Winding Down in Guápulo


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Text: Ilán Greenfield

Photography: Paula Holguín / Yolanda Escobar

Guápulo is a parenthesis of the busy city, home to artists, hippies, yuppies, ambassadors, students and ordinary people with which one could sit and talk for hours on their balconies, with a latte in hand and unparalleled views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Down the steep, winding cobblestone road just behind Hotel Quito begins one of the city’s most striking neighborhoods. With rambunctious four-day festivities in September that mix small-town religious ritual with hip-hop and reggae dress-up parties, including a traditional orange-throwing fest on its foundation day, Guápulo, sometimes called the “village within the city”, could also remind you of a tropical beach town (albeit in the mountains, of course!). As constructions, including enclosed embassy mansions, funky bars and galleries or the beautifully frescoed parish church, cling onto the steep hillside that drops into the Machángara River below, a unique Gaudiesque interior architecture is created. Residents range from artsy Quiteños and low-income families to foreign students seeking a “chill place to hang” in the Quito area.

Quito Turismo and Ñan join forces to offer you the best of the city and surroundings: routes, walks and great information to run with… and share!

At the very top of the road, the Guápulo viewpoint, Mirador de Guápulo, offers a great view of the Cumbayá valley, and has recently become a café-restaurant and craft store, where you can taste local Guápulo beer, and on weekends, savor the produce of organic farmers within the area. Such is the case of Mariana Cunalata, a Guápulo native who promotes a variety of homegrown products ranging from eggs to salted soybeans.

At this same viewpoint (on Pasaje Stubel), you can find Tandana, a vegan restaurant, famous for its black bean burger (it is so good that confuses even the most “die hard” carnivore), its skewers with pesto and macadamia cheese and the margarita pizza with almond cheese. In addition, there are delicious desserts: vegan cheesecake, brownies and peanut butter cookies.

At the end of the block, turn the corner into the cobblestone street where Guápulo officially begins. Neighbors have either come to accept or have whole-heartedly embraced street art, which undoubtedly makes, more than breaks, the neighborhood. As you look around, you’ll surely find that those areas without graffiti don’t fit in. Grocery holes-in-the-wall offer sandwiches and empanadasfor a quick bite along the way.

Nightlife in town gets busy just below, in hangouts like Ananké(not a bad pizza joint), or Guápulo Café Arte. This last is well-known for its warm wine special and for its canelazos, a traditional beverage made with different fruits. Besides, if you’re feeling artistic, you can ask for crayons and paper: a great place to explore your own kind of creativity and have fun with your friends.

On Saturday and Sunday, Don Carlos opens his seafood business for lunch on the next curve down (there is no sign, but you’ll see the tables set up all along the veranda next to a light blue door and people grabbing onto their hats when it gets windy!). Good ceviche and excellent fresh fish make it a great find. Right next door, behind a brown wall with turquoise-blue detailing, there’s a classic room-rental/hostal that many a Guápulo foreigner has made their home.

It’s straight down from here, into the pretty Guápulo square and church, hub of the quiet, respectful neighborhood life that existed before Quito cool took over. But appearances can be deceptive: the neighbors of Guápulo organize one of the gaudiest parish parties in the city. Check them out, during the first week of September.

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