A week before Easter Sunday, Catholics around the world celebrate Palm Sunday. In Quito, Ecuador, Domingo de Ramos is a more festive day than Easter Sunday itself. The line-up of activities changes each year but in our experience, the folklore group Jacchigua always holds a procession that begins near the Basilica del Voto Nacional and ends in the Plaza San Fransisco.

The Virgin Mary making her way to the stage in the Palm Sunday festivities, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

The Quito Palm Sunday Procession

The first year we headed out on Palm Sunday, back in 2014, we knew nothing about the small procession. It seemed to appear from nowhere. One moment, there were very few people and the next, a crowd was pushing into the plaza. What made the procession hard to see was that people from the street joined in and walked alongside the more formal gathering. There was little to no distinction between parade participants and parade watchers.

A priest blesses the crowd with holy water; San Francisco Plaza, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

We were fortunate to be on the side of the plaza where the procession arrived and I hurriedly snapped photos of the Virgin Mary, of Joseph leading an adult Jesus on a donkey, and of everyday Quiteños carrying branches of rosemary and native grasses in bouquets meant to replace traditional branches of the wax palm, now an endangered tree throughout the Andes.

And that was the start of our first Palm Sunday in Quito.

The rose draped cross in the afternoon light in front of the Convento del Carmen Alto | ©Angela Drake
A stone cross with a rose covered rosary cross the Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Palm Sunday Events in the Plaza San Francisco

While every year is different, there seems to always be some Palm Sunday event in the Plaza San Francisco. In 2014, the church set up a huge stage and held an outdoor mass. In other years, we’ve seen artisan fairs and food vendors. One year, the Plaza was closed because it was torn up to build the new metro slated to open sometime in late 2020.

Either way, we recommend that the Plaza San Francisco be your first stop in Historic Quito on Palm Sunday. There will be vendors selling bouquets of woven straw, rosemary, herbs, and other native plants. Furthermore, hundreds of Quiteños will attend mass in the large church. You might find yourself being blessed with holy water as a priest walks the plaza, anointing the crowd as he passes through.

It will be a day guaranteed to offer some of the best people-watching in Quito!

Purchasing bouquets for Palm Sunday, San Francisco Plaza, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Other Palm Sunday Events in Historic Quito

After enjoying the Plaza San Francisco, it would be a good idea to check out many of the other churches in Historic Quito. Some of the oldest will have huge rosaries made of local roses hanging from the stone crosses in their courtyards. Here is our recommended route:

From Plaza San Francisco, make your way towards the large white hotel, Casa Gangotena. The little side street is called Cuenca. Follow it one block and you may find festivities taking place at the Iglesia Santa Clara.

Plaza San Francisco

Santa Clara Church

Carmen Alto Church

La Compañia de Jesus

El Sagrario

Quito Cathedral

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Santa Barbara Church

Then walk down two blocks on Rocafuerte to the Iglesia del Carmen Alto. It is right next to the lovely Queen’s Arch. In some years, you can make your own bouquet made of ecological products in the church courtyard.

Finally, it would be worthwhile to walk the modern-day street of Garcia Moreno. It was once named Calle de Siete Cruzes, or the Street of Seven Crosses. It starts with Carmen Alto. Next, walk North-East towards Presidential Palace. On your way, you will pass the stunning Compañia de Jesus, Iglesia El Sagrario, the Quito Cathedral on Plaza Independencia, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the furthest down, the Iglesia Santa Barbara.

The rose draped cross in the afternoon light in front of the Convento del Carmen Alto | ©Angela Drake
A stone cross with a rose covered rosary cross the Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Safety In Quito On Palm Sunday

Truthfully, the first time we attended Palm Sunday downtown, we were leery. We were afraid of large crowds and of sticking out like tourists. After returning home that day, I had nothing but great memories! The crowd was huge but never felt overwhelming. Even when I was crammed in the middle, I never felt unsafe.

Of course, it could be because I am tall here. At 5 foot 4 inches, I was able to see where I was headed even when surrounded by locals. Fortunately, everyone was accepting on this day. Gringos or no, we felt welcomed and though we stuck out like sore thumbs, no one seemed to mind.

If you would like to read up on our best tips for staying safe, check out this article:

 Touring Safely In Quito

A view of San Francisco Plaza from the atrium; Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

More To Do During Holy Week

We don’t want you to miss out on the many different things to do during Holy Week in Quito. You will have to try Fanesca and snack on sweet Pristiños. To learn about those things and more, check out this article where we try to answer all your questions about what to expect during Easter Week in Quito:

Celebrating Easter in Quito 

School girls dressed in traditional costumes for the Palm Sunday procession | ©Angela Drake

This article was originally published on April 14, 2015. We have modified it with updated information about Palm Sunday in Quito, Ecuador.

Children preparing to go on stage and dance with ribbons; Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake
Friends talking before their turn on stage, Palm Sunday, Quito | ©Angela Drake
A Proud Ecuadorian school child, Palm Sunday, Quito | ©Angela Drake
Quiteña waiting for her turn on stage, Palm Sunday, Quito | ©Angela Drake