We head out for a walking tour of the Old Town, intent on understanding more about the people who live in the largest and best-restored historical centre in the Americas. We begin by meeting our local resident guide, part of a grassroots NGO organization that has created a walking tour of its Quito neighbourhood, called San Roque. The guide takes us through the nearby streets, stopping to meet artisans, shopkeepers, hat makers and sweet confectioners. Up the hill on Calle Rocafuerte, we explore the San Francisco Market, one of the oldest in the capital. Here, we learn all about the fruit and vegetables produced in Ecuador and some culinary traditions. We also have the chance to meet and learn from one of the local herbal healers who have locales in the market.
From the market, we walk downhill to the emblematic street of La Ronda, considered one of the flagship regeneration projects in the city. It’s a quiet, cobbled street with typical balconies overflowing with geraniums. Here we visit the Manos en La Ronda project and meet artisans in the workshops. We then visit the chocolatier on the ground floor, where we enjoy a snack and have a chance to discover and taste the finest chocolate in the world – which, of course, comes from Ecuador!
From La Ronda, we walk northwards through the handsome streets of the Old Town to the Plaza Grande, the political heart of the city. Following a brief explanation, we stroll to the Jesuit church of La Compañía with its stunning gold-leaf interior. Returning back to Plaza San Francisco, we visit the church, choir and pretty patios of the Franciscan order before arriving at Casa Gangotena, on the same square, for a lunch of Ecuadorian specialities prepared by the hotel’s talented chefs.
In the afternoon, we cross the street to the excellent Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum. It houses a fantastic collection of pieces dating back some 5,000 years, arrayed beautifully within a restored 17th-century colonial mansion.
This tour also includes a visit to a panoramic viewpoint to appreciate Quito in all its Andean splendour.