Visiting Quito’s Historic Center is always an adventure! Yet Sundays stand out as my absolute favorite day to wander the cobblestone streets. Many of the them are closed to traffic, turning many popular areas into pedestrian zones. It makes for a more pleasant day as there are fewer street crossings to worry about and far less bus exhaust to breathe in.

A little Argentine Tango, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador

Why Are Sunday’s Different in Quito’s Historic Center?

On Sundays, folk dancers and musicians perform in the middle of the streets. We’ve seen tango artists in front of the Presidential Palace and rural dance troupes making their way along the ancient Calle de Siete Cruces

Dancing for tourists, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador
Dancing for tourists, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador

Meanwhile, vendors line the sidewalks with folk art from Tigua, handwoven bracelets, and coca tea from Peru. Several artists paint scenes of the Ecuadorian countryside with cans of spray paint. Another paints with his fingers only, creating miniature works of fine art that belie his crude technique. 

Some vendors appear year round, like the women selling finely woven shawls of cotton thread. Others are season, like the Dragon’s Blood Vendor or the gentleman selling freshly squeezed cane juice with a dash of lime. 

Nancy, the Dragon's Blood Vendor, Quito | ©Angela Drake
Cane Juice Vendor, Plaza San Francisco, Quito

Tourists of All Kinds Show Up On Sundays

During the week, most people on the streets live and work in Historic Quito. Foreign tourists stick out like sore thumbs. While we still stick out on Sundays, we’re not alone. Visitors from all over Ecuador flock to Quito on the weekends. Others are folks who live outside the big city and come into town to shop for bargains at the huge Mercado San Roque just up the hill. Even more are residents of Quito’s Historic Center taking the opportunity to people-watch in their own neighborhood. 

Plaza San Francisco, Historic Center, Quito
Domes of the Compañia de Jesus, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador

Some visitors are here to attend services in one of the many churches and others to soak up the ambience of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. If it’s raining, there won’t be near as many people. Others take advantage of the Quito bike route that transverses the city from north to south. The city closes roads just for that occasion and only on Sundays. 

The main thoroughfare, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador
Colorful buildings, Quito Historic Center, Ecuador

What Not To Miss On a Sunday Afternoon

We find Sundays are the perfect day to wander. If you are fortunate enough to have a couple of free hours on your agenda, head to the Plaza San Francisco, buy an helado from the Hueca de Cantuña, and sit on the nearby steps to people watch. Look for the small shops that sell pristiño with panela or morocho con chicharron near San Marcos. It it’s late in the day, it’s fun to watch children play with their high flying, spinning, toys that light up in the evening gloom in the Plaza de la Independencia. 

Plaza de Independencia, Quito, Ecuador | © Angela Drake