Just off Plaza Grande in Quito’s UNESCO World Heritage listed historic city center is the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. This large exhibition space has a colorful history behind it. It was built in 1622 and used as a Jesuit school until 1767, and later served as a military barracks. In 1809, royalists held revolutionaries in the building and murdered them. Furthermore, it is supposedly built atop the palace of Atahualpa, the last Inca ruler before Spanish conquest.
The building contains a library, a free museum, and the Museo Alberto Mena Caamaño, a wax museum of Quito’s colonial history. An original courtyard from the Jesuit days remains.
Next to the Centro Cultural Metropolitana is perhaps the most magnificent church in all of Ecuador, La Compañía de Jesús. It was built in 1605 and completed 160 years later. The interior is covered from wall to wall with ornate woodwork covered in gold and is quite a sight in person. Admission is US$4 and photography is strictly prohibited. Too see a photo of the interior, click here. The photo is much brighter than the church actually is.
Across the street is the Banco Central del Ecuador, which holds a monetary museum.
Just a bit down the road is Casa de María Augusta Urrutia, the 19th century home of a beloved Quito philanthropist. Admissions US$2 and a guided tour is required. The home is incredible and a nice glimpse into how the social elite of Quito lived in the early 20th century. This was one of the better museums we visited. It’s open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am to 5:30pm.
Finally, the Museo Casa de Sucre was the home of Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre. He lived there from 1828 until his assassination in 1830. Admission and a roughly 30 minute guided tour in Spanish is free. The guide took us through important rooms in the house and explained how the Sucre family would use the rooms. Passports are to be left at the entrance to gain admission.