Exploring Cuenca’s colonial architecture, Day 16

Exquisite colonial architecture, Cuenca, Ecuador

The colonial architecture in Cuenca is stunning…

Despite two weeks of constant activity, there’s no time to rest and we begin our exploration of the narrow cobblestone streets, churches, markets, and colonial architecture of Cuenca with a walking tour (avoiding, as usual, the crazy drivers).  We start at the museum of modern art in Plaza de San Sebastian, which features pieces by local and Latin American artists.  One in particular struck me: a box containing a heart surrounded by sharp wooden stakes (the vulnerability of life or love perhaps?).

Much like Centro Historico in Quito, Cuenca has resplendent colonial architecture: highly decorated balconies made of stone, wood, and iron and wooden roofs with red brick tiles.  Many shops are literally tiny whole-in-the-wall joints (selling hardware, snacks, bootleg movies, yarn, fruit and veg, furniture – even booze).  At the other end of the spectrum there are some seriously fancy jewelers, bespoke tailors, custom Panama hat makers, and electronics stores.

Then there are the markets such as the Mercado 10 de Augusto where the local Cholas Cuencanas sell fresh fruit and flowers, as well as every part of the animals they raise in their villages: hooves, ears, hearts, and brains (which provide an absolute feast for the local fly population).  At the nearby plaza de San Francisco, stall-holders offer local crafts and alpaca, llama, and wool textiles (table cloths, blankets, decorative weavings, and clothing).  There’s also a dedicated artisan center where we succumb to temptation, purchasing a tiny piece of art work (it has to fit in my backpack, after all) and a llama scarf.  We finish our tour at the main square in Cuenca, Parque Abdon Calderon, which has sublime views of the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (the New Cathedral).  But visiting the cathedral will have to wait for another day.  We’re hot and tired and we break the first cardinal rule of traveling: we ate the local ice cream (from Tutto Freddo).  De-licious.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.



  1. Mike Bloomfield says

    And an excellent real ale pub in the centre of Cuenca (Jan 2013)! Keep up the good work Rod – I’ve just discovered and am reading your site. Good Stuff!

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