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Sights of Quito

Quito, the Metropolitan District and capital of the Republic of Ecuador, finds itself between a contemporary and a colonial city that is constantly being built each day. The modern structure mixes with the crossbreeding and colonial heritage where both national residents and foreign visitors always find a place to work, enjoy and remember.

Located in the Andes mountain range 2.800 meters above sea level, Quito occupies a plateau of 12.000 square kilometers. Its environmental temperature oscillates between 50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 25 centigrade degrees). The climatic contrasts that are presented during the course of a day, allows one to enjoy the four seasons of the year around the clock - as if having eternal spring. Also, the city is surrounded by the Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Antizana and Cayambe volcanoes that make up the majestic Andean contour.

Quito, full of meanings that identify and define it, occupies hillsides and valleys. It winds through narrow streets and opens up in wide avenues. It zigzags around hills and gulches. Because of this physical beauty, its traditions, mystic corners and valuable legends, it is considered ¨Reliquary of the American Art¨. Because of these main characteristics, in November of 1978, Quito was declared by UNESCO as the ¨Cultural Patrimony of Humanity¨.

The city, in the last few years, has been subject to a great urbanization change that extends towards the north, south, the Valleys of Tumbaco (northeast) and Los Chillos (southeast). This has allowed a remarkable economic and population growth that has generated advances in the industry, economy, trade and hotel industry. It has also configured new actors and new social demands. This demanded from the local government a geographical and administrative reorganization, and that of government conduction of the city.

In Quito today nearly two million inhabitants inside 65 central and suburban metropolitan parishes coexist together. They have chosen it as their residence, making ¨The Face of God¨ a city where the social diversity is appreciated and conforms the country.

Quito's churches elicit more gasps and muted whistles than any of its other attractions. There certainly is enough opportunity; the city is said to have at least 86 of them, occupying up to one quarter of the city's area. Monasteries or convents accompany most. Large, blank exterior walls symbolise the division between the outer and inner world, where nuns from wealthy and poor backgrounds worship side by side. Small details in the nuns' vestments traditionally revealed the owner's background. Time away from prayer was often used to decorate walls and ceilings with elaborate paintings that praised the glories of heaven (especially in the refectory of El Carmen) while hinting at the treasures of the present world just outside. Students, servants, and other secular residents still help tend indoor gardens and attend to daily tasks such as sewing, cooking, and cleaning.

Many churches closed for repairs after the earthquake of 1987, and it's anybody's guess when restorations will be complete. In some--notably El Carmen Bajo, La Compañia, and El Sagrario--the earthquake aggravated centuries-old weaknesses that threaten to bring the entire building down. Flash pictures are prohibited in most churches and historical museums to protect the fragile pigments of religious paintings and statues. Keep in mind that opening hours fluctuate almost daily; those given below are a rough guide at best.

Quito in the Center of the World
First Geodesic Mission

The First Geodesic Mission arrived in Ecuador in 1736. It was undertaken by the Frenchmen Pierre Bouger, Luis Godin and Carlos Maria de la Condamine as well as the Spaniards Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa and an Ecuadorian Pedro Vicente Maldonado. The purpose of their mission was to scientifically verify the roundness of the Earth. After the visit of the Mission, whose studies lasted nine years, the territory surrounding Quito started being called ¨The Lands of the Equator¨. This was named in reference to the parallel line that divides the planet in two hemispheres. A second mission arrived to Quitenian ground in 1802, headed by Frenchman Charles Perrier. He established himself in the country and corroborated the data obtained by the first group of investigators.

In 1836, the Ecuadorian geographer, Luis Tufiño, located the landmarks left by the First Mission, and, to commemorate the visit of the scientific expedition, an obelisk ten meters high was erected in San Antonio de Pichincha, which was later transferred to Calacali by the Provincial Council.

Center of the World City

In 1979, the Honorable Provincial Council of Pichincha, HCPP, began construction of the current monument (thirty meters high) to highlight the importance of the work of the First Geodesic Mission. Next to this monument is the touristy village of the Center of the World City (Ciudad Mitad del Mundo). The village was built using classic colonial architectural lines as one can see in the main square, the church and the town council. Surrounding these constructions are also a bull ring, several handicraft shops, restaurants, cafeterias, telephone offices and a Post office. It is located 13 kilometers north of Quito. The imaginary Equinoctial line or parallel zero ( 0 0´0¨) crosses this valley dividing the planet Earth in two hemispheres: North and South.

From the terrace of the monument - memento of the scientific expedition of the XVIII century - you can contemplate the Andean environment of the Center of the World. In its interior there are nine levels that make up the Ethnographic Museum where the variety of ethnic groups that inhabit the four regions of Ecuador is appreciated. To enter the Center of the World City, the tourists pass by the Geodesic Avenue where 13 busts that represent the scientific members of the French Geodesic Mission have been raised.

Toward the north of the planet, the Center of the World City is a sample of the colonial style. There we find the Central square, scenario of the cultural and artistic programs that are carried out every weekend: the only church in the world furrowed by the Equatorial Line, residences of colonial architecture where national art is exhibited, shops of crafts, textile and jewellers.

The following journey is in the southern hemisphere where there is the Planetarium, the Solar Museum, installed in the German Pavilion: there is an exhibition of the archaeological places and investigations that are carried out in the Equinoctial Valley.

In the French Pavilion the history of the exact measurements of the earth is exposed, through instruments, pictures, illustrations and scale models that, in detailed form, instruct the visitors.

The Philatelic Museum is another one of the attractions that the City has. Here, themes are exposed on education, the environment, sports, culture: philatelic presentations, numismatists, coins and paper currency.

The Colonial Quito Foundation presents in its rooms the Scale models of the Historical Center of Quito, Guayaquil, and soon, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands.

Next Exhibitions
The Insectarium of Ecuador will be a natural museum aimed for tourists. In it, the visitors will be able to observe all the species of insects of the Ecuadorian Amazon and of the rest of the World. In the Spanish Pavilion, art of the most famous Ecuadorian painter, Oswaldo Guayasamin, will be present thanks to The Guayasamin Foundation that will present replicas of the great Master´s works and sculptures from pre-Colombian and colonial art.
Schedules and Costs:
City entrance: Adults - $0.50 USD
Children/Handicapped/Senior Citizens: $0.25 USD
For student groups - two people enters for the price of 1
Parking: $1.00 USD

For tourists - special packages exist in the travel agencies.
Schedules: Monday - Thursday, 9:00AM to 6:00PM Friday,
Saturday and Sunday - 9:00AM to 7:00PM

Information taken from:

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

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