A local's guide to Quito, Ecuador

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Amanda shares local knowledge to help you plan a memorable trip to Ecuador's capital city, Quito
Indigenous woman from Guaranda Ecuador wearing traditional clothing. Photo: Shutterstock
Indigenous woman from Guaranda Ecuador wearing traditional clothing. Photo: Shutterstock

When should we plan our holiday to Quito and why?

Situated in the Andes mountains, at 3,000m above sea level, Quito is known for its year-round spring-like climate. The daytime is often sunny and warm, while the evening and nights can be cold. April-May marks the rainy season, where it usually rains in the afternoon.

Holy Week, which follows the same timeline as Easter, is a fascinating time to visit, if you want to experience the religious traditions of Ecuador or see the incredible religious processions that take part in the historical centre of Quito.

Where would you recommend we stay?

For a mid-range option, I'd recommend the Plaza Sucre: a cozy, relaxed 3-star boutique hotel with colonial touches. It is just a short walk from the Plaza de la Independencia. Anothing mid-range choice includes Casona de la Ronda is a charming colonial boutique hotel located on the historical ‘Calle La Ronda’ (La Ronda Street), said to be one of the oldest streets in Quito. The street is lined with craft shops, artists studios, restaurants, and cafes too. For those looking for a little luxury, Casa Gangotena is an award-winning hotel, situated in a newly-restored colonial mansion, overlooking the Plaza San Francisco. This hotel is located in the heart of Quito’s historical old town.

Where is a great place for dinner?

If you're looking for a fine-dining experience, try Theatrum restaurant. This is one of the finest restaurants in Quito and it serves excellent Ecuadorian and international food. It is located above the National Theatre in the historical centre of Quito.

La Choza Restaurant is a great place to sample top-notch Ecuadorian food. This restaurant features a variety of dishes from all areas of this small yet very diverse country.

One cannot go wrong with La Ronda, a restaurant that has been around for decades. They serve up both Ecuadorian and international food. Recommended dishes are the seafood casserole and the llapingachos (typical potato pancakes).

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in this region?

Ecuadorian Ceviche is a typical dish made from fish or seafood cooked in citric juices. This is a dish that is loved by locals and visitors alike and no-one can leave Ecuador without trying it. Fanesca is a typical “stew” that is only eaten during Holy Week made of salted fish, Andean grains, and other beans and legumes.

El Panecillo hill in Quito. Photo: ShutterstockEl Panecillo hill in Quito. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in this region too?

Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most impressive protected areas in Ecuador and can be easily reached from Quito on a day trip. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the walks, birds and the high Andean scenery that is found in this area.

Where is the most romantic spot?

The hill of El Panecillo, topped by a huge statue of the Virgen of Quito, offers incredible views of the sprawling city and surrounding volcanoes.

Where can we hang out with locals?

During the day, visit the local colourful markets of Iñaquito or Mercado central where you can experience the daily lives of local Ecuadorians, shop for crafts and household goods, and try typical Ecuadorian street food. This is also a great place to appreciate the variety of Ecuadorian grains, potatoes, and vegetables – with sections of the markets dedicated to each of these.

For the evenings and nights visit Plaza Foch, an area known as the “pink zone”, which has been the heart of Quito’s nightlife for over a decade. Quiteños frequent this part of the city at night when it comes alive with restaurants, lounges, bars and nightclubs.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

Guinea pig, known locally as cuy, is one of Ecuador’s traditional foods and is often eaten to celebrate special occasions. If you have the opportunity, we recommend trying this local specialty.

Quito is South America’s oldest capital and it boasts one of Latin America’s best-preserved colonial centers. It's worth taking the time to explore this area on foot to fully appreciate the charming colonial plazas, hanging balconies, and intricate churches.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

You cannot leave Ecuador without buying a traditional Panama hat. Other great souvenirs are ponchos, weavings, or a hammock. Ecuador is also known for its excellent coffee and chocolate.