Ultimate Bucket List: How to Spend a Day in Quito, Ecuador

February 21, 2017

How to Spend a Day in Quito, Ecuador

Okay, I’m not gonna lie, when I arrived in Ecuador, Quito was not on the top of my bucket list. I mean, I really didn’t know much about the city and was basically just there to visit a friend (Thank God for Maria who drove me around and picked me up from the airport. Public transportation options were not that great at the time) and see the Galapagos Islands. Little did I know that this charming, historical, capital city, would bewitch my heart and capture my soul.

How to spend the day in Quito, Ecuador? Why, watching the sunrise (Yeah, i couldn’t sleep because I was so excited)!!!

Not only is this city set high in the picturesque backdrop of the Andes Mountains (pro-tip: Bring pants and sweatshirts because the altitude makes the city cold at night, even though it’s on the Equator), but this city has a vivaciousness of spirit and historical charm that is like no other place I have visited.

There is a unique, Ecuadorian Sierra culture here that combines overflowing market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation haymakers with a sophisticated culinary culture and a vibrant and modern nightlife scene. The result is a city that expertly and distinctly intertwines the culture of the old with the excitement of the new, creating an atmosphere of life that is unlike any other I have experienced.

But, the character of this city doesn’t come from the beautiful, snow-capped mountains or the historic colonial monuments and architecture of the Old Town district, now a UNESCO world heritage site. The real charm of this city comes from the spirit of the people who live here and their love for this country; a love that touches everything the Ecuadorian people do.

Marvel at some of the architecture in Old Town Quito, Ecuador. That’s how to spend a day in Quito, Ecuador.

Whether it’s a building, a mountain, or a culinary delight, there is a joy of life that is embodied in the pride and care that citizens take within their daily life. And I respect that so much because it can be easy

to get bogged down in the mundane reality of the everyday; or to become bitter and angry in recounting the tragedies of the past, of which Ecuador has many. But the people of Ecuador seem to get up and fill their country will joy, excitement, and a pride of culture that was obvious in the enthusiasm that my friend had in showing me around (All this being said, Quito is not a utopia and there is crime and poverty so you do need to be careful and do your research before going).

So I invite you to come with me and find out how to spend a day in Quito, Ecuador. Now, Quito is a vast city, with quite a lot to do, so this task won’t be easy. But, if you’re up for it, there are a lot of things that you can learn, see, taste, and do!

The List: How to Spend a Day in Quito, Ecuador

  1. Capilla del Hombre – You’re probably reading the name and wondering, “What does that even
    How to spend the day in Quito? Check out some of Guayasamin’s art. So emotionally powerful.

    mean?” Well, this building is actually an art gallery that features some of the most important Guayasamin artwork in all of South America. That is because this artwork is so emotionally expressive that it simultaneously captures the pain of and hope from an entire generation of indigenous people. These feelings are embodied in a way that I have never seen before and in a way that words simply cannot express. The building itself is located a few blocks away from the Museo Guayasamín and stands as homage to the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous poor and to the eternal hope for a better future. Seriously, bring a kleenex. The emotions that this art evokes are unreal and unlock feelings you didn’t even know you had (Best and most moving part of my time spent here). Tours in English, French and Spanish, are in included in the price of admission ($8 adult) and are highly recommended to enhance your understanding of the art displayed here. They usually leave upon request during opening hours,

    Teleferiqo should totally be on your “How to spend a day in Quito, Ecuador” List.

    which are from 10 am – 5:00pm, Tuesday – Sunday.

  2. Teleferiqo – This vantage point overlooks the entire city of Quito and provides spectacular views of the mountainous, Andes landscape. The natural beauty of these mountains generates a peacefulness of body and a connection of spirit, with the environment, that the city of Quito lacks. When ascending the mountains here, you literally feel as though you are entering an entirely different world, when you are really only entering the outskirts of Quito itself. A truly transformative, worthwhile journey for sure.To get here, hop aboard the sky tram that takes passengers on a 2.5km ride (10 minutes) up the Volcán Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. Once at the top , you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (4680m), which is about a three-hour hike for fit walkers (Can be tricky so ask about safety before attempting).You can also hire horses (per hour $10), which are about 500m from the upper station (follow signs to ‘paseos a caballo’). The horseback riding option sounded less daunting and more romantic to me. But, with only 24 hours in the city, I went in the morning, when the views here are best, by taxi for about $5 (To get into the national park itself, which is open between 9:00 am and 6:00pm Monday through Friday and until 8:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, it costs $8.50) . I didn’t get the experience that I wanted, but I was ecstatic that I took the time to enjoy this scenic, peaceful place.
  3. La Mitad del Mundo – This is better known as the equator, or the invisible line that runs across the globe and separates the world into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Now while the line
    How to spend the day in Quito, Ecuador? Why, chilling at the Equator of course!


    itself is imaginary, the El Reloj Solar Quitsato monument is located here and was designed to represent the equator and it’s importance to scientific advancement. Because this area has become such a popular tourist destination, a series of shops, food stalls, and museums have sprung up around the monument. As a result, hawkers of various indigenous wares will get in your face and demand that you buy whatever it is that they have to offer. Therefore, I would maintain a,” get in, get out” mentality when you get here and basically take your pictures and go. That being said, the only thing that you may want to see here is the Equatorial museum. Yes, it is a little touristy, with “shrunken heads of the Amazon” on display (This really creeped me out and I hoped they were dolls), but there are some interesting scientific phenomenon that are demonstrated here, that only occur on the Equator itself and are totally worth seeing (My inner science nerd screamed with delight when I saw this). You can also get a equatorial stamp, in your passport, to commemorate your visit, and I mean, come on, who doesn’t want more stamps in their passport?

  4. Old Town – Make sure you end your day by walking through the Old Town or the architectural/historical crown jewel of the city. Everywhere you turn, the streets are lined with colonial monuments and architectural wonders that embody this city’s past occupation by the Spanish. This quarter of the city has no austere, museum mile, devoid of ever
    In Old Town, stuffing my face with an empanade while listening to some music and sipping canelazo.

    yday life. Instead,  locals steadily bustle through the series of restored, cobble stone blocks, that are lined with 17th-century facades, picturesque plazas, and magnificent art-filled churches. After marveling at such historical beauty, meander on over to the ‘gringolandia’ of the Mariscal, a region of the Old Town that is packed with local eateries (Get the empanadas and canelazo, which is a traditional, warm cinnamon drink), vivacious nightlife, and bands playing authentic, Ecuadorian music until the wee hours of the morning.

Runner Up:

Museo Nacional – Now, if you have done ALL that and still need something else to do, or you have more than one day in Quito, then I highly recommend the Museo Nacional. I was really bummed because I did not have time to go here, but I heard wonderful things about this museum, which is located in the circular, glass-plated, landmark building of Casa de la Cultura Ecuadorian.

This museum houses one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art, with works that date as far back as pre-Hispanic times. Some highlights from the museum include a magnificent golden sun mask, ‘whistle bottles’ from the Chorrera culture, figures showing skull deformation practiced by the Machalilla culture, ceramic representations of tzantzas (shrunken heads), ceremonial stone chairs of the Manteños, and the Colonial Art Room, which showcases works of art that originated from the Quito School. Even reading this now, this list sounds super cool and I hope you get to check this place out and tell me what I’m missing. I mean seriously, they had me at “shrunken heads”. LoL.



Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.


  • Kevin's Travel Diary 11 months ago

    Wow, what a great post, I have always wanted to visit Equator, but still haven’t gotten around to it. I am hopefully planning to visit next January and this guide will be very handy as I only plan to stay in Quito for a couple of days. Thanks for sharing

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      No problem!! Happy to help in any way I can. I hope you have as much fun there as I did.

  • Kevin's Travel Diary 11 months ago

    visit *Ecuador

  • Leah 11 months ago

    Ah Ecuador is definitely on my bucket list! Thanks for the ideas! I look forward to checking some boxes off my list!

  • Sheena 11 months ago

    I didn’t have high expectations of Quito either but I ended up really liking it & staying a few extra days. Great itinerary, brought back memories of places I hadn’t thought about for a long time, especially the Guayasamin museum, I was so moved my the emotion in his paintings. And fantastic to see La Mitad del Mundo on the list, that’s a must-visit too 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      That’s why I love posting about places I’ve visited. It always brings back great memories and makes me feel like I am visiting the city for a second time. Glad I could create some positive memories for you.

  • Kesi 11 months ago

    Thanks for sharing! I want to go to Ecuador at some point!

  • Sheena 11 months ago

    That empanade looks epic! Putting Ecuador on the travel bucket list!

  • Jm 11 months ago

    Quito is definitely one of my must visit cities. I definitely love to land in their airport watching the mountainous surrounding. It is definitely one of the most dangerous airport in terms of landing. The city itself is rich in culture and beauty as well

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Yeah. It is crazy how high up Quito is and where it is situated in the Andes but so glad I go to go there and experience such a vivid and vivacious culture.

  • Ricci - wheninmyjourneys 11 months ago

    Glad that it turned out well for you even if it isn’t really your original plan. Since I’m big on i’m big on old buildings, churches and empanadas I would like to visit the old town 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Yeah, the Old Town was really great and so alive at night. And it’s always nice when things turn out even better than you expected.

  • Wanderlust Vegans 11 months ago

    We hope to get to Quito soon! It looks like an amazing city. I think the best part of the adventure is when it doesn’t go as planned! It often turns out better. 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Totally agree. I love taking spontaneous adventures and just seeing where my feet take me. You always find the coolest things that way.

  • Carmen Baguio 11 months ago

    This looks like a delightful place! I would definitely be drawn to the Old Town. The outlaying countryside looks so lush and green! Thanks for highlighting a place I probably would have never considered.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Happy you enjoyed getting to know the city a little better. I honestly wouldn’t have really explored the area had it not been for my friend who showed me what the city really has to offer.

  • Jen Morrow 11 months ago

    Sounds like a jam packed day! Bummer you missed the Museum, that would be so cool to see for local culture. The Equator line looks totally cheesy and right up my alley!

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Right?? It was pretty hilarious. My favorite part was the “shrunken heads”. I wanted to be like really dude? Come on. But so glad I went and got to experience it all. LoL

  • Christina 11 months ago

    It’s true. I feel like I don’t hear much about Ecuador except for those that are heading to the Galapagos. It definitely looks like Quito is worth exploring, though. I could imagine how great the views are from Teleferiqo. I would probably skip the 3hr hike and just have more time for empanadas and wash it down with canelazo.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Yeah. I totally agree. That and I frankly just did not have the time to hike it. Instead, a nice taxi driver drove me there and I didn’t even break a sweat.

  • Daisy Li 11 months ago

    I always feel the most spontaneous trips will give you the biggest surprise! Especially these cute little towns, they are such a joy to visit 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      So true. I love exploring the little towns where only the locals live. WAY more fun and authentic.

  • Sutee 11 months ago

    The list is just in time. Headed to Quito in a week. Especially looking for forward to the teleferico.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      So happy for you!!! Have a ton of fun and hopefully this list helps you while you explore the city.

  • carlinn meyer 11 months ago

    I must say Ecuador isn’t on my list either but it does sound pretty cool and like there might be some good hikes to go on which I would love! The empanadas and cinnamon drink looks delicious btw! 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      They really were. i didn’t even think that Ecuador would have good food but they totally do. So glad I stopped for a minute to sit and take in all the culture around me.

  • Only By Land 11 months ago

    That’s cool the city center is a UNESCO site. Great that you had a friend to show you around and pick you up. You managed to fit so much in, I have a picture on the equated too, it’s a must.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      It really is. I even got the stamp in my passport because it is such a landmark and I didn’t even realize the equator was there when I traveled to Ecuador.

  • Joanna 11 months ago

    The Teleferiqo would be very high on my list as well. Even if I hate heights, I love the views from up there. I know the Andes from Peru and Chile and I know they have some spectacular views. I wouldn’t miss standing on the Equator line either, it’s a must if you’re in Ecuador, right? 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Absolutely. The equator really is a must and the views are amazing since Quito literally sits right in the Andes Mountains. My shampoo exploded because of the pressure change when I was there. That’s how I knew I was pretty high up.

  • Janine Good 11 months ago

    Quito looks fab. I too would not have chosen it as a bucket list must and would have just gone there as a stop on the way to the Galapagos Islands, but it looks like it has so much to offer. I find the Guayasamin’s art quite moving and it reminds me of my time in Berlin with the West side being full of emotionally charged artwork. The sunsets look gorgeous and even a glimpse of the Andes would be a dream.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      You are so right on the comparison with Berlin. I love the emotionally charged art there and the struggle the city faced. Great comparison for sure. I always love when places i visit touch my soul.

  • Diana - MVMT Blog 11 months ago

    I can’t even name a favorite because all of these sound like things I’d love to do. Capilla del Hombre reminds me a bit of the Berlin wall and how it is covered in graffiti art. It would be so cool to stand on the equator too. I haven’t made it to South America yet but hope to soon! And you can bet Quito is on my list. 🙂

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Great!! I am so glad I can inspire you to travel there. It is a magical city that is filled with a charm and history that a lot of places don;t have. But my favorite was the art there because it really touched my soul and had an emotional impact on me.

  • Tania 11 months ago

    Wow! Ecuador! I never thought it would change my view on Ecuador that much. I’m now definitely going there. Thanks for sharing this post!

  • Kris Morton 11 months ago

    Very cool. Quito has never been on my potential travel radar, but those views make me want to visit now. Standing on the equator would be very neat too!

  • Travellinn 11 months ago

    The Teleferiqo and eating my way through the old town would absolutely be on my list! I love views, and always try as much local food as I can. Do you know if there are any organized food tours there?

  • Lynn 11 months ago

    This is such a thorough and wonderful post! I actually want to try to live in Ecuador for a couple of months next year if I can [I want to go into the wildlife conservation field and have been looking for internships!] so this is perrrfect! It’s really got me dreaming of Quito!

  • Meg 11 months ago

    I’ve heard great things about Ecuador. I have a friend who has a place there. I still need to visit.

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      Do it!! I promise you won’t regret it. And it always helps to have a local show you around.

  • Lucile 11 months ago

    I am not much of a city person when I travel, but this looks like a cool place to visit! We’ve been wanting to go to Costa Rica for a while, but many people tried to convince us that Ecuador is as good if not better. What would you reckon concerning the nature?

    • girlwiththepassport 11 months ago

      I didn’t get to see a lot of nature but Ecuador does border the Amazon and I have heard amazing things about that unique ecosystem. But either way, I think you can’t go wrong. Both places are amazing.

  • Becky 11 months ago

    That’s on my list too. Chilling at the Equator. Never been there.

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