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From elegant opera performances to dirt-cheap all-you-can-drink bars, Quito offers a range of nocturnal activities for visitors and locals alike. The Mariscal sector, the hub for partying and dining out, has restaurants and "here today, gone tomorrow" pubs and clubs pumping out popular salsa and infectious reggaetón beats until daybreak. To find out what's going on while you're in town, pick up a copy of Quito Cultura (www.quitocultura.com), a monthly Spanish-language events guide that includes theater listings, concerts, and general cultural events. For English listings, visit www.quito.com.ec.

In 2001, the city government issued a law stating that all bars and clubs must close at midnight on weekdays and 2am on weekends. But this is only sporadically enforced, and many clubs have found ways around it, including declaring themselves private parties.

Warning: Remember that at night Quito can be quite dangerous, especially near the bars and clubs. Take a cab, even if it's only for a few blocks.

The Performing Arts

Quito has a relatively important performing-arts scene, and the majority of theaters are located in Old Town. Performances include traditional theater pieces, political satire, ballets, dance shows, classic opera, and comedies.

The National Symphony performs weekly in different venues around town, including some colonial churches; call tel. 02/2256-573 for up-to-date information. Every Wednesday at 7:30pm, the Ballet Andino Humanizarte (tel. 02/2226-116) performs traditional Andean dances at the Fundación Cultural Humanizarte, on Leonidas Plaza N24-226 and Lizardo García. The Ballet Folkórico Nacional Jacchigua (tel. 02/2952-025; www.jacchiguaesecuador.com) performs traditional dances and songs on Wednesday and Friday nights at 7:30pm at the Teatro Aeropuerto. Tickets cost $12 to $14 (£8-£9.35) and are often easiest to buy through Metropolitan Touring (tel. 02/2988-200; www.metropolitan-touring.com) or through your hotel tour desk or concierge.

The restored Teatro Nacional Sucre (tel. 02/2951-661; www.teatrosucre.com), in Old Town's Plaza del Teatro Manabí N8-131, between Guayaquil and Flores, first opened its doors in 1867; it's Quito's most popular theater and offers a varied and exciting events program including contemporary theater, ballet, electronic-music performances, and opera. Free concerts and street shows put on by the theater frequently take place just outside, on the Plaza del Teatro. Despite being almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1999, the restored neoclassic Teatro Bolívar (tel. 02/2582-486; www.teatrobolivar.org), at Flores 421 and Junín, continues to host and produce a range of cultural events including theater, dance, music, and Latin American cinema.

Another important outlet for the performing arts is the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (tel. 02/2902-272; www.cce.org.ec). Founded in the 1940s by writer, politician, and diplomat Benjamin Carrión ("If we can't be a military or economic power, we can, instead, be a cultural power fed by our rich traditions"), the Casa offers an extensive repertoire of events including rock concerts, art exhibitions, and performances by the National Symphonic Orchestra. It also houses one of the city's most important museums, the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador, which contains important archaeological artifacts, as well as an extensive collection of Ecuadorean traditional and contemporary artwork.

The Teatro del CCI, at CCI Iñaquito, Avenida Amazonas and Nacionas Unidas (tel. 02/2921-308), which opened its doors in January 2006, is a fine example of a modern theater with the latest technology in sound and lighting; it offers up a mix of contemporary dance, theater, and music.

Quito is a popular destination among international artists. Recent concerts have featured rock legend Santana, Colombian pop star Shakira, electronic DJ Tiesto, Argentine superstar Fito Páez, and Mexican crooner Ana Gabriel. The majority of large blockbuster concerts are held at Coliseo Rumiñahui (Ladrón de Guevara and Toledo), Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana , the Plaza de Toros, or the much larger Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa. Check local papers for listings and ticket outlets.

For a more mellow vibe, check out the Casa de la Música (tel. 02/2261-965; www.casadelamusica.ec), at Valderrama and Avenida Mariana de Jesús. It hosts traditional, folkloric, classical, and jazz concerts and recitals including performances by visiting international artists and orchestras.

Quito's cultural panorama changes quite dramatically during the first week of December when the Fiestas de Quito, celebrating the founding of the capital, transform the city into one huge party. Festivities include profoundly Spanish traditions such as bullfighting in the Plaza de Toros and flamenco dancing. Copious amounts of alcohol consumption accompany live music in chivas (open-air trucks with traditional bands carrying beer-swigging partygoers through the city streets); and the city comes to a standstill with never-ending street parades.

For the duration of August, Quito is also host to a popular arts festival offering a substantial list of art exhibitions, theater, and dance in cultural institutions all over the capital. Almost all performing-arts events are done in Spanish. For 3 days in late September, there's Quitofest (www.quitofest.com), a free festival of rock music, featuring large, outdoor concerts at one or another public park.

Live Music

Quito has an active and vibrant live music scene. A number of bars and clubs regularly have bands and musicians performing. The city's scene, popular with local musicians trying to gain a larger following, is varied and includes jazz, salsa, pop, rock, metal, and alternative, among other musical styles.

A good place to look for jazz is the restaurant and bar El Pobre Diablo (tel. 02/2235-194; www.elpobrediablo.com), in La Floresta on Isabel La Católica E12-06 and Galavis. Some of Ecuador's most influential bands and musicians include: NOTOKEN, Luis Rueda y el Feroz Tren Expreso, Sal y Mileto, Fausto Mino, Juan Fernando Velasco, Convicto, Muscaria, and Hector "El Napo" Napolitano.

The Club, Music & Dance Scene

There is certainly no shortage of places to let loose on the dance floor in Quito. Most popular among Quiteños are salsa, electronic, and reggaetón rhythms. You'll be harder pressed to find a decent selection of rock, alternative, or jazz clubs.

Quiteños and visitors alike mainly flock to the Mariscal sector to check out the capital's nightlife. With a range of restaurants, bars, and clubs, Mariscal is certainly Quito's hottest party spot. The majority of clubs are located around the streets Calama, Mariscal Foch, and Reina Victoria, or a few blocks north around Pinta and Santa María. Favorites among party-goers are Cats (tel. 02/2566-461), Lizardo García E7-56 and Diego de Almagro, a happening spot pumping out international dance and techno with a small cover charge; Oceana Club Lounge (tel. 02/2906-594; www.oceanaecuador.com), corner of Reina Victoria and Pinto, a classy, contemporary new spot that is all the rage with Quito's young, restless, and chic; and Blooms (tel. 02/2521-152), Juan León Mera 1117 and Calama, a sweat-inducing and usually packed club blasting typical South American party tunes. Thursday night there's live Cuban music and dancing at La Bodeguita de Cuba (tel. 02/2542-476), Reina Victoria 1721 and La Pinta.

The Bar Scene

Catering to all tastes, Quito's bar scene is extensive, offering options ranging from British-style beer pubs to sophisticated wine bars, and just about everything in between. The majority of places are situated in the Mariscal district. The renovated Plaza Foch is generally targeted toward those in search of classier venues, while the majority of other bars, from funky cafes to laid-back bars, are located in and around the streets Calama, Reina Victoria, and Juan León Mera. With such a variety of options in one area, the Mariscal is perfect for a pub crawl, although it can sometimes get a little dodgy after dark, so it's advisable not to go alone. Bars usually only charge a cover if there is live music or another type of special event. The line between a bar and a club in Quito is sometimes a little blurry. Many bars pump up the volume as the night goes on and become happening party spots.

Plaza Foch: Ground Zero in Mariscal -- The heart and soul of Quito's nightlife, the Mariscal district has been dubbed "Gringolandia" by those who flock to the area to drink and dance the night away with the city's tourists and resident foreigners. Plaza Foch (also known as Plaza Quinde) -- which has been transformed from a seedy, run-down intersection to a pristine plaza -- is the area's star attraction. Its excellent selection of bars and international restaurants targets visitors in search of more upscale nightspots. In addition to hitting the bars, clubs, and restaurants right on the plaza, you can use the plaza as a great starting place for a bar or club crawl through the rest of the Mariscal district. Plaza Foch frequently hosts free, open-air live shows, including performances by rock bands, dance groups, and percussion and jazz ensembles. With alfresco dining at several different spots, under tall heater lamps to keep the Quito nighttime chill at bay, the funky European-style Plaza Foch is especially packed on weekends, so arrive early to get a good outdoor seat. The following are a couple of my favorite spots on the plaza.

The Gay & Lesbian Scene

Although homosexuals are guaranteed protections and rights under the Ecuadorean constitution, attitudes toward the gay and lesbian community here still lag behind those of North America and Europe, principally owing to Ecuador's being a staunchly Catholic county. As a result, gay and lesbian nightlife is not particularly well publicized, although it's by no means nonexistent. Quito has a few homosexual hot spots. For a detailed lowdown and the latest happenings on Quito's gay and lesbian scene, check out www.quitogay.net or http://quito.queercity.info.

Cinemas

Quito has its fill of mainstream cinemas as well as one or two alternative picture houses. Hollywood blockbusters, usually in their original English with Spanish subtitles, are most popular among moviegoers, as is Latin American cinema mainly consisting of Argentinean, Chilean, and Mexican productions. Two multiplexes, Multicines, Avenida Amazonas and Naciones Unidas, inside the CCI shopping mall (tel. 02/3802-195; www.multicines.com.ec), and Cinemark, Avenida de la República and América (tel. 02/2260-301; www.cinemark.com.ec), are your best bets for new releases. If alternative cinema is more your cup of tea, check out the excellent Ocho y Medio, Valladolid N24-353 and Viscaya, near La Floresta (tel. 02/2904-720; www.ochoymedio.net), Quito's only independent picture-house showing cine arte, classics, Latin American cinema, foreign films, and musical and dance productions. It also hosts the Eurocine film festival every May. Ocho y Medio also publishes the country's most extensive self-titled cinema guide, free of charge every month.

Casinos

Gambling is legal in Ecuador, and the majority of casinos operate a free-entrance, free-drink policy. The city's most popular casinos are Hotel Casino Plaza Caicedo, Av. Shyris 1757 and Amazonas (tel. 02/2445-305), with 176 slots and 25 table games; Hotel Casino Hilton Colón Quito, Avenida Patria and Amazonas (tel. 02/2501-919), with 91 slots and 12 table games; and Casino Montecarlo, Avenida Amazonas and Roca (tel. 02/2994-000), which is located inside the Hotel Mercure and is open 24 hours Thursday through Saturday.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.