Quito has a great number of majestic churches in its historical center. They are relatively close to each other, so visiting them should be on the agenda of any tourist arriving in the city. Learn a little more about these incomparable catholic churches in Quito’s historic center, considered to be the best preserved and most important in the Americas.
Cover photo: Basilica of the National Vow
Cover by: grebmot, Pixaybay
In this article, we will tell you a little bit about 10 of the most important churches that are located in the Historical Center of Quito and are worth visiting.
A map of Quito’s churches
1. Compañía de Jesús church
This famous church, known by many as the Golden Church in Quito, is a sample of the enormous cultural and artistic wealth that the historical center of the city holds. The Compañía de Jesús has magnificent internal ornamentation, topped with gold leaf that covers a large part of the church. In fact, the Church of the Compañia de Jesus “is the most representative and important baroque temple in Colonial America, having become one of the most important religious monuments in the historical center of the city of Quito” (Jesuítas Ecuador, 2020). Construction of this architectural jewel began in 1605 and was completed in 1765. Between 1987 and 2005, the church was completely restored.
The Compañia de Jesus is located on the intersection of García Moreno and Sucre streets, and the opening hours are from Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm; Saturdays from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm; Sundays from 12.30 pm to 4.00 pm; and bank holidays from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm.
2. Basilica of the National Vow
The Basilica of the National Vow is a neo-Gothic style church, considered to be the most important in Ecuador in terms of style, and one of the most important in the Americas. This basilica was inspired by Notre Dame de Paris; its construction began in 1892 (when the first stone was laid), and was completed and sanctified in 1988. The Basilica of the National Vow is known for its gargoyles on its façade, as well as animals endemic to the country and the region, such as: alligators, turtles, blue-footed boobies, monkeys, pumas, among many others.
This basilica is located in the area known as Santa Prisca, on Carchi and Venezuela streets, in the historical center of the city of Quito. You can walk around inside its nave, and climb the towers to enjoy a sensational view. The church of the Basilica of the National Vow can be visited every day from 08.30 am – 6.00 pm and the sightseeing tours are every day from 09.00 am – 4.30 pm.
Find out more about the Basilica of the National Vow in our article.
3. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, also known as the First Cathedral of Quito since 1995, is the highest Catholic temple in the country. The cathedral was built from 1562 to 1565, and has undergone a series of transformations and restoration processes over time. The Primary Cathedral of Quito “has been classified within the neoclassical style, although in particular the architecture of this church does not present a defined artistic style, but rather four different styles such as: neo-gothic, mudejar, neo-classical and baroque” (Catedral Metropolitana de Quito, 2020). The cathedral also houses the mausoleums of Antonio José de Sucre (the hero of Spanish-American independence) and Juan José Flores (the first president of Ecuador).
The Metropolitan Cathedral is located on Venezuela and Espejo streets, and is considered to be the architectural jewel of the city’s Plaza de la Independencia, also known as Plaza Grande. You can visit the church, the museum and the domes; the opening hours are from Monday to Saturday from 09.30 am to 05.00 pm.
4. San Francisco Church and Convent
The San Francisco church and convent are Catholic buildings located in the middle of Quito’s historical centre, opposite a square of the same name. Construction on this religious complex began in the 16th century and was completed in the 17th century. Both the church and the convent have undergone extensions and renovations over time. For its part, San Francisco Square has historically served as a space for social, cultural, military, political and religious meetings.
The church and convent of San Francisco de Quito, two great examples of American colonial architecture, are located on Cuenca 477 and Sucre streets. You can visit the “Fray Pedro Gocial” Museum (religious art museum of the San Francisco Convent) which is open from 09.00 am to 05.00 pm and on Saturdays from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm, the museum of the San Francisco brewery and the towers of the San Francisco Church.
5. Santo Domingo Church
This church, run by the Dominican friars, began being built in 1540 and was completed in 1688. However, the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary is the best known of the complex and is a fine example of 18th century Baroque art.
The complex is made up of the church, the convent (the museum is inside) and the Virgen del Rosario Chapel, which are located on Flores Street, in front of Santo Domingo Square. In the Museum of Santo Domingo “Fray Pedro Bedón” you can learn more about the influence of the Dominican community on society in education, art and culture.
6. Basílica de Nuestra Señora de La Merced
The whole of La Merced is run by the Mercedarian religious order. Construction began in 1701 and the basilica was consecrated in 1747. The main altarpiece of the church is made of gold leaf, a work attributed to Bernardo Legarda, and contains the venerated image of the Virgin of La Merced, who protects against earthquakes, which is why it is so highly revered. Furthermore, in the convent of La Merced, you can find one of the most important libraries in the city.
La Merced complex houses the church, the cloister and the museum, which are located on Chile and Cuenca streets. The opening hours are from Monday to Friday from 6.30 am to 11.30 am and from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm.
7. El Sagrario Church
The church of El Sagrario is a sacramental chapel, which is part of the Primary Cathedral complex in Quito, to which it is attached. This is a church in the Italian Renaissance style, which can be seen in the decorative elements, and the wall, located in front of the main nave, is considered one of the finest examples of the Baroque in Quito. The foundation works of this church began in 1617, the facade was finished in 1706 and the rest of the building in 1715.
The church of El Sagrario is located on García Moreno and Eugenio Espejo streets, and is open to the public from Monday to Friday from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm, Saturdays from 07.30 am to 05.00 pm, and Sundays from 07.30 am to 01.30 pm and 04.00 pm to 05.00 pm.
8. El Carmen Alto Church and Convent
In 1661 the cloister of Carmen Alto was given to the Discalced Carmelite Order, and what some do not know is that this temple was the old house of Santa Mariana de Jesús, the first Ecuadorian saint.
You can visit the Carmen Alto Museum, and learn “about the historical, cultural and artistic heritage that the Discalced Carmelite Order of Quito has guarded” (Museo del Carmen Alto. Fundación Museos de la Ciudad, 2020), which is located on García Moreno and Vicente Rocafuerte streets (next to the Queen’s Arch) in the historical center of Quito. The opening hours are from Wednesday to Sunday 09.30 am to 05.30 pm.
9. El Carmen Bajo Church and Convent
Another architectural work of the city of Quito, is the convent of El Carmen Bajo or Carmen Moderno, and the religious congregation in charge of this temple is the Barefoot Carmelites. This site was inaugurated in the city of Quito in 1745, because ” in 1698 a strong earthquake destroyed the building of El Carmen Bajo, founded in 1669 in Latacunga (city located one hour and a half south of Quito)” (Metropolitan Institute of Heritage, 2020), so it had to be moved to the capital.
The convent of El Carmen Bajo is located on the corner of Venezuela and Olmedo streets. You can visit part of the convent and learn about the history of the religious order that guards the place.
10. San Agustín Church
This temple is run by the order of St. Augustine, and its construction began in 1606 and was completed in 1617. The San Agustín complex is made up not only of the church, but also of the convent, the Miguel de Santiago Museum and the Chapterhouse (where the cry of Independence, the first on the continent, was ratified on August 10, 1809). In this renowned church in the historic center of Quito, there are about 50 colonial paintings and many other renowned works. The church of San Agustín is located between Chile Street, between Guayaquil and Flores.
Quito City Tour
Learn about the architectural, historical and cultural wealth of Quito’s historic centre and visit its famous churches on board the city’s official double-decker tourist bus. Thanks to our Hop On – Hop Off system you will be able to get on and off the bus at our established stops at 1 hour intervals.
Quito City Tour is the safest, most entertaining and comfortable way to get to know the charms of the best preserved and most expansive historical center of the Americas.
Remember that you can use your ticket throughout the day between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm. Find out more about stops and timings of Quito City Tour.