Category Archives: Nightlife

Weekend Entertainment in Quito's Centro Histórico

Some travelers prefer to check out the nightlife in La Mariscal district, dancing and drinking until the cocks crow. But Quito has other ways to enjoy weekend nights, that even families may enjoy, right in the colonial heart of the city.

 

La Ronda at a quieter moment.

Once upon a time, La Ronda was the soul of Quiteña culture. Just two blocks south of Plaza Santo Domingo was where many poets lived, and here many of the old-time songs were composed. Already by the 1990s, this two-block-long neighborhood had become one of the most dangerous in the Centro Histórico, plagued with robberies, prostitution and drug dealing. For several decades, the residents tried to get the city to help them recuperate their barrio. Finally, in middle of the 21st century’s first decade, the city agreed—but wanted the people to move out. The families fought to remain, saying that they would work together.

 

In 2007, the renewed La Ronda opened as a tourist attraction. Generations-old family shops, making artisan candles, sweets and espumillas (fruit-flavored whipped cream), found new clientele. Some families opened restaurants featuring traditional Quiteño cuisine. Children played the barrio’s music. Visitors stopped to sing and dance along in the narrow, cobblestone lane.

 

Within months, La Ronda became THE place to go Friday and Saturday nights. The blocks around the district become one massive parking lot. The streets are crowded with couples and families strolling from café to café, drinking canelazo (a warm drink made of fruit juice and cane alcohol), dining and listening to music. Now many establishments are owned by non-barrio residents, and a variety of music is now heard (not just the traditional Quiteña sounds).

 

Boogying to quiteña music.

 

On Saturday nights, Quito offers Noches Patrimoniales. These tours, conducted by guides in period costumes, last 45 minutes and depart at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. from the tourism office (Calle Venezuela and Calle Espejo. Tel: 257-2445/295-4469, URL: www.quito.com.ec). Participants learn about the history and legends of the Centro Histórico, and visit different museums. The cost is $6 per person. Contact the tourism office for more details.

 

Also on Saturday nights, Biciacción (Tel: 245-6156) invites people to join it on bicycle excursions through Quito’s Historic Center.

 

 

After checking out the Centro Histórico’s nightlife on Friday and Saturday nights, take it easy Sunday morning when the entire downtown becomes a pedestrian mall until 2 p.m.

 

Artists, craftspeople and musicians perform along Calle García Moreno and Calle Sucre. The main plazas—Grande, San Francisco and Santo Domingo—vibrate with free theater, dance, music and puppet shows. Sometimes events also happen at Plaza la Merced (Calles Cuenca and Chile) and Plaza del Teatro (Calles Sucre and Manabí). Many of the churches and museums are open. Vendors come out, selling baskets of fresh fruits, cups of espumilla and toys.

 

There are plenty of happenings for children, too, with face painting, games and crafts.

 

Ciclopolis (Tel: 290-1920, URL: www.ciclopolis.ec) sponsors the Ciclopaseo from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This 27-kilometer (16.2-mile) bicycling circuit runs from Parque de los Recuerdos in the North, down Avenida Amazonas, into the Centro Histórico and South as far as Quitumbre. Mechanics are posted at four spots along the way.

 

If you happen to not have a bike, you can lease one for the day, for $5.60. Rentals can be arranged at several points along the circuit (Jorge Washington, Tribunal del Sur or La Kennedy) or by phoning Ciclopolis. Some form of identification must be left as a “deposit.”

 

The carefree spirit in downtown Quito’s streets, however, continues well past the stages are broke down and the artists have packed their instruments. Until sundown, children continue to chase the pigeons in the squares, neighbors sit to chat and vendors to sell fruits.

Nightlife: Chivas

Have you ever been in a bar or club and said, “Man, I wish this place was on wheels?” No? Well, let’s pretend that you have, because mobile nightclubs do exist. They’re called chivas. Hop on!

Typically found in Colombia and Ecuador (and more recently in New York!), chivas resemble open-sided school buses, brightly painted (often in patriotic yellow, blue and red), with rows of wooden bench seating inside; a ladder on the back leads to rooftop seating and storage. In rural areas, chivas are a popular way of transporting people and their belongings (chickens, pets, and fruits and vegetables) between villages.

The use of chivas has grown from being a mode of public transportation to a unique way of touring cities and the countryside. Chivas ferry tourists around on guided city tours in Colombian and Ecuadorian cities like Cali, Barranquilla, and Guayaquil (which has open-top versions of the traditional chiva).

If you’re looking to combine partying with a little sightseeing, or just feel like livening up your drinking, climb on a party chiva. These traveling discos cruise the streets serving alcohol, usually aguardiente (anise-flavored alcohol made from sugar cane), to you and up to 40 of your soon-to-be best chiva friends, while a rooftop brass band blasts Vallenato or oom-pah music. Chivatecas up the nightclub aesthetic: raising the roof and ditching the seating. Get tight at the open bar and dance to a mix of salsa, cumbia, reggaeton and electronica. You can chiva-hop from bar to bar or roam the streets for a couple hours before getting dropped off and left to stagger into a nightclub.

photo by L.Marcio_Ramalho

photo by L.Marcio_Ramalho

In Colombia, nighttime rumba rides are a great way to cover the many neighborhoods in Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellín. In Quito, trumpets, drums and cymbals raise hell atop chivas crawling through the city’s nightlife district, La Mariscal, on their way to the old town for canelazo-blurred views of the churches and plazas. If you’re in Baños, you can ride a chiva at night up to the Bellavista viewpoint to enjoy a cup of canelazo while taking in a fire show and erupting volcano Tungurahua (so long as it isn’t obscured by clouds). Chiva activity peaks in Ecuador in December during the Fiestas de Quito, when chivas clog the streets and everyone wants in on the fun.

Ecuador to have rolling blackouts

Ecuador at night during blackout

Ecuador at night during blackout

Ecuador, currently suffering from a severe power shortage, has instituted rolling blackouts around the country to save energy. Every day, different sectors of Quito and rural areas will have their power cut for from three to six hours. The local paper, El Comercio, has the schedule online (http://ww1.elcomercio.com/default.asp) or in their printed edition. Hotels and most restaurants and nightlife are making the most of it, staying open and providing service (most stoves and ovens use gas and are unaffected, although refrigeration might be a concern). Ecuadorians are aware of the problem and will usually know when their sector is due for an outage. Important services such as hospitals have generators, but in many areas traffic lights may be out. The power shortage is due to low rainfall in the south where Ecuador’s lone electric plant operated off a dam: some estimate that the crisis may last months.

Nightlife: Enjoying a Dry Night Out in Quito

By Nick Rosen

Visitors, take note: a fun night out in Quito does not have to end with your head stuck out a taxi window, singing “I Know You Want Me” at full volume while the stranger you’ve been canoodling with tries to pull you back inside the cab. Oh, it certainly couldand visiting one of V!VA’s Top Ten Places to Get Inebriated at the Equator is a good way to kick off just such an eveningbut there are plenty of alternatives. In fact, V!VA’s hometown has a number of nocturnal attractions to keep the teetotalers among us entertained.

Peculiar Películas

Ocho y Medio is located in Quito’s La Floresta neighborhood, but it wouldn’t feel too out of place in the trendier parts of Brooklyn. The theater uses its four little screens to show Ecuadorian movies, the latest indie hits, and strangely wonderful German art house films from the 1970s. Though the movies are subtitled in Spanish, sometimes the theater shows English-language films. Grab the opportunity to slip on your skinny black jeans and come hang out at this hipster haven.

More conventional multiplex theaters can be found at shopping centers throughout the Quito area. The most convenient option in southern Quito is the Multicines branch at the El Recreo shopping mall. The nicest theater in Quito’s north is the CineMark located at the Plaza de las Americas mall.

Live from Quito, it’s Saturday Night

Quito is also the best place in Ecuador to catch a live music, theater or dance performance. One place to make note of is the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, a large complex across from Parque El Ejido. The cultural center puts on plays, concerts, film screenings and art exhibitions.

Teatro Sucre, by flickr user dimplemonkey

Teatro Sucre, by flickr user dimplemonkey

In the Centro Histórico, El Teatro Nacional Sucre hosts opera, ballet, theater and dance in a beautifully restored colonial building on the Plaza del Teatro. While the Centro has a checkered nighttime reputation, it is easy enough to get a taxi to take you directly to the theater; you should not be scared off from dressing up and enjoying this unique venue.

Quito’s Café Culture

Just because you aren’t drinking alcohol doesn’t mean you’re fasting, does it? By all means, warm up at Café Mosaico with a hot chocolate. Enjoy the ambience, the food, the view and maybe even your company. The hillside neighborhood of Guápulo is also chock-a-block full of atmospheric little cafés. Take your pick of Café Guápulo, Café ChiQuito or Mirador de Guápulo.

Be a Mall Rat

Alright, you probably haven’t spent your nights out goofing around at the mall since high school, but Quicentro, the city’s swankiest shopping center, is a popular hangout for the locals. Long after most streets in town are deserted, you will find Quiteños strolling and checking out the shops at the mall, which stays open until 8 or 9. If you want to stay even later, the attached bowling alley, which claims to be the most technologically-advanced one in the whole country, remains open until midnight.

Quicentro Mall, by Luigi Ochoa

Quicentro Mall, by Luigi Ochoa

Go see a movie, take in the ballet, bowl a few frames. Abstaining from drinking is not abstaining from a good time in Quito.