Museo Nacional de Banco Central del Ecuador, or in English known as the Central Bank National Museum, is on the top of every to-do list when visiting Quito. It is not only the most popular museum, but often is the only one people visit when time is limited.
It really should be the first museum you visit in Ecuador as nearly 1500 pieces from pre-Inca to current day are in the permanent exhibit and presented chronologically.
This makes for a great introduction to the history and culture of the country.
It takes several hours to visit the museum, artefacts range from the pre-ceramic era (4000 BC) through the end of the Inca empire (1533 AD). Some of the popular pieces include whistle bottles shaped like animals, decorative gold headdresses and scenes that depict life in the Amazon.
The museum strives to document the history of Ecuador beginning with the first inhabitants up to current day. There are five rooms to highlight the artefacts, art and exhibits of each era.
The first room off the central lobby is the Sala Arequelogia and is likely the most popular in the museum as it contains works dating back to pre-Columbian and pre-Inca times as far as 11,000 B.C. Dioramas feature scenes and artefacts including ceramics, tools and other possessions used throughout the years.
Life and beliefs are explained throughout the years and it is particularly useful if you want to learn more about the indigenous groups today as many tools are still used today.
Items not to miss in this exhibit are the Gigantes de Bahía which range from 20-40 inches tall. As well the Cañari mummy is very popular and often the sole reason people come to visit. Previous indigenous groups worshipped the sun and created masks, decorations and other items out of gold to represent the sun.
The beauty and intricacy of the work is worth a trip alone to the museum.
Sala de Oro
The gallery of gold exhibit features objects and possessions before colonization. The collection includes pre-Hispanic gold displayed on black lit to a dramatic effect.
Sala de Arte Colonial
An area featuring many religious paintings and sculptures from 1534-1820, entering the room begins with a large 18th century Baroque altar. Visitors often comment on two aspects of this room: that the art is quite decorative with an influence of European polychrome and that it can be quite disturbing, as it was a time the Church was trying to convince the indigenous population to be afraid of a Christian God.
Sala de Arte Republicano
Featuring the early years of the Republican era the work in this gallery is much different than in the Sala de Arte Colonial and symbolizes a shift in political and religious thinking. At this time Ecuador was independent from Spain and religious symbols did not figure as prominently, in its place were figures of the revolution such as Simon Bolivar.
Sala de Arte Contemporaneo
This gallery of contemporary art features a diverse collection of work reflecting the current era in Ecuador. Modernist and contemporary artists, such as Oswaldo Guayasamin are included alongside other recent Ecuadorian artists.
$2 for adults, $1 for students and children
This is a large museum; if you want to see all of it you need a full half-day. Tours are available in English and Spanish and highly recommended.
In the Mariscal neighbourhood, the museum is located in the Teatro Nacional complex, next to the Casa de la Cultura.
Av. Patria, between 6 de Diciembre and 12 de Octubre
How to get there
By public transportation there are two options:
The Trole to El Ejido or the Ecovía to the Casa de la Cultura stop.
Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 10am-4pm
Closed Mondays, Christmas, New Years and Good Friday