On the northern edge of Parque El Ejido, this curved glass building looks rather like a convention center, but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting the best collection of museums in Ecuador .
The Casa de la Cultura (tel. 2/222-3392, www.cce.org.ec , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $2) was remodeled in 2005. The centerpiece of the complex is Museo del Banco Central, a world unto itself and easily Ecuador’s most impressive museum.
The collection includes more than 1,500 pieces of pre-Inca pottery, gold artifacts, and colonial and contemporary art, all labeled in English and Spanish.
The first hall is the massive Sala de Arqueología, which contains archaeology from Ecuador’s long line of indigenous cultures: Figurines from the Valdivia, animal-shaped bottles from the Chorrera, one-meter-high statues known as gigantes de la bahía (bay giants), and Manteña thrones are just a few of the vast array of pieces.
A vault downstairs protects a dazzling collection of gold pieces: masks, breastplates, headdresses, and jewelry, many decorated with motifs of cats, serpents, and birds. The highlight is the majestic Inca sun mask, the symbol of the museum.
Upstairs is the Sala de Arte Colonial, which contains a massive 18th-century altar and a large collection of paintings and polychrome carvings from the Quito School. There are adjacent rooms dedicated to republican and contemporary art, the highlight being several paintings by renowned artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. The Casa also contains collections of furniture and musical instruments.
The Agora, a huge concert arena in the center of the building, hosts concerts (admission cost varies by event). There’s also a cine showing art and cultural films most evenings.
The old building on 6 de Diciembre, facing the park, houses occasional exhibits and a bookshop that sells its own publications. Next door is the Teatro Prometeo, open for evening performances.