The Plaza de la Independencia, better known as the Plaza Grande, is the heart of Quito’s historical center, and a historical space where a series of events of vital political importance in Ecuador have taken place. To this day, it is a social meeting place for the people who live in the city. The square is surrounded by four large buildings: the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito and the Municipal Palace. All these facts make it an obligatory place to visit once you arrive at Ecuador’s capital. For this reason, in this note we tell you a little about the history of the Plaza Grande, how to get there and which are the sites to visit once you are there.
Cover photo: The Plaza Grande by: David Almeida, Flickr
We invite to read the complete article about the best things to do in Quito (by a local).
A brief history of the Plaza Grande
In the 17th century, in 1612, the powers of the city moved to the surroundings of the Plaza Grande. In this square there was a water fountain that helped supply the vital liquid to the people who lived in the area and its surroundings. In addition, the square also served as a market. It was in the 18th century that the Plaza Grande took on the form and importance of a main square, and began to serve as a garden for the Carondelet Palace. In the late nineteenth century and until the mid-twentieth century, the Plaza Grande was converted into a French-style garden, and in 1903, President Eloy Alfaro ordered the construction of a monument to commemorate the centenary of the first cry for independence of the country, which replaced a monument to Isabel the Catholic.
We recommend you read our article on Quito’s historical center.
How to get to Plaza Grande
If you are arriving in the country and want to know how to get from the airport to the historic center of Quito, be sure to read our article in which we provide detailed information on how to do so through different means of transport.
The recommended way to get to the Plaza Grande is to go on board the city’s official double-decker tourist bus. Quito City Tour by Quito Tour Bus offers you a comfortable, safe and fun tour of the main tourist attractions in the largest and best preserved historical center of Latin America.
Thanks to our Hop On – Hop Off system you will be able to get off and on at our established stops at one hour intervals. If you take the Quito City Tour, you will need to get off the bus at stop 9, called Plaza Grande (Venezuela and Mejia). The first bus arrives at this stop at 10.00 am, and the last one at 6.00 pm. In this square you will be able to visit the 4 powers of the state: the Government Palace, the Main Cathedral of Quito, the Cabildo and the Archbishop’s Palace. Find out more about our stops and schedules.
What to see and do near Plaza Grande
Moving on, we would like to share with you the main places and activities you can do near Plaza Grande.
Monument to Independence
In the centre of the Plaza Grande you can find the famous Monument to Independence. It is also known as the Monument to the Heroes of 10 August 1809, the date on which the First Cry for Independence of the Royal Audience of Quito on the Spanish monarchy was held. This monument was built at the beginning of the 20th century to honor the heroes of the Independence, and therefore symbolizes the triumph of the Republic over the Spanish crown.
Government Palace (Carondelet Palace)
The Carondelet Palace, also known as the Government Palace or the Presidential Palace, is the seat of the Government of the Republic of Ecuador and the residence of the President of the Republic. You can take guided tours inside the Carondelet Palace (booking in advance), and the opening hours are 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday (Guided tours. Presidency of the Republic of Ecuador, 2020).
Remember that every Monday at 11.00 in the morning, you can witness the changing of the guards of the Presidential Escort, Tarqui Grenadiers, in the Plaza de la Independencia. In addition, on the ground floor of the Presidential Palace you can find a traditional barber shop and some craft shops.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito – Main Cathedral of Quito
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, declared the First Cathedral of Ecuador in 1995, is the most important Catholic temple in the country. Located in the middle of the colonial area, next to the Plaza Grande, the cathedral is well known for having inside the remains of the Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, Antonio José de Sucre, hero of the Ecuadorian independence; and of Juan José Flores, the first constitutional president of the Republic of Ecuador.
This famous cathedral, an architectural jewel of the Plaza Grande, is located at 715 Venezuela and Espejo streets. The opening hours are from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Saturday. Once there, you can visit the church, the museum (where you can see the works of great exponents of the Quito school) and the domes.
Museum of Defence “Casa de Sucre”
Located on Venezuela and Sucre streets, you will find the well-known Museo Casa de Sucre, a place where you can learn about the intimate life of the Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, Antonio José de Sucre, the hero of Spanish-American independence, and his wife, Mariana Carcelén, Marquesa de Solanda y Villarocha. The place is divided into two floors and has a central patio with a traditional colonial stone swimming pool. The opening hours of the Museo Casa de Sucre are 9.00 am to 5.30 pm, Monday to Sunday.
This is another of the buildings located in the Plaza de la Independencia, seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Quito and official residence of the Archbishop of Quito and Primate of Ecuador. Upon entering the palace, you will find a series of restaurants that offer national and international food on different floors, as well as several shops selling 100% Ecuadorian handicrafts, cafes and internet cafes.
The Plaza Grande ‘sánduches’
In the area of the Plaza Grande you can find a great diversity of restaurants and cafes, but if you are looking for something really traditional in the sector, we recommend you try the traditional “Sánduches de la Plaza Grande”, located in the Archbishop’s Palace. These sandwiches contain the sausage and side dishes of your choice, and you can pair them with a delicious coffee, fruit juice, soda or beer. We are sure you will love them.
El Quinde Visitors Center
The Quinde Visitors Center, located on Venezuela and Espejo streets in front of the Plaza Grande, is a space where you can find the best artisan products in Quito. In addition, in the Quinde Visitors Center you will find tourist information points of Quito Tourism. Some of the services offered at El Quinde Visitors Center are: free lockers for personal objects, relevant information on the city’s museums and attraction schedules, and maps. You can also purchase your Quito Tour Bus tickets here. The opening hours of the Quinde Visitors Center are Monday to Saturday from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm, and Sunday from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.
Get to know the Plaza Grande, the heart of the city’s historical heritage, in the company of Quito, and explore all the tourist attractions of the best preserved and largest historical center in Latin America.