A walk through La Ronda and other Quito’s corners

Yellow light lampposts that illuminate the cobble stone streets allow visitors to la Ronda to experience colonial Quito: its side streets, twsits and turns; its trades, sweets and traditional dishes. The tile roofs, iron forged balconies, window frames...

Quito is a city to be toured. At 2800 MASL, it has attractions that can be visited on foot, bicycle, car or bus. It’s surrounded by mountains, and is home to colonial and modern architecture. Visitors to the city can experience 4 different climates in a single day, along with several memorable flavors at its markets, valleys and hills.

Let’s go. One of the best ways to experience Quito is through its culinary expression, and of course, its “huecas” (hole in the wall eateries): those “low-profile” establishments were patrons can enjoy their tastes and whims at accessible, and even “negotiable” prices.

On Avenida Colón, next to the La Circasiana mansion, between 10 de Agosto and Versalles for example, there is a piece of ancient Quito. Los sánduches de la Colón (Sandwiches of Av. Colón) is a shop that has been around for over 75 years. The establishment has an austere, ancient decoration leaning towards vintage. Roasted pork loin, tomato, onion, and home baked bread are unique, prepared according to old customs. Without the rush of the modern world, the anxiety for fast food and artificial flavors, these amazing sandwiches come with one of the strongest chili sauces in Quito.

Foto: Rodrigo Salas – Quito Turismo

On October 10, Quito was chosen as the leading South American destination for a third consecutive year at the World Travel Awards. Along with its cuisine, the architecture of Quito’s Historical District was the deciding factor in this result. It’s quite common to see foreigners walking along the Historic District with their large cameras, cargo pants and hiking boots, along with shigras (woven bags) recently bought in Otavalo.

These same foreigners are frequently seen taking pictures of churches such as La Compañía, San Francisco or el Sagrario; or walking along traditional streets like La Ronda, or historic squares such as “de la Independencia”, across the street from the historical Carondelet Palace, whose entry hallway fills with both locals and foreigners alike to witness the changing of the guard, often presided by the President of the Republic.

One of the most important buildings in this area is certainly the Palace of Carondelet. A historical space, witness to the overthrow of former presidents Bucaram, Mahuad and Gutiérrez. A good place to remember and talk of such events is “las guatitias de La Colmena”, behind the Palace.

This traditional and simple restaurant is always filled with patrons. It was one of the first places in Quito to begin selling “guatita” (Ecuadorian tripe stew) over 50 years ago. Its guatitas are without a doubt “presidential”. It is said that former president Bucaram frequently ordered his meals from there. Another specialty is mollusk ceviche.

The Church of La Compañía is one the greatest expressions of Baroque art in Quito. It was built between 1605 and 1765, 160 years during which the church was decorated with works of religious art, among which works of impressive realism or inevitable mysticism stand out. The building’s façade displays its architectural wealth. La Ronda is located South of the church on García Moreno street. It’s an area whose magic and Quiteño traits are best appreciated at night.

Foto: Andrea Cristina Morales Velásquez - Quito Turismo
Foto: Andrea Cristina Morales Velásquez - Quito Turismo

Yellow light lampposts that illuminate the cobble stone streets allow visitors to la Ronda to experience colonial Quito: its side streets and turns; its trades, sweets and traditional dishes. The tile roofs, iron forged balconies, window frames and flowerpots loaded with bright red geraniums are reminiscent of an eternal and memorable Quito.

La Ronda hosts live shows for the enjoyment of visitors, along with the delicious flavors of Quito found in “empanadas de viento” (fried cheese empanadas), “pristiños” (fritters with brown sugar syrup), “canelazos” (warm spiced cinnamon drink). Traditional dishes are also available, such as locro de papa (potato soup), “llapingacho” (potato patties stuffed with cheese), “seco de chivo” (braised goat stew), or “yahuarlocro” (blood soup). The festive tour is worth it: you’ll run into popular artists, portraitists, painters, jugglers, guitarists, among other traditional Quiteños.

Quito is a rich, picturesque city with unique skies. To see the live images of postcards that extend across the surface of the city is quite pleasurable, and can be done from different lookout points. El Panecillo, the Itchimbía, and the Museum of Water Yaku are places whose view allows visitors to fully appreciate the capital; its buildings, parks, streets and avenues.

El Panecillo stands at the foot of the Historical District, and is characterized by a sculpture made from seven thousand pieces of aluminum. The Virgin of Quito or “Virgin of the Apocalypse” is a replica of the 30 cm sculpture by artist Bernardo de Legarda. It depicts a woman with wings who has a chain and stands above a serpent, which represents the beast. From El Panecillo, one can see the passage of time in the city: the South and North, notice the differences; the houses and narrow streets across from buildings and its avenues.

Foto: Hernán Alfonso Díaz Andrade - Quito Turismo

In the North of the city, one of the most frequented areas is La Carolina. The park of the same name is a key attraction of modern Quito. There are five shopping malls around this park, along with two movie theater chains, restaurant and fast food franchises, hotels and office buildings.

Within the park, visitors can tour the Botanical Garden, an enclosed space that displays the wealth of the plant and wildlife of the city, its surrounding areas, valleys and mountains. The variety of plants that are part of Quito’s geography can be appreciated by the different specimens on exhibit.

North of the park, some 300 meters, there is an iconic market, Iñaquito. This is a space where one can find the wealth of the land, reflected in the fruits, vegetables and agricultural products for sale. The “caseras”, local farmers, with their round figures, sell their products amidst a palette of natural colors and textures, reflected in apples, pears, oranges, guanábanas, plantains and passion fruit.

Foto: Hilton Colon - Quito Turismo

Quito can be toured on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car or bus. However, a single day may not be enough to take it all in and appreciate the details of each nook and cranny, or its history. In any case, you’re here: in Quito. Open up your senses, elevate your spirit and set out to discover its streets, squares and hidden corners. Enjoy!

Text: Esteban Michelena / Revista Nuestro Mundo Pictures: Concurso #FotoVerano2015

To See
The facades of churches such as La Compañía, San Francisco or el Sagrario.

To Taste
Quiteño favorites such as empanadas de viento, pristiños and canelazos.

To Hear
Popular artists and guitarists of La Ronda.

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