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Just five minutes away from the bustle of Plaza Grande in Quito’s historic center is San Marcos, a neighborhood that will give you a unique perspective on Ecuador’s capital.
This magical neighborhood of Quito is a five-minute walk from the main sites and the notable museums, but it’s an area where the residents outnumber the visitors. You can see the daily life of city residents in motion among buildings that have been in place for centuries. On Junín street and its offshoots, generations of artists, musicians and writers have lived, giving the area a strong creative vibe.
In the south end of the UNESCO World Heritage historic center, San Marcos was founded in the 16th century. Many of the residential buildings are in Neoclassical design, painted bright, joyful colors.
There is one notable museum here, which has a cafe and offers painting classes. Muñoz Mariño Museum of Watercolors and Drawings was founded by prolific local artist Oswaldo Muñoz Mariño, who once lived in the building. It displays Mariño’s huge body of work produced between the 1950s to just before the artist died a few years ago. The artist also collected pre-Columbian artifacts found throughout Ecuador and those are on display as well.
You can sit in the shady plaza of the neighborhood to people watch, or visit some of the neighborhood shops for antiques, carved wooden boxes, or sweet treats.
Where to Stay in San Marcos, Quito
If you really want to soak up the neighborhood vibe at different times of day and night, book a stay at luxury hotel Illa Experience. As the name would suggest, the staffers at this hotel want to give you more than a bed to sleep in.
At this 10-room boutique hotel in Quito, you’re not just a number and the staffers want to make sure even a brief stay on the way to and from the Galapagos Islands is a memorable one. Demonstrations from local residents might include ice cream making, painting, or construction of the mis-named Panama hats that really come from Ecuador. Local tastes pervade everything, whether it’s locally made chocolates, Ecuadoran coffee, or a local herbal tea that’s supposed to help with the effects of high altitude.
Illa Experience is also the home of Nuema Restaurant, run by chef Alejandro Chamorro. It used to be in a different location, but moved into Illa Experience Hotel when it opened. This has long topped the city’s “best restaurant” lists, so you know you’ll be able to dine at one of the country’s best restaurants without even walking out the door. Another great experience.