This is one of the “must see” locations when visiting Quito, according to all the guidebooks, blogs, travelers’ journals, etc. It is the center of Ecuadorian government, and is the physical manifestation of the interconnectedness that still exists between Ecuador’s history of Spanish Colonialism, Catholicism, and a cultural struggle to remain unique and independent while integrating into the larger world around them.
The plaza is surrounded on all four sides by beautiful Spanish Colonial buildings, specifically the Presidential Palace, Ecuadorian governmental offices, shopping/dining complex, and a cathedral. It is landscaped with trees and flowerbeds encircling an impressive monument commemorating Ecuador’s independence from Spanish rule in 1822 at the battle of Pichincha, named for the volcano that forms part of the ring of mountains around modern day Quito.
It was always full of people, just passing through, relaxing on benches, or taking pictures of the buildings and center monument. There were lots of police officers always around there, on Segways, on foot and sometimes riding by on motorcycles. I had read before the trip that they were really making an effort to stop petty crime in the area, and I guess this is the way they are getting it done. We went there several times during our few days in Quito and it was always nice.