Seven first-timer things to do in Cuenca

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The summer’s here and so is Ecuador’s independence weekend… and it is always a good idea to go to Cuenca, the city of “four rivers”, Ecuador’s “most pretty” (according to more than one traveler)…

Ñan and the Cuenca Tourism Foundation have come together to offer you this quick guide to begin your explorations… Once you’ve completed this list, you will be able to say that you know the essentials… it is a good start, but, of course, there is much more!

Tea and two cathedrals

Ecuador’s most handsome tea room must be Mansión Matilde. A tea room that transforms into a bar and a high-end restaurant, ideal to end your afternoon and begin the evening. A great place to go after visiting Cuenca’s two cathedrals: the imposing New Cathedral and the lesser-known Old Cathedral. Both are milestones in the history of this historic city and are a starting point to understand Cuenca.

Cuenca’s Pietá, on display at the Old Cathedral. (PH: Yolanda Escobar)

Strolling in El Barranco

Cuenca becomes more beautiful as one walks through it and one of the places where this evolution takes place in a very special way is El Barranco… this walk along the banks of the Tomebamba River, the city’s central river, immediately makes us fall in love with this heritage city. The water softly making its way along and the beauty of the trees and architecture that rises on both banks, passing through the historic Broken Bridge (Puente Roto) to the beautiful Parque Paraíso, is a great city walk that will never let Cuenca disappear from your memory.

Pumapungo Museum

The museum itself has temporary and permanent exhibits, with amazing pieces from the ancient (pre-Inca) cultures of the area. The collection is interesting, but what cannot be missed in this museum are the Inca ruins on which it is built: Inca terraces of the ancient city of Tumipamba (as they called the imperial city). This journey into the past takes you down these archaeological remains that date back over five hundred years and end with a small aviary of rescued birds.

At Museo Pumapungo you can visit inca terraces (PH: Juan Pablo Verdesoto)

San Sebastián’s museum and cafés

San Sebastián is a picturesque and secluded corner of the city. Grab a bite at its many cafes and certainly visit the Museum of Modern Art. Cuenca is recognized for its general aesthetic and that includes its love for art. Every two years, Cuenca hosts a renowned Biennial that brings to Ecuador important international avant-garde artists and the most important venue for the contemporary art scene is this museum. It’s worth taking a look at their exhibitions.

A refreshing breeze and wonderful view from El Vado (PH: Yolanda Escobar).

El Vado y el Mercado

Beautiful buildings such as La Casa de La Lira, a striking bar full of art and… gore? at Lo Prohibido, the view of the Tomebamba River, a large sculpture representing the traditional game of palo encebado and the cross that gives this neighborhood its name, El Vado has a lot of vibe. Locals come here to mend their hats and nostalgics come to buy antiques… and a short distance away you’ll find the central market, Mercado 10 de Agosto, the traditional heart of the city. On Thursdays, get a “healing cleanse” and on the second floor seek out natural remedies for all ills and pains.

Great food!

This is the part of the blog in which we tell you about our favorite spots to taste some of that good old Cuenca cookin’. Cuenca, like other tourism hubs, is a vibrant city with excellent culinary experiences. New eats are always popping up, but here’s a list to keep you discovering new flavors during your stay.

The first option is actually several: Casa del Parque is the place to get a taste of everything from fusion flare to a good pizza… Check out excellent Gouda cheese, unorthodox ice-cream flavors and an excellent brewery. We also recommend Consuelo, one of its restaurants, for traditional Cuenca food and an eye-popping décor. All of this is located in the “yellow building” just across the street from Parque Calderón.

Visionary signature dishes with all natural and organic ingredients at Dos Sucres (PH: cortesía Dos Sucres).

For an unforgettable restaurant, full of tradition, atmosphere and extremely delicious food, you can’t miss with Los Tiestos. A classic. If you seek conscientious, delicious, signature and visionary cuisine, have a taste of Dos Sucres. For good, delicious food, a beautiful view of El Barranco, we recommend El Mercado and to venture into new culinary vegan trends, El Oasis is quite an experience (which some have called religious!).

El Mirador del Boquerón

Cuenca is located in a wide valley that becomes a fabulous and romantic landscape from the heights of El Boquerón. El Boquerón is not just any viewpoint. You can engage in a series of activities (camping, horseback riding…) and its nature is very special, with remnants of native forest, apart from the incredible view of the city, a great place for sunset-gazing.

Keep up with tourism information of Cuenca on social media following #CuencaEsTuTrip

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