What a great way to get to know Quito with a walking tour. We love Free Walking Tours when we travel. It is a way to learn about the city that you are in and to have local knowledge imparted to you that you may not find in books.
Quito Free Walking Tour Route
Our Quito Free Walking Tours meets at the Community Hostel opposite the Central Market near the Old Town. Ovi is our guide and is very knowledgeable and experienced in the history of Quito. We enter the Central Market and Ovi checks whether there are any vegetarians in our group, as there were two he avoided the meat and seafood sections. The entrance is through the food hall where you can enjoy a local breakfast of tortilla,eggs and coffee for USD1.80. We head upstairs to the Fruit and Vegetable section where he explains the various types of fruits and vegetables that Ecuador has and how to prepare and eat them. You can smell the freshness and the sweetness of the fruits especially the strawberries. To the right of the Fruit and Vegetable section there are the Fruit Juice Vendors. For as little as USD 1 you can have an amazing cocktail of local fruit juices.
The Central Market has various other sections such as meat, seafoods, herbs, spices and flowers. We learnt that Ecuador is the largest exporter of roses in the world. In the market there was an abundance of flower vendors selling roses and other varieties of flowers, roses cost USD1 per bunch of 12 stems.
Plaza Independencia is the central square of the City. The Monument of the Old Heroes represents the Independence from the Spanish on August 10, 1809.
To the right (in the photo) you will see the Presidential Palace, to the left is the Cathedral of Quito. The Square represents the elements of Quito Society and the Square also houses the Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace.
Ovi, was able to get us into the entrance to the Presidential Palace to see the Guards and to view the Square from the Palace lower ground balcony.
On Tuesdays through to Sundays you can visit the inside of the Presidential Palace between the hours of 9am and 6.30pm. There is a small ticket booth at the side and you will need either a photocopy of your passport or the original to purchase tickets. It is free. Inside you will see the Presidential portraits, dining rooms, meeting rooms and you are allowed to take photographs.
The President and his family do not live here, he believes the Palace is for the people, he resides in an apartment to the North of Quito and helicopters down when meetings are held.
Our next stop was the Iglesia de San Francisco located in Plaza de San Francisco. We were allowed to enter for free but unfortunately as Mass was just about to begin photographs were forbidden. Inside you can see the paintings and the sculptures of the famous Quito School of Art. The most famous is the 18th century sculpture of the Virgin of Quito.
Located in Rocafuerte is the sweet shop known as Confiteria el Gato where we stopped to learn about local sweets. Ovi offered us samples of unusual sweets that contained cilantro and sweet potato. Many of the sweets contained high amount of sugar and chocolate, a must for those with a sweet tooth but not recommended for diabetics.
Entry is free to the Museo de la Ciuda, just off Rocafuerte and Garcia Moreno, which originally was the old hospital of Quito. If you walk through the gardens and head towards the Cafe San Ignacio it is here that you have this amazing photo opportunity of the Old Town looking up to the Virgin of Quito located on El Panecillo (Bread Loaf Hill). The Virgin of Quito sits at 3016 metres above sea level and is made of 7,000 pieces of aluminium which took two years to complete.
Ovi advised us against walking the steep stairs to the top as there are areas that are abandoned and hidden from view. Thieves loiter around these areas. A taxi to the top can cost between USD2-3. It is advisable to keep the taxi waiting for you and this can be negotiated for around USD8. Entrance fee USD1.
La Ronda known as the Bohemian area of the city. This area with its quaint cobblestone streets covers a few blocks within the Old Town. In the 1900’s this area was well known for its bars some subterranean and was the main hangout for artists, poets, singers, painters etc. Today is it a well-known area for its many restaurants, bars and shops. The busiest nights are Friday and Saturday but if you plan to visit on Mondays most establishments do close except for The Happy Mondays Cafe.
We finish our tour in Espejo Street. A street full of XIX-XX century buildings with restaurants and shops.
Tour: Free Walking Tour Quito
Cost: Free but tips are recommended (we noted tips given from USD5 upwards)
Days of Tour: Monday through to Saturday Commencing at 10.30AM Rain or Shine.
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