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Home to South America's largest and least altered colonial center, Quito is one of the continent's most fascinating cities. Until recently, Quito's Centro Histórico (aka, the Old Town or historic center) was, as soon as the sun went down, unsafe for visitors and Quiteños alike. On the South America travel circuit, it gained the reputation of being the sort of place to head to if you wanted the story fodder gained by being robbed at knifepoint. But a multi million-dollar architectural facelift, coupled with a concerted city effort to take crime off the streets, has made the Centro Histórico safer and more visually ...

Home to South America's largest and least altered colonial center, Quito is one of the continent's most fascinating cities. Until recently, Quito's Centro Histórico (aka, the Old Town or historic center) was, as soon as the sun went down, unsafe for visitors and Quiteños alike. On the South America travel circuit, it gained the reputation of being the sort of place to head to if you wanted the story fodder gained by being robbed at knifepoint. But a multi million-dollar architectural facelift, coupled with a concerted city effort to take crime off the streets, has made the Centro Histórico safer and more visually stunning than it has been in years. Truth be told, the Old Town has lost a bit of the edge it once had (there was something hauntingly alluring in the buildings before the paint jobs), and some interiors have been altered beyond recognition. But its historical magnificence has been largely preserved, and the magical experience of wandering the cobblestone plazas at night is once again safe for all (at least, until midnight, anyway). Quito's museums and architecture, its artistic legacy, its street life and its indigenous culture all combine to offer one seriously amazing urban experience.

Danny Palmerlee
About the Expert

Danny Palmerlee is the main author of numerous Lonely Planet travel guides, including Ecuador, Argentina, South America on a Shoestring, and Pacific Northwest Trips.

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round; best weather October through April