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Home / Things to do in Quito / San Francisco Church and Convent

San Francisco Church and Convent

The Church and Convent of San Francisco de Quito was the first Franciscan temple in the Royal Court of Quito and the first Catholic Church built in the city. Construction began in the first half of the 16th century, in the 1530s, shortly after the Spanish arrived in Ecuador. The “imposing structure holds the privilege of being the largest architectural complex within the historical centers of all of America, and for this reason, it is known as ‘the Escorial of the New World’” (Instituto Metropolitano de Patrimonio, Quito Alcaldía Metropolitana (s/f), Convento de San Francisco).

San Francisco Church and Convent
Photo by Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Basics

The San Francisco Church and Convent complex, erected in the 16th century, stands out as the most significant colonial structure in the city. Within its walls are more than 3,500 works of colonial art, representing multiple artistic movements and varied techniques. It houses one of the most important collections of colonial religious art in all of America, including representative paintings and sculptures from the renowned Quito School of Art, which emerged in this place. It also features a Franciscan library, which was described in the 17th century as the best in the Viceroyalty of Peru. Additionally, it represents the first brewery in the region, founded by the Franciscan missionary Jodoco Ricke. Its rich history, impressive architecture, and cultural legacy make it a must-see for visitors.

Things you need to know before going and recommendations for visiting the San Francisco Church and Convent

  • The religious complex encompasses a central church, chapels, an art museum, courtyards, catacombs, and even an old brewery. It is one of the best tourist attractions in Ecuador and deserves extensive exploration.
  • Guided tours during the day visit the Museum of San Francisco de Quito (Museo Franciscano Fray Pedro Gocial), the convent cloister, the church choir, the bell towers, and the old brewery.
  • Quito Tour Bus offers the Tour San Francisco, part of the Quito Secret Tours. On this night tour, you will be able to visit the San Francisco Museum exhibition, the Museum Cloister patio, the Villacís Chapel, the choir of the San Francisco church, and the church towers, finishing at the restaurant La Chapel to enjoy a delicious canelazo.
  • Visiting this complex will teach you about the legends surrounding its construction. One of the most important and oldest in Quito is the legend of Cantuña.
  • You can attend the masses and religious services offered in the church every day.

How to get to the Church and Convent of San Francisco?

The Church and Convent of San Francisco is in the historic center of Quito, opposite the square of the same name. It is located on Cuenca and Sucre streets. You can reach this destination by car, private taxi, Quito Tour Bus, Quito Metro, or on a day tour.

In own vehicle 

If you drive, you can find public parking in the church area. However, the streets are narrow, and traffic can be heavy. 

By private taxi

Another way to the San Francisco de Quito church is to use a private taxi service, the safest way to get around the city. If you want comfortable and safe VIP transportation to this tourist destination, just contact us by WhatsApp.

In Quito Tour Bus

Get to know the Church and Convent of San Francisco on the only double-decker bus in the city, the Quito Tour Bus. Quito Tour Bus puts at your disposal the Quito City Tour, the best option to get to know this iconic, attractive tourist of the city since you will be able to visit the north and center of the town, make the stops you need and enjoy the best view of the entire Plaza de San Francisco, as well as the church and the convent from the second floor of the bus.

If you go to the Church and Convent of San Francisco, you must get off at the stop under the same name (San Francisco). The Quito Tour Bus Hop On Hop Off system allows you to visit the place and then return to the bus to continue the tour. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you want for the duration of your ticket.

By Quito Metro

To reach this destination on the Quito Metro, you must get off at the “San Francisco” station, which takes you directly to the San Francisco de Qui churchto. 

One day tour

Another way to get to this site is to take a day tour, which is undoubtedly one of the best visiting options since you can tour the San Francisco Church and Convent at your own pace. In contrast, a designated driver will handle all the logistical details. If you are looking for a day tour, Contact us by WhatsApp for more information.

When should you visit the San Francisco Church and Convent?

The church of San Francisco de Quito is a tourist destination that can be visited throughout the year. It is recommended to visit this religious building during the Jesús del Gran Poder procession on Good Friday (Holy Week) or during the blessing of palms and mass on Palm Sunday, which attracts thousands of faithful every year.

Frequently asked questions

The Church and Convent of San Francisco complex is the most significant architectural complex in America's historical centers. It is considered “a jewel of continental architecture for its amalgamation of different styles harmoniously combined throughout its more than 150 years of construction, same that began around the year 1537, just three years after the Spanish founding of the city” (Instituto Metropolitano de Patrimonio, Quito Alcaldía Metropolitana (s/f), Convento de San Francisco).

 

The Church of San Francisco de Quito is also a cultural and religious institution that has left a lasting legacy in the city. Its iconic presence in the historic center symbolizes identity and cultural heritage for Quito residents.

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