City Center Walking Tour

City Center Walking Tour, Loja, Ecuador (A)

Loja is a small, quaint city located in the Andes Mountains in southern Ecuador. It was founded in 1548 and evidence of its colonial past can still be seen throughout the city center. Many notable artists, writers and musicians have come from Loja and the city is known as the “The Music Capital of Ecuador.” Take this self-guided walking tour to see some of the interesting sights of Loja’s city center.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: City Center Walking Tour
Guide Location: Ecuador » Loja
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 5.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: Lori Webber
Author Bio: I am a U.S. native living in Loja, Ecuador. I moved here in 2008 with my husband, who is from Loja. I met my husband here in the early 1990s when I was living here as a Peace Corps volunteer. After living in the States for many years we decided to move back to Loja.
Author Website:
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Puerta de la Ciudad
  • Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja
  • 24 de Mayo Street
  • Lourdes Street
  • Plaza San Sebastian
  • Museo de la Musica
  • Parque Central
  • Mercado Central
Puerta de la Ciudad

1) Puerta de la Ciudad

The Puerta de la Ciudad (City Gate) is located just north of downtown Loja, at the confluence of the Malacatos and Zamora Rivers (the two main rivers that traverse the city). The monument, constructed in 1998, is shaped like a medieval castle complete with turrets and arched entryways. Its design is based on the City of Loja’s coat of arms, which was granted to the city in 1571 by King Phillip II of Spain. There are several small statues and sculptures on the grounds, including a statue of Juan de Salinas y Loyola, a conquistador who was present during the founding of Loja in 1548. The main building houses several galleries that showcase local artwork. The art exhibits change every few weeks and the art openings are usually accompanied by live music. A small gift shop is located on the first floor and on the second floor there is a restaurant that serves coffee, snacks and traditional Ecuadorian dishes. From the top of the main tower you can observe impressive 360 degree views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Behind the main building, and across the street, there is a striking mural commemorating Simon Bolivar, who visited Loja in 1822. The building behind the mural houses the Archivo de Loja (City of Loja Archives) which has a small exhibit of historical photographs of Loja and is open to the public.
Image Courtesy of franzpc.
Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja

2) Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja

One of the two major universities in Loja, the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja is a private, Catholic university whose mission is, “To seek the truth and educate men and women through knowledge to serve society.” Its well-maintained, attractively landscaped campus is located on a hill overlooking the city. For those looking for a little exercise the campus is easily accessed via a concrete pathway with many steps. Others may want to opt for a short taxi ride to the top. The University’s central courtyard boasts a beautiful, panoramic view of Loja. The Museo de Arqueología y Lojanidad (The Museum of Archeology and Loja Culture) is located on campus in an impressive three floor building. The Museum’s extensive exhibits include examples of prehistoric artifacts from Loja province and the rest of Ecuador. The University’s Ceramics Department produces a unique line of pottery – using traditional designs and motifs – that is available for sale to the public at their on-campus facility. There is also a café on campus, run by students from the School of Hospitality and Tourism, which serves reasonably priced lunches as well as coffee and freshly-made sweets.
Image Courtesy of franzpc.
24 de Mayo Street

3) 24 de Mayo Street

A good area to grab a bite to eat is this four block stretch of 24 de Mayo Street (between Jose Eguiguren and Azuay streets). Along this tree lined avenue there are numerous restaurants, with many different types of food to choose from. If you are in the mood for traditional Ecuadorian food the Casa del Sol (near the corner of 24 de Mayo and Jose Eguiguren) offers excellent, reasonably priced lunches and a nice view from the balcony of their second floor dining area. Just south of the intersection of 24 de Mayo and 10 de Agosto is Carbon Burger, a popular hole-in-the wall hamburger joint. For seafood there is “Riscomar” near the corner of 24 de Mayo and Rocafuerte. There are also two pizza places: Forno di Fango and Roma Pizza. The Ecuatorianisima restaurant at 24 de Mayo and Azuay serves excellent grilled meats as well as traditional Ecuadorian dishes. And for an afternoon treat El Tamal Lojano , just down the street is a good place to enjoy freshly prepared tamales and “humitas” (sweet tamales) with coffee. There are many more eateries in the area including a Chinese restaurant, several ice cream places, and a bakery.
Image Courtesy of Brad Perkins.
Lourdes Street

4) Lourdes Street

There are many examples of colonial architecture in Loja’s city center, but the best place to observe this is on Lourdes Street, one of the oldest streets in the city. In the late 1990s the City of Loja helped local property owners restore an entire block of buildings on Lourdes Street between Bolivar Street and Sucre Street. Stroll along this street and you will be transported back in time. The colorful buildings are adorned with many interesting architectural details including ornately carved wooden window frames, balconies, and covered walkways. Since traffic is slowed by the narrow, cobblestone street the block is very pedestrian-friendly. There are numerous shops along the way that sell local artwork and handicrafts, as well as coffee and treats. There is also the Casa Tinku, a nightclub where you can enjoy live music on the weekends.
Image Courtesy of Daniela Gallardo.
Plaza San Sebastian

5) Plaza San Sebastian

The Plaza San Sebastian is located at the southern end of the city center. It is recognized by its large clock tower in the center of the square and the San Sebastian church on its southwest corner. The clock tower is 104 feet (32 meters) high and at its base are four bas relief murals that commemorate important events in Loja’s history. One of these events is Loja’s declaration of independence from Spain which took place in the Plaza San Sebastian on November 18th, 1820. Due to this the square is also known as the Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square). Plaza San Sebastian is a popular location for public events – everything from political rallies, to craft fairs, to live concerts. Evening events are usually accompanied by elaborate fireworks displays. Next to the church there is a small, covered market where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, cheese and other staples. On Sunday mornings the market expands into the surrounding streets as farmers from the countryside arrive to sell their produce. This is when you’ll find a huge variety of fruits and vegetables at very reasonable prices.
Image Courtesy of Juan Pablo Malo.
Museo de la Musica

6) Museo de la Musica

The Museo de la Musica (Music Museum) of Loja was created to honor the many famous Lojano musicians who have given the city its reputation as “The Music Capital of Ecuador.” The exhibits include musical instruments, photographs and other artifacts donated by the musicians and their families. Opened in 2004, the Museo de la Musica is located in a colonial-style building that once housed the first high school in Loja - the Colegio Bernardo Valdivieso. It is an open, two-floor structure surrounding a nice central courtyard. The museum has a café that serves coffee, sandwiches and other snacks. There is also a small concert hall where musical concerts featuring traditional Lojano and Ecuadorian music are held, as well as other cultural events.
Parque Central

7) Parque Central

Loja’s center is defined by the Parque Central (Central Park). This nicely landscaped square is a pleasant place to relax on a park bench and watch the hustle and bustle of downtown Loja. On the east side of the square is the Cathedral Church, which was built 1890. One of the main features of this church is its historic pipe organ that was brought over from Germany when the church was first constructed. Every August 20th thousands of the faithful make a pilgrimage from the Basilica del Cisne to the Cathedral Church in Loja, a distance of 44 miles (70 kilometers). During the pilgrimage, they carry the sacred image of the Virgin del Cisne. On November 1st the Virgin is returned to the Basilica del Cisne, accompanied by her faithful followers. On the south end of the square is the Museo del Banco Central (Central Bank Museum). This museum is located in a charming, colonial-era building, and it has several interesting exhibits about the history and culture of Loja. Directly across the square from the Museo del Banco Central is the Municipio (City Hall). Overlooking the main entrance to this building are two captivating murals picturing the history and traditions of Loja, which were painted by, Oswaldo Mora Anda, a famous local painter.
Image Courtesy of Eccgp turistica.
Mercado Central

8) Mercado Central

The Mercado Central (Central Market) is the oldest market in Loja. Once rather rundown, it was completely remodeled in the late 1980s and is now one of the nicest, and largest, markets in the city. It is located in a large two-floor building that includes an escalator (which was quite a novelty when it was first installed). On the first floor there are stalls and stalls piled high with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. There is also a section that sells meat and fish, and near the entranceways are stalls filled with household items, such as baskets, pots and pans, and other kitchen knick knacks. My favorite area is the flower section where you can buy beautiful fresh cut flowers and bouquets for very reasonable prices. On the second floor there is a huge section devoted to clothes and shoes. Nearby are stalls selling coffee, dried goods, cheese and bread. There are even a few barber shops. On the second floor there are also numerous booths selling food, freshly prepared juices, and “horchata” a traditional Ecuadorian tea made with medicinal herbs and flowers. On the streets surrounding the market there are even more small shops, selling everything from mattresses, to hardware, to pirated CDs and DVDs.