Independence Square (Plaza de la Independencia, also known as Plaza Grande) is the civic heart of historic Quito. Flanked by historic sites such as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, Carondelet Palace (the presidential palace), the Municipal Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace, the square is the perfect base from which to visit all the sites of Quito Old Town.
The square began as a meeting place and water source for the fledgling town. Since the 16th century, townspeople have gathered here to collect water from the fountain and watch bullfights. Today, the square features a modern monument to the Royal Audience of Quito, who first called for independence from the Spanish colony in 1809.
Stroll along the square’s tree-lined paths to admire the surrounding colonial buildings and the tall independence monument. Admire the gardens dotted with charming flowerbeds and fountains. The square’s shaded seats are popular with students enjoying a recess, locals partaking in some people-watching, and street vendors selling souvenirs and snacks.
Take a seat on one of the curved stone benches and look up at the Cathedral of Quito. The cathedral was built in the mid-16th century. One of the oldest cathedrals in South America, it is rich with legend and history. According to one legend, a drunken man offended the Gallo de la Catedral, the rooster that sits atop the cathedral, so the rooster flew down and pecked the man.
Wander around the square’s bordering streets to find many typical Ecuadorian restaurants, cafés and local craft stores. Stop by the Information Center in the Municipal Palace to learn about the area’s heritage and to enquire about history tours.
Independence Square is located in Quito Old Town. The square is open daily and free to enter. Most of the colonial buildings are open to the public but may charge an admission fee. Reach Independence Square by trolleybus or find metered parking on nearby streets.