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A Perfect Day in Cuenca: Where to Go & What to See and Do Like A Local

Parque San Blas Cuenca

Whether you’re a tourist or a resident, a perfect day in Cuenca totally exists. After living here one year, I still relish in the beauty of the city and take the chance to play tourist from time to time. Each day I fall more and more in love with this beautiful city of Cuenca, Ecuador. On the other hand, if you are a tourist sometimes it is nice to experience an average day in the life in the city. If I had it my way, here is what I would do on my perfect day in Cuenca.

9AM Breakfast

To start the day I would prioritize coffee. Head to Café Nucallacta, San Sebas Cafe or Windhorse Café for breakfast. Each cafe has great coffee and breakfast (sweet and savory). If you are willing to go out of centro and have breakfast like a true local try the Ecuadorian classic ceviche or encebollado for breakfast (my fave spots are on Av. 10 de agosto y Solano).

Rio Tomebamba Cuenca

10:30AM Morning Walk

Take a morning walk along the Rio Tomebamba. Depending on the length of the walk you could make it to the beautiful Parque Paraiso (like to read? Bring a book!)

mirador de turi swing

12:30PM Turi + Swing

Head to Mirador Turi (long walk, bus, or taxi) to take in the views of the city. Enter the small kid’s park ($1 to enter; pass the mirador and the entrance is on your left), and head up to the swing ($2)! No matter how many times I’ve swung, it never gets old. I usually try to do the swing in the morning rather than the afternoon given Cuenca’s tendency for afternoon rain showers.

almuerzo cuenca

2PM Lunch

There are some restaurants at Turi (in fact I would highly recommend grabbing a classic Canelazo to warm up if its a chilly day!) but I would head back to my favorite lunch spot in centro – Moliendo Café. Order the almuerzo for $2.50 or one of the yummy Colombian arepas off the menu.

2:45PM Afternoon Coffee

If you can’t tell already, I’m one for cafes. My absolute favorite café in the city is Puro Café, located on an outdoor patio behind Iglesia Todos Santos on Calle Larga. Order the best specialty coffee in the city and the pastry of the day, and take in the gorgeous views of the mountains and city!

Calle Simon Bolivar Cuenca

4PM Afternoon City Walk

Walk from Calle Larga to Parque Calderon to take in the gorgeous views of the Cathedral and the Flower Market. Cut over to Calle Simon Bolivar and walk all the way up this historic street until you hit Parque San Sebas on your left. Walk around the small park and head into the Museo de Arte Moderno, which has a great history to it.

Cuenca Catedral Nueva

Photo by Eduardo Merchan

6PM Afternoon Beer

While you’re in Parque San Sebas treat yourself to an afternoon beer at the Belgian Jodoco brewery. Sit outside on their patio and enjoy!! I also really enjoy Becken on Calle Larga for cervezas artesanales!

8PM Dinner

I’ll give two recommendations depending on your mood. If you’re looking for a nice dinner and traditional Ecuadorian food check out Tres Estrellas on Calle Larga. Order a cuy (call your reservation order ahead – there is a 4 hour preparation time for the cuy!) and some classic Ecuadorian plates (another great alternative for classic dishes is Raymipamba in Parque Calderon). Or, if you’re looking for burgers and sandwiches my favorite spot in town is Crossroads on Miguel Morena, just a few blocks from Supermaxi El Vergel – it won’t disappoint! Again, Moliendo Café is another favorite for dinner – any of the arepas or the $3.50 merienda!

10PM After Hours Drinks

Looking for something chill and outdoors? La Bamba is an open air balcony bar along Rio Tomebamba (one block from escalinatas, next to Inca Lounge) and has my favorite mojitos in town – Mojito de Fresa or Maracuya highly recommended!! Or, for something more fancy the cocktails at El Mercado on Calle Larga are to die for. Again if you’re in the mood for beer, I highly recommend Jodoco or Becken, or for a chill vibes at La Cigale, a hostel that

11:30PM Dancing

The earliest you’ll see a party start is 11pm, and the bars/clubs are open until 3am Thursday-Saturday. If you’re looking for chill, hippie dance vibes check out the hole in the wall, Zoociedad (no cover, $2 beers and cheap canelazos only). If you’re looking for a classic Cuencano party, our favorite are the clubs next to Millenium Plaza such as Rolings or Laos (usually on weekends a $15 cover, including $10 consumption). If you get there a little early, don’t miss out on the classic empanadas of town located at a little stall just next door! If you’re headed out on a Thursday another favorite is La Mesa – the only classic salsateca in the city, open Thursdays only.

Cuenca Snack Food

Honorable Mentions: Other Favorite Spots in Cuenca
  • Museo Pumapungo + eat Belgian waffles in the Archeological Park out back
  • Eat the classic Ecuadorian afternoon snack foods, or as we like to call it the “snack food walk” – humitas, tamales, quimbolitos – along with a coffee or tea! You must try them all. You can find them at any hole in the walls around the city, or neighborhoods that are traditional for these are on Av. Las Herrerias and Av. Loja.

Does your favorite day include exercise? Read this post on the best exercise options in Cuenca. Or how about Cafe Hopping? Shopping? Getting out of the city? Hiking?

Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

 

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5 comments
  • Cristina
    Cristina | March 6, 2017

    Hi! I,m planning a travel to Ecuador and thinking about the idea to stay in Cuenca for three days. Is there any neighborhood you will recommend it? Is Cuenca a safe city? Love your post! For sure, it’ll help us. Thank you!

    • Kelly
      Kelly | March 14, 2017

      Hey Cristina, Thanks for the comment! Cuenca is absolutely a safe city. You should take your normal precautions (don’t show off you cell too much for example) and don’t walk on the river at night unless your on the main road, but otherwise you’ll be fine! I would definitely recommend staying in downtown (centro historico) so you can walk everywhere. Depending on what kind of place you’re looking for (hostel versus more luxurious) I would be happy to make recommendations for ya! Happy travel planning, I know you will love Cuenca! 🙂

  • Patty
    Patty | March 30, 2017

    This has come very handy. I am trying to plan a trip to Ecuador with the family and is not easy. Thank you for your help!!!

  • Patty
    Patty | March 30, 2017

    I forgot to ask you for any hotel recommendation! Thanks!!!!

    • Kelly
      Kelly | April 9, 2017

      I am so glad to be of assistance! Happy to answer any questions you may have. Depending on what you’re looking for, I’ve always recommended a place called Hotel de las Culturas… It is in Centro Historico on Honorato Vasquez and Hermano Miguel. It has a nice history to it, great restaurant/cafe, and close to everything with affordable prices. 🙂

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