Best Museums in Quito, Ecuador

Museo Guayasamin museum in Quito, Ecuador
Museo Guayasamin. John Elk III/Getty Images

Quito features some of the best museums in South America. As the nation's capital, Quito is a museum lover's paradise with many museums dedicated to the history, art, and culture of Ecuador. Museums in Ecuador feature a diverse history of indigenous influence and Spanish colonization. There are so many museums that it can seem overwhelming at first to know which ones are the best to understand the country. The truth is that each will give you a unique perspective of the nation, so there is no right answer.

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Museo Nacional del Banco Central

Without a doubt, the Central Bank Museum is the most popular museum in Quito. Here you can find a large collection of art from Ecuador from pre-Inca to current day.

Many people come to see one thing, ceremonial gold mask; however, visitors should plan a few hours here as there are many interesting artifacts that range from the pre-ceramic era (4000 BC) through the end of the Inca era (1533 AD).

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Museo Manuela Saenz

This museum is often overlooked but can be one of the most interesting for history lovers. Manuela Sáenz was the lover of Simon Bolivar who is credited with the liberation of Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. Sáenz is now known as the "Liberator of the Liberator" and is considered of the most important women in the history of South America.

When Bolivar died in 1830, for political reasons she was deported to Jamaica. She moved to Paita on the coast of Peru and lived there until her death in 1856.

The museum is located in Old Quito in a colonial house and here you can find her love letters with Simon Bolivar as well as paintings and other household items. Items from Bolivar can also be found here, such as his gun and silver dagger.

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Museo de la Ciudad

The Museum of the City was originally a hospital that operated from 1565 to 1974 and now the site of an important cultural museum that details the life of Quito from 10,000 BC to today.

Located in Old Quito, opposite the Carmen Alto monastery, the museum has two floors surrounding peaceful courtyards. Great for those who like interactive museums, visitors here can view scenes, including paintings, dioramas, wax figures, and even sound effects detailing what life was like throughout the years in Ecuador.

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Guayasamin Museum

Born in Quito, Oswaldo Guayasamín is one of Ecuador’s most important contemporary artists. His museum is found on the Bellavista hillside, a residential neighborhood just outside Quito.

Guayasamín has an interesting background, while his mother was a mix of Spanish and indigenous background, his father was indigenous. He grew up very poor, in a large family of ten children. As an artist, he was critical of the social inequality in Ecuador and fought for the rights of the indigenous people.

You can see this criticism of poverty and prejudice in much of his work, he is most well-known for his piece La Edad de la Ira or The Age of Anger.

To this day the site continues to promote his artwork and continue his belief in political activism. The foundation which runs the museum participates in developing the culture of the country and contributes to events and concerts.

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Mitad del Mundo

Not a historical museum and a bit of a tourist trap but fun all the same. Here you can learn about being in the middle of the world and all things related to the equator.

While the equator can be found in many countries, it is here that it was proven the Earth is an oblate spheroid. You can take a bus outside Quito to see the large monument the French built here to celebrate the middle of the world.

Humorously, the indigenous population believed the location to be 240 meters away and now with advanced technology we know this is true.

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