Ultimate Quito Itinerary: A Local’s Guide to 2 Days in Quito

Quito is a massive city, and the cultural heart of Ecuador, and there is so much to see and do here. Narrowing it all down and determining what to do in Quito for 2 days can be a challenge.

Two days in Quito might not seem like a long time to enjoy one of South America’s great cities (the best city in Ecuador for travelers!), but it’s a perfect amount of time for a beautiful introduction to an unforgettable place.

Keep reading for our ultimate guide to the best 2 days in Quito. We used this exact Quito 2-day itinerary when friends and family visited us in Quito through the years we spent living there. We’re sharing how to enjoy this city on a short tip and make the most of your two days here, traveling smart and seeing only the best!

ecuador backpacking itinerary

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Quito Itinerary

By spending 2 days in Quito, you’ll have time to visit all the best sites in Quito (some of the top attractions in Ecuador!) and the area immediately outside the city. Any less time than two days in Quito and you’ll be rushed, and miss some unforgettable travel experiences.

While Quito has plenty to do – enough to fill several days of your time – there are several main attractions that you just can’t miss, no matter how long you’re here.

Must-Visit Places in Quito

Looking for those must-visit destinations you’ll want to add to any Quito itinerary? Make sure you don’t skip these top attractions in Quito – they’re among some of the best things to do in Ecuador!

  • Visit Old Town Quito: This is Latin America’s largest and best-preserved colonial center. There is so much to see and do here, including visiting opulent churches and exploring winding streets. Read More: Old Town Quito: Ultimate Guide to Quito’s Historic Center
  • TelefériQo: This cable car takes passengers high above the city of Quito, halfway up the Pichincha Volcano for stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains, volcanoes, and valleys.

  • Mitad del Mundo: Spanish for “Middle of the World,” Mitad del Mundo is the Equator line. Here you can visit a monument to the Equator, straddle two hemispheres, and do some fun, campy “science experiments” that only work here.

With 2 days in Quito, you’ll be able to visit all of these must-see destinations. This guide to what to do in Quito for 2 days covers all of these sites and has space for a few extras as well.

Read More: 18 Best Things To Do in Ecuador

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.

Quito Tours

With just two days in Quito, consider booking a tour or excursion to help you see the best of the city as easily as possible. You can find tours that cover all of the best of Quito in a day, or half-day tours to specific destinations within the city.  

Small group tours and excursions are also generally quite affordable in Ecuador, so even if you wouldn’t normally choose this option in order to stay within budget, they might be a great option for you here.  

Here are some of the best tours in Quito that I love recommending to visitors. These are especially fantastic if you’re looking for what to do in Quito for 2 days, or on another short Quito itinerary.

Some of the most popular excursions in Quito are excursions to Mitad del Mundo – though just a few miles outside of Quito, it can take up to an hour to get there by public transportation. Here are Mitad del Mundo excursions worth considering.

Where to Stay in Quito

For most visitors to Quito, staying in the Historic Center of the city is your best bet, especially if you are here for just a few days on a short Quito itinerary. Here you’ll be close to many of the city’s best attractions. Plus, you’ll find hostels and hotels at every price point.

Here are the hotels in Old Town Quito that I most often recommend to travelers.

Visiting Quito as a backpacker? I generally recommend backpackers stay in the La Mariscal neighborhood. Selina Quito is my favorite option for budget travel in La Mariscal – here you’ll find great options for dorm rooms as well as private rooms.

Read More: Where to Stay in Quito: Neighborhoods & Accommodation Guide

Best Hotels & Hostels in Quito

2 Days in Quito

Below you’ll find my complete guide to what to do in Quito for two days. After living in Ecuador for two years, we were lucky enough to have enough friends and family visits that we became pretty good tour guides using this exact Quito itinerary.

Two days in Quito allows you to see most of the best parts of the city enough to really feel like you’re getting to know Quito more than just scratching the surface.

In each daily Quito itinerary, I’ve outlined a plan to get to you to best the city has to offer to make the best use of your time.

  • Day One – TelefériQo, Mitad del Mundo, and the best of La Mariscal
  • Day Two – Old Town Quito highlights, markets, and park

I’ve grouped activities together in a way that will make travel through the city easiest for you. I’ve organized each sight or activity to make travel easiest for you, so follow the order of the day! However, feel free to switch up which day comes first for you.

My biggest Quito itinerary recommendation? Check the weather of each day you’ll be in Quito, and plan to visit the TelefériQo and Mitad del Mundo on the day with the nicest weather. Visiting the TelefériQo is all about the view, so in the morning (typically fewer clouds high in the mountains!) on a nice weather day you’ll have the best experience.

quito travel tips

Travel Essential

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Day One in Quito

TelefériQo

Start the day by heading to the TelefériQo for the best views over the entire city of Quito. This cable car lifts passengers over the city and halfway up the towering Pichincha Volcano. You’ll have incredible views over the city, and of the surrounding valleys and volcanoes.

On the clearest of days, you can see up to five snow-capped volcanoes from the viewpoint at the top of the TelefériQo – some of the most breathtaking volcanoes in South America.

Make sure to bring a jacket when visiting – even if Quito is warm, up on the side of the volcano it gets windy and chilly fast! Don’t come unprepared or it will put a damper on your experience.

Don’t save the TelefériQo for later in the day – Quito weather generally has bright and clear mornings and cloudier afternoons with a rainstorm in the afternoon during the rainy season. Arriving at the TelefériQo when it opens means you’ll skip the later afternoon lines and have the best chance of getting a perfect view.

Interested in making it ALL the way to the top of the Pichincha? Climbing to the top of Rucu Pichincha – one of the peaks of this volcano – is a favorite day trip from Quito.

Read More: 10 Best Day Trips from Quito

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo is a must-visit destination for any Quito itinerary. Just a few miles outside of Quito, the “Middle of the Earth” is home to the Equator line that gives Ecuador its name. Visitors to Mitad del Mundo can head to the following sites.

Monument to the Equator

Home to a massive, towering monument, the Monument to the Equator is actually not on the true site of the Equator – GPS revealed it’s just a few meters away! Still a great visit, within the complex you’ll also find a few interesting museum exhibits, restaurants, handicraft shops, and a planetarium with light shows.

Intiñan Museum

Located on the true Equator line, the Intiñan Museum is your best bet for visiting the Equator. You’ll learn how indigenous populations revered the sun and identified the true Equator before Europeans did.

You’ll get to straddle hemispheres and try some fun, campy “science experiments” that only work on the Equator. It’s a great, interactive museum that you’ll love.

I recommend that visitors on a short Quito itinerary (like just 2 days in Quito!) just visit the Inti Ñan Museum. It’s great to see the true Equator, and have a chance to try the “experiments” here!

However, a visit to both is still a great experience. Plan to spend about an hour to an hour and a half at each site you visit.

Read More: 9 Best Day Trips From Quito

mitad del mundo

Casa de la Cultura 

If you’re going to visit just one museum in Quito, I always recommend making it the Casa de la Cultura. This multi-use building is home to cinemas, stages for performances, galleries, and the National Museum, which has a fantastic permanent collection.

Here you’ll find a fascinating collection of antiquities from pre-Incan civilizations in Ecuador, including sculptures, statues, pottery, jewelry, and more. My favorite part of the exhibit it the mummy! There is also a section on colonial art, but the pre-colonial section is by far the star.

If you’re not the museum-going type, feel free to skip it, though entrance to the museum is free. It is worth a quick stop, regardless! If you have longer than two days in Quito, check back for performances and film festivals – there is so much to see and do here, most of it free or at a low cost.

Parque El Ejido

Directly across the street from the Casa de la Cultura, next head over to Parque El Ejido. One of Quito’s great parks, this is a great place for relaxing and people-watching.

You can also try some street food here. You’ll usually find vendors selling cups of fresh tropical fruit, espumilla (merengue), cevichocos (a ceviche-like snack with white beans instead of seafood), fried plantains, and fried corn.

You’ll also get a chance to see artists who set up their work in the northeast corner of the park near the Casa de la Cultura. It is a great opportunity to get something special to take home, or just appreciate the artwork.

Mercado Artesanal

In the heart of La Mariscal neighborhood, the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal (La Mariscal Artisan Market) is the best place to go in Quito if you’re looking for handicrafts and souvenirs.

Here you’ll find rows and rows of artisan stalls covering an entire city block selling everything you can imagine. Alpaca sweaters and blankets, ponchos, clothing, tablecloths, carvings, artwork, jewelry… the list goes on. You could easily spend more than an hour wandering and shopping.

The market is mostly covered, except for a central courtyard, so it makes for a great rainy-day activity as well.

If you plan on traveling on to the Otavalo Market north of Quito, I recommend you hold off on any purchases until you visit there! Prices tend to be better and variety is greater at the Otavalo market than they are here. However, this market is still well worth a visit, even if Otavalo is yet to come.

Read More: Ultimate Otavalo Guide: Visiting the Otavalo Market and Beyond

Dinner in La Mariscal

La Mariscal is a lively neighborhood, especially at night, so it’s a great place to end the first of your two days in Quito.

There are tons of restaurants, bars, and clubs in this neighborhood, so you’ll have plenty of choices for where to eat and drink.

Here are some of my favorite places to eat in La Mariscal:

  • El Árabe: There are plenty of shawarma places in Quito now, but this is the only one that deserves your time. Founded by a Syrian immigrant who came to Ecuador in the 1970s (the nicest human you’ll ever meet), this place serves real, delicious Middle Eastern food. This is where I’m eating whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

  • Las Menestras de la Almagro: If you’re looking for cheap, plentiful, delicious Ecuadorian food, this is your place. Not a drop of charm here – it reminds me of my high school cafeteria – but great food at a great price.

  • Miskay: Great Ecuadorian food done well, this restaurant is a great place to try some of Ecuador’s best dishes. Excellent cooking but not pretentious, this is one of my favorite places in La Mariscal for a nice meal.
  • Cosa Nostra TrattoriaThe best wood fired pizza in Quito. This is authentic Italian food in a cozy atmosphere, and another place I’ve come back to over and over again.

Best Hotels & Hostels in Quito

quito guide

Day Two in Quito

Old Town Quito Tour

Start the second morning of your two days in Quito in Quito’s Old Town. This is an unmissable highlight of any Quito itinerary, and worth at least a few hours of your time, no matter how long you are in this city.

Quito has Latin America’s largest and most well-preserved colonial historic center, and there is so much to see and do here – more than just churches and palaces and plazas!

You can easily take your own self-guided walking tour of this compact neighborhood or book one of these small group tours of the neighborhood if you’d like the insight of a guide. For a Quito 2 day itinerary, these can be a great idea:

Here are the attractions you just can’t miss in the Quito Historic Center:

  • Basilica del Voto Nacional: While Quito’s Basilica is beautiful, it’s the views of the city from the Basilica that make it truly unmissable. Climb the clock towers and the church’s back spire for some of the best city views you’ll find anywhere.

  • Plaza Grande: The Historic Center of Quito’s central plaza, Plaza Grande is surrounded by some of the city’s most important landmarks. Here you’ll find the presidential palace (Carondelet Palace – take the free walking tour if you have time!), the Quito Cathedral, El Sagrario Chapel, and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano.
  • Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús: The star of colonial Quito Ecuador! This church seems to be dripping in gold – truly every surface seems to be covered in it! Don’t miss this incredible church, just one block away from Plaza Grande.

  • Iglesia de San Francisco Another one of Quito’s show-stopping churches, this beautiful whitewashed and natural stone facade is just as gorgeous as the opulent interior. Check out the paintings on the right side near the entrance – especially the interesting though terrifying depiction of hell.

  • La Ronda: This winding street is home to some of the Old Town’s most beautiful and historic buildings. Here you’ll find interesting artisan handicraft stores, restaurants with great Ecuadorian food, and much more. Don’t skip the Pacarí chocolate shop showcasing Ecuadorian chocolate – you can taste test some of the country’s best.

Read More: Old Town Quito: Ultimate Guide to Quito’s Historic Center

Mercado Central

To finish out a tour of Old Town Quito, make a stop at Mercado Central, on the edge of the Historic Center. This lively market is one used by Ecuadorians every day – you won’t find too many tourists here!

However, this is a great addition to 2 days in Quito – you’ll learn so much about Ecuadorian food and traditional dishes just by looking around here. If you’re looking for what to do in Quito for 2 days that is a bit off the beaten path, this is it!

You can even sample prepared foods on one of the market’s three levels, including classic dishes from the mountainous Andes region of Ecuador like hornado (whole roasted pig), locro (potato soup), and llapingachos (cheesy mashed potato balls).

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what to do in quito for 2 days

Parque Itchimbia

This is my favorite park in Quito – though it is often left out of itineraries and guides to the city, it is well worth a visit (take a taxi or the public bus – the climb up the hill is truly brutal). The view from this hilltop park is spectacular – you’ll get an incredible view of the city wedged between the mountains, and see the whole length of Quito.

Make sure to walk around the front end of the park to see the entire view. You’ll sometimes find fun events here like food truck roundups, free concerts, or public art displays.

Check out the Palacio de Cristal on the hilltop for art expositions, too, and take the obligatory photo with the giant Quito sign and a view of El Panecillo.

If you have time, walk around the back end of the park and through the winding bicycle paths for a view of the valleys on the other side of Quito. This is a great place to walk, people-watch, and unwind if you have the time to spare in your 2 days in Quito.

Cafe Mosaico or Vista Hermosa

End your Quito itinerary by enjoying a meal overlooking all of this beautiful city. Just below Parque Itchimbia – across from the main entrance – you’ll find a row of restaurants that make the most of their enviable position on the hillside for an incredible view.

Check out either Cafe Mosaico or Vista Hermosa, but try to make a reservation if you want a balcony table or a seat near the window, as these are the most coveted spots in the house.

Cafe Mosaico is laid back and serves a mix of cafe food and full meals, including some classic Ecuadorian dishes, along with burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Vista Hermosa is fine dining with classic Ecuadorian dishes.

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.