The church and monastery of San Francisco is both the oldest and largest colonial building in Quito. The complex takes up two blocks and construction of the church and convent was begun in 1534, just a few weeks after the foundation of Quito. It was not completed until 70 years later. Over the years much has been destroyed by earthquakes and it has been rebuilt, but there are some original features left too.
It is free to visit the church which is open between 8-12 and 15-18 every day. In the monastery next door is the Museo Franciscano (Museo Fray Pedro Gocial) with a large and fine collection of religious art; paintings, sculptures and furniture, from the colonial era. The large courtyard is lovely. Admission to the museum was $2 (June 2011) and it is open between 9-17.30 on Monday-Saturday and between 9-12 on Sundays.
Museo Fundación Guayasamín is housed in the former home of the artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999), who probably is Ecuador’s most famous artist. Besides paintings by Guayasamín his other collections are shown as well. In one building you can see his collection of pre-Colombian pottery. There are around 1500 pieces of bowls, fertility figurines, burial masks and more on display, and they are arranged by theme. In another building you can see Guayasamín’s collection of colonial religious art.
There is a gift-shop where you can by prints by Guayasamín and another one where you can by jewellery. There is also a café.
The museum is open between 10 - 17 on Monday - Friday. Admission was $4 (August 2011).
Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos in the museum, so I took a photo of the brochure to get a picture for this tip.
After visiting Museo Fundación Guayasamín you should walk a few hundred metres further up along the road to visit Capilla del Hombre, where you will see many more of Guayasamín’s works.
Some hundred metres further up the road from Museo Guayasamín is Capilla del Hombre, a creation by the famous artist. Capilla del Hombre means Chapel of Man and it is dedicated to the people of America and their struggle against conquerors.
In a huge two-story building impressive murals and paintings are displayed. Here you find murals like El condor y toro, Los Mutilados and La Ternura. It is a collection of some of Guayasamín’s masterpieces, and it is absolutely worth a visit. An eternal flame burns in the centre of the ground floor for the cause of human rights.
The project to build Capilla del Hombre begun in 1995, but it was not completed until 2002, three years after Oswald Guayasamín’s death. In the garden you will see The Tree of Life (El Arbol de La Vida) under which the remains of the artist are buried. In the garden there are also some sculptures and a Maya stela from Copán, Honduras.
Capilla del Hombre is open between 10 - 17 on Tuesday - Sunday. The admission was $4 (August 2012). There is a café on the grounds.
The Museo Manuela Sáenz is not in many guidebooks, so it is often overlooked which is a shame as it is a very interesting museum. The museum is situated in a colonial building in San Marco in Centro Histórico. It is a museum over Manuela Sáenz, who participated in the liberation struggle from Spain and who was the mistress of Simón Bolívar. In the museum there are paintings and personal items, among other things love letters. There are also exhibitions with religious art, old coins and weapons.
I got a good guided tour around the museum and it was partly in Spanish and partly in English. And as I didn’t know anything about Manuela Sáenz before it was very interesting .
Admission was $3 (June 2011).
Manuela Sáenz was born in Quito in 1797. She married a wealthy Englishman in an arranged marriage and she and her husband moved to Lima in Peru 1819. Lima was at that time the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. In Lima Manuela hosted parties for Limas upper class, including many military officers and political leaders. There were talks about the ongoing revolution and Manuela got involved. In 1822 she left her husband and returned to Quito where she met Simón Bolívar and they fell in love. They started an affair that lasted for eight years, until Bolívar died.
Manuela Sáenz was not only the mistress of Simón Bolívar but she took an active role in the liberation struggle, by participating in several battles and planning. When in Bogotá, in 1828, Manuela helped in preventing a murder attempt of Simón Bolívar. After that Simón Bolívar called her the liberator of the liberator. After Simón Bolívar died Manuela Sáenz was sent into exile. After a short time in Jamaica she ended up living the rest of her life in the small town Paita along the northern Peruvian coast. There she got her income from selling candy and tobacco, and from writing and translating letters for sailors. She died in 1856 during a diphtheria epidemic, so all her possessions were burnt and she was buried in a mass grave.
In the middle of Parque La Alameda is a beautiful old building, light yellow in colour with arched windows and doors. It is Quito’s Astronomical Observatory. It was inaugurated in 1864 and was the first astronomical observatory established in South America.
There is a museum in the building which is open daily between 9-12 and 14.30-17.30. In the exhibitions there are antique astronomical tools, photos and books. I didn’t visit the museum, but maybe on my next visit to Quito.
On very clear nights it is also possible to arrange for a visit to look at the stars.
Museo Nacional del Banco Central is situated in a large round building in the south end of Mariscal, in Parque Arbolito. It is a great museum displaying many masterpieces of Ecuadorian pre-Colombian pottery and paintings from different periods. It is absolutely worth a visit. I liked the archaeological exhibition best where artefacts from different pre-Colombian cultures from all over the country is displayed. Then there is a Gold Room with many magnificent gold objects from the time before colonisation. Upstairs there are several Art Rooms displaying art from the colonial period up to modern times.
There are also temporary exhibitions at the museum, and when I visited there was an exhibition about traditions and festivals in the Andean region.
Admission was free when I visited.
The museum is open between 9 - 17 on Tuesday - Friday, and between 10 - 16 on Saturday and Sunday.
Quito Natural History Museum is situated in Parque Carolina, just next to the Botanical Gardens. So after visiting the Botanical Gardens I thought it was a good idea to visit the Natural History Museum too. It is not a big museum, but only have a few exhibition rooms. There are lots of stuffed Ecuadorian animals on display; mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. There is also a geological section with fossils and minerals.
Admission to the museum was $ 2.00 (June 2011).
Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre is a hero of the Ecuadorian independence. He was a Field Marshal in Simón Bolívar’s liberation army and he was the one leading the troops at the battle of Pichincha 1822, the battle when de Spanish royalists once and for all were defeated in Ecuador, and Ecuador became a part of Gran Colombia (for 8 years before its own independence).
Casa de Sucre in Quito’s Centro Histórico has been the home of Sucre. The colonial building has been beautifully restored and now houses a museum with items that has belonged to Sucre, or just furniture and other objects, like weapons, documents and clothings, from the same era, the beginning of the 19th century.
Admission to the museum was $1 (August 2011). It is open between 9 - 17.30 on Monday - Friday, and between 10 - 17.30 on Saturdays. When I visited there were older pupils from a school doing the guiding. My guide only spoke Spanish, but I understood most of the things he said, and it was a very informative.
Museo de la Ciudad, the City Museum, is situated in the old Hospital San Juan de Dios, which was built already in 1563. It was used as a hospital until 1973 and has then been restored.
The exhibitions in the museum are about the history of Quito and how people have lived in the area. It starts with Quito’s early history and goes on to colonial time and then independence, up to modern time. There are artefacts, maps, costumes, photos and models on display.
There is a nice courtyard and a café in the museum. There are also temporary exhibitions.
Admission was $3 (June 2011)
The museum is open between 9.30 - 17.30, Tuesday - Sunday.
These burial chambers are from the Quitu culture (220-640 A.D.) Ten chambers have been excavated so far. One chamber has replicas of the contents, including 16 plaster bodies.
There is a small museum on the site in addition to the chambers.
Open Wednesday-Sunday, 8-4:30
Free Admission and guided tour. (Spanish and some English)
NOTE: The site is a bit off the beaten path. If you go by taxi, it might be a good idea to ask the driver to wait for you. It doesn’t take long to see it, and there won’t be any taxis going by outside when you come out. The staff doesn’t have a phone on site to call one for you either.
This is a private museum housed in a colonial mansion that was built in 1671. The house is interesting in itself, and the collection is very good. Items are arranged by theme rather than chronologically—Metalwork, spirit houses, ancestors, shamans, etc.
Electronic audioguides are available in English or Spanish for $3, or you can take a 45-minute guided tour in English, Spanish or French. Tours are at 10:30, 12:30 or 3. There is a fee, but I’m not sure of the amount. It is more than the audio-guide.
Until Oct. 30, there is also a special exhibit of Amulets of Pre-Colombian Ecuador.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30-5:30; Sunday, 10-4 - Admission: $4
Photos without flash are permitted.
SEE TRAVELOGUES BELOW FOR SOME OF THE MUSEUM'S EXHIBITS
The Mindalae Museum (Mindalae Museo Ethnohistorica del Artisanas del Ecuador)
is fairly new, and full of incredible stuff. It includes costumes, carvings, musical instruments, pottery, weavings, etc. The items are grouped by region, and displayed with the plants used to create them. (For example: sisal is next to the woven nets.)
CHECK OUT THE TRAVELOGUE BELOW TO SEE SOME OF THE GREAT CARVINGS FROM THE AMAZON REGION
Photos are permitted without flash.
Accessible – wheelchairs available; elevator to upper floor.
Hours: Mon-Sat 9 am-6 pm
Oswaldo Guayasamin’s home is now his museum. He donated his collections of pre-Colombian, colonial and modern art to the city, and they are on display as well as many of his paintings.
This imaginative and apparently well-funded museum is located in an old hospital building, the former Hospital San Juan de Dios. A visit will help you understand the ancient history of Quito, the brief Inca juggernaut, the Spanish conquest, and the "modern" times. Everything is presented with imagination and verve. Photography is prohibited in the exhibit rooms.
Considering that only 1% of Ecuador's GDP goes to education (shame, only Equatorial Guinea fares worse according to my Economist Pocket World in Figures) this museum is an amazing resource.
There are walking tours in English and Spanish. Unfortunately, the Spanish tours are more informative and more thorough and the guides are better able to answer most complex questions completely. This museum was surprisingly interesting. It deals with how Quito became the city it is today, from the indigenous people to the conquistadors. I cannot not stress, this was a very interesting museum, and it surprised me how facinating the information was. Well worth the time.
Picture taking is not allowed, but I took the picture of a painting below, of an indigenous person shaking hands with a Spanish Conquistador. The Conquistador is shown as a skeleton, signifying death. I just had to take that picture, even though I was (mildly) yelled at.