It's hard to say which one of all Quito attractions comes first, but if pressed for a single answer, the Historic Center of Quito stands way above the rest in our point of view.
In fact, together with Krakow (Poland) were the first World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978.
According to Juan de Velasco and his "Historia del Reino de Quito" (1767), it was the land of the Quitus tribe, later conquered by the Caras tribe.
They conformed a combined culture that thrived from 800 CE to the 1470s, under the name of the Caranqui or Shyris civilization.
They were later absorbed by the Inca civilization, in 1462, after the battles of Tiocajas and Tixán. Indigenous resistance continued with the arrival of Spanish invaders in 1534, when Diego de Almagro founded Santiago de Quito, later to be renamed San Francisco de Quito.
A few years later, in 1563 - under royal decree by Phillip II of Spain - it became the seat of the Real Audiencia de Quito (administrative region of the colonies), part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, based in Lima.
In the following three centuries, several changes occurred, but the most significant event was the battle of Pichincha, in 1822, when Antonio Jose de Sucre - under the command of Simón Bolivar - put an end to Spanish domination, giving room to the independence of Ecuador.
The name Quito means "middle of earth", conformed by KI (middle) and TO (earth). The word Ecuador (as the country name) means equator. See the map of Quito here.
Being the 2nd highest capital in South America (after La Paz), Quito seats at an altitude of 9,252 ft, (2,820m) sprawling through a valley running north-south at the foot of Pichincha volcano (14,000 ft). Near the city, 23km to the North, at 7,300ft, lies the Center of the World Equatorial Monument (Mitad del Mundo), established by a French expedition in 1763.
The Historic Center is one of the top Quito attractions, considered to be among the best and well-preserved historic areas in Latin America, with around 130 monumental buildings spread over 320ha. The following list will introduce you to some of the most representative...
Other Quito attractions include several important parks within city limits, such as Parque Metropolitano Guanguiltagua (largest urban park in South America), La Carolina, El Ejido y La Alameda.
Impressive views of Quito can be observed by taking the Telesférico (aerial tramway) running at an altitude of about 4,100 meters from city centre to Cruz Loma.
Moving around a bit, nearby Quito attractions include...
Quito's Mariscal Sucre Intl Airport (UIO) is located is located at 10km to the North of the city center. There is, however, the New Mariscal Sucre Intl Airport being built in the Tababela district, some 20km to the East, expected to be operative early in 2013. More info at Airports in Ecuador.
You could also reach Quito by bus from any major city in Ecuador. The old bus Terminal Terrestre Cumandá it's been replaced by the new Carcelén (North) and Quitumbe (South) terminals. Both are interconnected by a public transport network provided by Trolebús and Ecovía.
From high-end to budget, you have plenty of options in terms of accommodation in the city. Find and compare best hotel rates in Quito.
On the lower-end, there is also the option to book budget hostel accommodation.