Southwest of Plaza Grande in Quito’s UNESCO World Heritage listed historic city center is the Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum). This is one of the best museums in Quito. It’s housed in a 1563 hospital. Hours are from 9:30am to 5:30pm from Tuesday to Sunday and admission is US$3. For an extra US$4, you can get a guided tour in English.
The museum has displays about the history of the city of Quito from indigenous times through colonial and until the early 20th century. It has great displays with excellent explanations. The permanent exhibitions are on the top floor and the bottom floor has temporary ones.
Next to the museum are the 18th century Arco de la Reina (an arch) and the Monasterio de Carmen Alto, founded in 1653. We didn’t visit the monastery but it has an admission of US$3. It’s open 9:30am to 5:30pm from Wednesday to Sunday.
A block away is the Monasterio de Santa Clara, which sits on a small plaza. It was founded in 1596.
Turn to the right of the church and you’ll run into the Casa del Alabado. This pre-Columbian art museum has an excellent collection of Andean indigenous arts. It’s located in a former residence built in 1671. The museum is very well organized and has a few interactive displays, but you really have to be into pre-Columbian art to warrant a visit. Admission is US$3. It’s open daily from 9am to 5:30pm.
Half a block from Casa del Alabado and west of Plaza Grande is the wide open Plaza San Francisco, surrounded by very nice colonial buildings.
The oldest church complex in Quito, Monasterio de San Francisco, sits on the plaza. Construction started in 1534 and finished in 1604.
Attached to the church entrance to the right is the Museo Franciscano, which displays some of the finest colonial artwork in the city. The church’s balcony and courtyard are also part of the museum. Admission is US$2. Hours are 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday and 9am to 1pm Sunday.
To the left of the church entrance is the Capilla de Cantuña, supposedly a beautiful little chapel. It was closed for restoration during my visit.
Yet another famous church sits to the northwest of Plaza Grande, just a few blocks from Plaza San Francisco. The stunning Iglesia de La Merced was built in the 18th century. Legend has it that the devil inhabits the tower, which is the only unblessed part of the church, and nobody has entered it since 1810.
Just a block north of La Merced is the Museo de Arte Colonial (Museum of Colonial Art). It’s open from 9:30am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is US$2. We didn’t visit.