Standing proudly where an Incan temple once stood, on a prestigious plaza in bullseye-central Quito, Casa Gangotena is an aristo abode turned best-in-town boutique hotel where 1920s elegance is given a colonial twist and tastebud-thrilling food draws hungry crowds.
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Free room upgrade on arrival, early check-in and late check-out (all subject to availability) and a welcome drink
10am, but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £307.60 ($420), including tax at 22 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $1.50 per room per night on check-out and an additional government tax of $1.03 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast and traditional high tea (local coffee, garden-fresh teas, scones, pastries, sandwiches and empanadas).
At the hotel
Bar, restaurant, courtyard garden, laundry service, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock, flatscreen TV, air conditioning, hair dryer, black-out curtain, Amenigraf bathroom products.
Our favourite rooms
In keeping with the general grandeur, all rooms are of the high-ceilinged, big-windowed variety. Bedrooms – many of them adorned with murals – lean towards Twenties classicism with the bathrooms adding a touch of white-marbled modernism. If you want to soak up the buzz of the city, Plaza View Rooms have stately French windows overlooking the vibrant square. For romance, try and bag a Balcony Junior Suite for its stucco-columned terrace overlooking the courtyard garden and the dramatic hills of Quito.
A local map – or at least a keen sense of direction – will be useful given you’ll be exploring on foot most of the time. Talking of which, don’t forget your walking boots if you’re moving on to the Galápagos Islands afterwards.
There's no spa or pool, but staff will happily direct you to the nearest ones. Please note visitors to Ecuador are required to show proof of public or private health insurance upon entering the country. Without this, you could be denied entrance.
It's more of a grown-up affair, but kids are welcome. Extra beds can be added to rooms and the restaurant will happily adapt dishes on the menu for children.
As well as being committed to recycling schemes and using solar panels to lower its energy use, the hotel is a proud champion of its neighbourhood, even co-funding the daily cleaning of Plaza San Francisco. It participates in the award-winning community initiative, Heritage Guardians, which highlights local traditions and encourages ‘life-seeing’ over sightseeing.
The restaurant is one of those ‘no table’s a bad table’ rarities, but for a morning coffee in refined surroundings, pull up a wicker chair in the glass-roofed, plant-lined patio area. Take your sundowner to the third-floor terrace and gaze over the plaza
This is date-night territory, so some dolling-up is required: a classic blazer for Mr Smith, a chic summer dress for Mrs Smith (nothing too flowery, mind: you’ll blend in with the curtains).
White table cloths, cosy loveseats, floral curtains and pastel hues – its like dining in someone’s living room, albeit a very fancy one… Quito-born chef Andrés Dávila serves crowd-pulling, zingy Ecuadorian fare: swordfish with plantain and peanuts, chulpi-crusted tuna, highlands’ style lamb stew and a locally revered red snapper ceviche. If you’re particularly smitten with the Internet’s second-favourite mammal after moggies, perhaps steer clear of the llama spring rolls, though.
Returning after a day of on-foot adventuring? Head straight for the wood-panelled, country-club-style bar, sink into a leather chair and order a signature Cedrón Spritz: an oh-so-refreshing blend of rum, sparkling wine and lemon – you’ll feel suitably revived. A globe-spanning wine list, local beers and other cocktails are all on offer, too.
Breakfast is served 6am–10am; lunch 12 noon–3pm; dinner 6.30pm–10pm (with afternoon tea in between). You can drink in the bar until midnight.
There’s a breakfast menu of eggs, pancakes and pastries; lunch snacks like salads, soups and sandwiches; and most of the restaurant’s evening-meal main courses and desserts, all available 24 hours a day.
As central as you can get, right on the prestigious Plaza San Francisco, with Quito’s best sights all within walking distance.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport is an hour’s drive away and is served by American Airlines from Miami, Delta from Atlanta, Iberia from Madrid, KLM from Amsterdam and a host of South American airlines.
Tren de los volcanes is a popular tourist train route that takes you on a full-day round trip from central Quito through dramatic volcano-strewn landscapes and eco reserves.
This is not the place for road trips: the cobbled streets are narrow and difficult to navigate. Everywhere in the Old Town is walkable and if you want to explore the newer parts, the hotel will happily arrange transfers.
Worth getting out of bed for
Quito was the first city (along with Kraków) to be declared a Unesco World Heritage site; serendipitously, the hotel sits close to its central 'hood. The old, cobbled Calle de la Ronda is the city’s cultural heart, where galleries, craft shops, inviting restaurants and cosy bars are tucked into exquisite Spanish-style buildings. Museo del Banco Central (+(5932) 222 3258) hosts the country’s largest native art collection, from the colonial to the contemporary. Quito’s oldest building, the Hospital de la Misericordia y Caridad, is now home to the Museo de la Ciudad (+ (5932) 228 3883) which charts everyday life through the ages. Fans of ravishing religious buildings will be suitably awed by La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (la Compañía to locals): a jaw-dropping, gold-leafed Spanish baroque beauty.
Those who want a real eyeful of the city – and aren’t prone to vertigo – can take a ride on the TelefériQo, one of the highest cable cars in the world. It runs from the city centre up the eastern side of the Pichincha volcano to a lookout point called Cruz Loma where there are restaurants and shops. From here, you can hike to the summit if you’re in an active mood.
El Panecillo, the hill presided over by the Virgin of Quito statue you can spy from the hotel, gives pleasing panoramas back over the city without the need for a white-knuckle ascent.
If you prefer your exploring at ground level, the Live Quito Like A Local tour gives you the chance to follow a guide to the not-in-the-guidebook markets, artisan shops and other hidden highlights, learning about the city’s festivals and traditions as you go.
The light, airy Lua (+ (5932) 511 2570) offers a contemporary Peruvian twist on Ecuadorian cuisine. Settle in for some pisco sours and the highly recommended, seafood-rich tasting menu. Oenophiles will enjoy the impressive cellar at trad townhouse turned romantic restaurant Octava de Corpus (+ (5932) 295 2989) where a world’s worth of fine blends accompany simple, tasty meat and fish dishes. Urko is one of the hottest new tables in town thanks to its sustainably sourced, farm-focused regional fare. Hanzo (+ (5932) 353 0466) serves superb sushi and has great cityscape views from its modern rooftop setting. If you’re one of those ‘when-in-Rome’ types who won’t leave without snacking on cuy (guinea pig), head for Achiote (+ (5932) 250 1743) where the cute critters are served grilled or in a soup.
French chef Cyril Prudhomme opened his eponymous Cyril Boutique in Quito in 2011 and it’s been a haven for chocoholics ever since. There are bars of all shapes and sizes made from local cacao, as well as cakes and pastries aplenty. Café Europa is a popular spot for a sit down and a sandwich (and maybe even a cocktail) in central Quito.
Theatrum, above the grand Teatro Nacional Sucre, is the place for an evening of civilised wine drinking. Cat’s Café Bar is a pleasingly low-key hangout with a good craft beer selection, hunger-staving snacks and a genial host. La Liebre Video Café, a DVD-lined, living-room-style café bar, frequently hosts lively jazz nights, and The Turtle’s Head is the obligatory Irish-themed, sports-on-the-TV local.
Mr & Mr Smith have just returned from a stay at this luxury Ecuadorian hotel, and as soon as they've unpacked their bars of world-beating cacao, a full account of their glamorous break will be with you. In the meantime, just to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Casa Gangotena.
Quito is a good-looking city – one of the first to be granted Unesco World Heritage status, no less – but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Casa Gangotena its most handsome hotel. Inside and out, this grand mansion-with-a-past is elegance personified; from its make-an-entrance spiral staircase that leads guests up to their rooms, to the stucco-columned third-floor terrace with its cinematic cityscape views.
If you can tear yourself away from your resplendent gold-leaf- or mural-lined room, you're in pole position for seeking out the sights of this historic city. Once you've worked up a hunger, head back to base and settle in for some of the best modern-Ecuadorian cuisine around.
Whether you're on a pre- or post-Galapagos stopover, or on a city-seeing mission, with this colonial-chic charmer as your crash pad, you'll find Quito life most agreeable.