challen is a contributing writer for our travel blog.