Plaza de la Independencia

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Quito, Ecuador
Plaza de la Independencia - Plaza de la Independencia at night
Plaza de la Independencia - Monument to Independence
Plaza de la Independencia - Monument to Independence
Plaza de la Independencia - Plaza de la Independencia

Plaza de la Independencia Quito Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
517 reviews
The heart of the city Oct 25, 2012
As in all Spanish colonial cities, at Quito’s heart lies its main square, the Plaza de la Independencia. Also known as the Plaza Grande, it is an attractive green space with the memorial to independence at its centre, plenty of benches for resting and people-watching, and is surrounded on three of its four sides by attractive old buildings. These are:

On the southwest side, the cathedral

On the northwest, the Palacio de Carondelet, the President’s Palace and seat of government for the republic

On the northeast, the Archbishop's Palace and the Palacio Hidalgo, built as a private residence (the only one of these that still remains on the plaza) for Juan Diaz de Hidalgo and now the Hotel Plaza Grande

On the remaining southeast side are municipal offices, including the police headquarters. The corners of the square also hold some interesting and attractive buildings, including the church of the Immaculate Conception and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. We kept meaning to visit the latter, but never got round to it. We did however visit the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace and I have covered these, as well as the Palacio de Carondelet, in separate tips.

The plaza itself, as a public square, dates back to 1612. The first significant buildings to be constructed here were those built by the powerful Catholic Church – the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. Later, private homes followed – the Palacio Hidalgo next door to the Archbishop’s Palace, and more on the northwest side. These latter were damaged in the earthquake of 1627 and the site then occupied by the Palacio de Carondelet. In the eighteenth century the square was further developed to act as a sort of garden for the latter, whose steps (since demolished to allow traffic to pass along this side of the square) led down into it. There was a fountain at the centre, but this was replaced in 1906 by a newly commissioned monument to commemorate the centenary of the country’s independence from Spain. This monument depicts the victory over the Spanish colonial troops through a triumphant condor holding a broken chain in his beak, and a fleeing Iberian lion which is limping away, dragging its cannons and standards as it goes (see photo three).

Only the rather ugly 1970s building on the southeast side of the square spoils its harmony. This was built as a replacement for an earlier city hall, presumably because the functions of the council of this rapidly growing city had become too numerous for the facilities available in the old structure, but it is a shame that this happened during a period so little renowned both for its respect for historic architecture and for its ability to create memorable modern buildings.

Any tourist who spends much time in colonial Quito is likely to pass through this square several times. We found it a pleasant haven when we wanted to rest during sightseeing walks (there always seemed to be a bench available) and particularly liked it at night, on our way to and from dinner at a nearby restaurant perhaps, when the surrounding buildings are nicely illuminated.
Plaza de la Independencia
Monument to Independence
Monument to Independence
Plaza de la Independencia at night
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