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Between old and new town Quito

Parque La Alameda

Ornamental lakes and a monument to Bolívar hold down opposite ends of this triangular park which points at Old Town. In the centre stands the oldest astronomical observatory in South America, inaugurated in 1864 by president García Moreno. Visiting hours is Saturday 9-11 a.m.

Palacio Legislativo

Drop by Gran Colombia and Montalvo when this arm of Ecuador's government is out to lunch and you may be let inside to see Guayasamin's infamous mural Imagen de La Pátria. The huge mural, depicting and protesting injustice in Latin America, caused a stir during its unveiling at a formal ceremony of ambassadors and dignitaries. An evil-looking face with a helmet labelled CIA caused the U.S. ambassador to storm out of the room. Copies of the mural are available in the Guayasamin museum.

Parque El Ejido

Pátria, 6 de Diciembre, 10 de Agosto and Tarquí form the wedge filled by Quito's most popular central park. Its origins as a botanical garden live on in a few trees that are over a century old. Heated games of soccer and volleyball fill the park most evenings and weekends, and children's playground takes up the Northeast corner. On weekends the area near the arch at Amazonas and Pátria becomes an outdoor crafts market; paintings line the sidewalk along Pátria, and Otavaleños and other artists sell textiles, antiques, and jewellery.

Also, there are painting exhibitions on Saturdays and Sundays at Parque El Ejido (opposite the Hilton Colón hotel). Nearby the same area you will find several street stalls selling crafts run by Otavalo Indians on Amazonas avenue (northeast of the Hilton Colón hotel).

Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana

An unmistakable curve of mirrored glass surrounds the best collection of museums in one spot in the city (tel. 256-3808). The Museo Arqueológico/Etnología of the Banco Central is a world in itself, with 1,500 pieces of pre-Inca pottery and other relics labelled in English and Spanish. A vault downstairs protects a dazzling collection of gold pieces. Upstairs the Museo Colonial y de Arte spans Ecuadorian history from colonial furniture and paintings of the Quito School to modern works by Guayasamin and Kingman. Guided tours are available.

Cross the parking lot off 6 de Diciembre to the south side of the building to reach the museums of the Casa de la Cultura itself, along with the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library). A Museo de Instrumentos Musicales contains one of the better collections of musical instruments in the world, and the Museo de Arte Moderno and Museo de Traje Indígena (Museum of Indigenous Clothing) are also worth a visit. Plays and musical performances are often held in the Teatro Promedio on 6 de Diciembre. All museums open Tues.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; admission US$1.50 pp.

Instituto Geográfico Militar - IGM

The hike up Paz y Miño is worth the commanding view of the city from the Military Geographical Institute, tel. 250-2091. While you wait for the staff to process your map order (bring a book), consider a show at the planetarium, open Tues.-Fri. 9-11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.; admission is US 0.65 cents pp. The Institute is open Tues.-Fri. 8 a.m.-11 p.m., 2:30-4:30 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and visitors must surrender their passports at the gate.

Old town | Between old and new town | New town | North of the new town

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