Most visitors will not venture far from Old Town and New Town, except to head out of the city, or to and from the airport, which lies in the heart of northern Quito.
Close to the southern extreme of downtown Quito lies Old Town. Also called El Centro Histórico (Historic Center), this is the colonial-era core of Quito. Much of it has survived over the centuries, almost unchanged. Here you will find Quito's classic old churches, theaters, monasteries, and convents. Popular public plazas include the Plaza de la Independencia, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Santo Domingo, and Plaza del Teatro. Although Old Town is hilly in places, it's easy to walk around this compact area and visit its major attractions on foot.
On the southern extreme of Old Town is the Terminal Terrestre de Cumandá, Quito's main bus terminal. And just to the southwest of Old Town is El Panecillo, a high hill crowned with a large sculpture of a winged Virgin.
New Town is located south of Parque La Carolina and north of Parque El Ejido. As the name suggests, this is a modern and mostly upscale section of Quito, with many of the city's better hotels. New Town's main commercial street is Avenida Amazonas, where a host of banks and travel agencies are located.
La Mariscal, a subsection of New Town, is where you will find a dense concentration of clubs, bars, restaurants, Internet cafes, and backpacker hotels -- the area is informally referred to as Gringolandia because of its popularity with tourists. Plaza Foch (also called Plaza del Quinde) is ground zero for La Mariscal district. La Mariscal is bounded by Avenida Amazonas, Calle Luis Cordero, Avenida 6 de Diciembre, and Calle Ventimilla.
La Floresta lies just to the east of La Mariscal, across Avenida 12 de Octubre and up a small rise. It's an upscale section of downtown with a mix of high-rise apartments and condos, neo-colonial-style mansions, hotels, restaurants, and shops. The area gets its name from the former Urrutia family's Hacienda La Floresta that once occupied this area. La Universidad Católica (Catholic University) is located toward the southern end of La Floresta, while the Swissôtel Quito is at its northern edge.
North of New Town
While both Old Town and New Town lie toward the southern end of Quito's long, narrow valley, many of the city's two million inhabitants live north of New Town. This is also the area where much of the city's industry is located. The neighborhoods here are often crowded, poor, and working-class, and of little interest (and considerable danger) to most tourists. Exceptions include the trendy neighborhoods of Guapulo and Bellavista. The latter is where you find the Fundación Guayasamín and Capilla del Hombre.
The Mariscal Sucre International Airport is located north of New Town. But because the hotels of New Town are really just minutes away, there has been no real tourism or hotel development right near the airport. In fact, the area around the airport is mostly industrial and run-down.
The other main attraction and the geographic heart and civic soul of the area north of New Town is Parque La Carolina, a large, well-kept city park, with a host of facilities for sports and recreation.