Quito, Ecuador, the national capital and capital of Pichincha province. The city is, after La Paz, the highest capital in the world. Quito stands 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level in a fertile basin in the Andes Mountains, about 115 miles (185 km) east of the Pacific Ocean. Snow-tipped peaks, including the extinct volcano of Pichincha, surround the city. It is about 10 miles (16 km) south of the equator, but the great altitude gives Quito a temperate climate, with abundant rainfall and cool nights and warm days.
Jobs associated with the tourist industry, government, and higher education form the basis of Quito's economy. Manufacturing is also important. Items produced here include footwear, clothing, and pharmaceuticals. Quito has an international airport and is served by rail.
The city is divided into two main sections—the old city and the new city. The old city preserves the atmosphere of the Spanish colonial era. Cobbled streets climb, dip, and wind past arcaded shops. Massive churches and monasteries, built in ornate Spanish baroque style, are decorated with silver, gold, and fine wood carving. The largest church, San Francisco, was built during 1536-95. Nearby are the Municipal Palace and Presidential Palace.
To the north of the old city sprawls the new city. Quito's main shopping district, Amazonas Avenue, is here. Also here are buildings housing Ecuador's legislature and supreme court. Institutions of higher learning in or near the new city include the Central University (founded 1769) and the Pontifical Catholic University (1946).
Quito was created the northern capital of the Inca Empire in 1470. In 1534 it was seized by Sebastián de Belalcázar for Spain, which held it until 1822.