Plaza San Francisco, Cuenca


Visitied Cuenca’s historic district and Mirador de Turi.

Time of Visit:  April 2024

Duration of Visit:  Three nights


One of the many old buildings in Cuenca’s historic district
Iglesia de San Alfonso

Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador.  It is located in the southern one third of the country at an elevation of roughly 2,530 m (8,300 feet).  The city is surrounded by verdant mountains as it is in the flanks of the Andes mountains.  The city has a rich culture as exhibited by the buildings in its historic district and people wearing traditional Andean attire.

What to See

Historic District

Mercado 10 de Agosto and Mercado 9 de Octubre

Colorful fruits and vegetables sold inside the Mercado 10 de Agosto
One of several “hornado” stalls serving roasted pig in Mercado 10 de Agosto

We began our explorations by visiting the Mercado 10 de Agosto.  The mercado is located at the historic district’s southwest corner. It is a two story building where you can find fruits, vegetables, meat, grains and clothing being sold.  In the second level there is a food court where there are many stalls that sell traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, batidos (fruit or vegetable shakes) and cholesterol rich – artery clogging roasted pig (hornados).  There are also a couple of nearby bakeries that sell tasty snacks and bread.

Mercado 9 de Octubre is similar to Mercado 10 de Agosto except it is located at the historic district’s northeast corner.

Plaza San Francisco

This is a small plaza not far from Mercado 10 de Agosto.  Around the plaza are several shops that sell souvenirs, clothing, bags and much more. Perhaps the draw of this plaza is the Cuenca sign with the cathedral blue domes in the background (see first photo above).

Plaza de las Flores

Plaza de las Flores

There is a small flower market with several stalls by the Cathedral Metropolitana Inmaculada Concepcion.  They sell anywhere from lilies, to roses and sunflower and anything in between.

Cathedral Metropolitana Inmaculada Concepcion

Cathedral exterior
Cathedral interior. The cathedral’s construction is just mind boggling with its arches supported by bus sized pillars.

This cathedral is situated in the middle of the historic district.  The catheral is distinguished by its three blue domes.  The cathedral is open to visitors except when there is an on-going service.  For a small fee, you can climb to the cathedral’s upper levels to have a bird’s eye view of the city.

Calderon Park

Calderon Park

Calderon Park is just in front of the cathedral.  It has shade trees and several benches.  It is a perfect place to sit and take a break from all the walking.  Might as well enjoy your favorite food and/or drink white you are sitting and people watching.

Mirador de Turi

Mirador de Turi
Iglesia Catolica Nuestra Señra de La Merced de Turi

Mirador de Turi is a viewpoint located at the city’s south side.  It offers a nice view of Cuenca.  The view reminds us of Michaelangelo Park in Florence, Italy.

There are shops and restaurants at the mirador.  There is also a small adventure park if the viewpoint is not exciting enough for you.

How to Get to Cuenca

We came from Banos to Cuenca by riding the Amazonia bus.  The bus left Banos at 8:45 AM and arrived in Cuenca bus terminal (near the airport) around 4:30 PM.  The bus did not have an on-board toilet but the driver said to just let him know if we needed to heed the call of nature.  The bus stopped at the small town of Chunchi for a short lunch break.  Bus fare was $11.50 at the time.

Cuenca does have a small airport to allow visitors to fly in or out. 

How to Get Around Cuenca

Cuenca public bus (this one goes to Mirador de Turi)
You need this reloadable card to ride the public transportation

There are primarily three ways of getting around Cuenca.  These are tram, buses and taxis.  There is only one tram line for the entire city.  You would need a reloadable Movilizate card to use the tram as there is no means to pay by cash.  The Movilizate card can be purchased at a few locations throughout the city.  We bought ours at the ETAPA office in the historic district, at the corner of C. Gran Colombia and Tarqui streets.  There is also a counter at the bus terminal (it closes at 4:30 PM).

Using Cuenca’s bus system can be frustrating for first time users, especially if you just rely on GoogleMaps and did not install the Moovit app.  There are a lot of bus lines that ply Cuenca’s streets.  If you look at GoogleMaps, you will see the streets littered with bus stops signs.  However, not all of them are accurate, meaning there are no bus stops where one is indicated on the map.  To be sure if a bus stops at a location, make sure there is a physical bus stop sign.  

But a bus stop sign does not guarantee that the bus you need to get on will stop there.  GoogleMaps shows which bus line will stop if you click on the bus stop icon.  But again, it may or may not be accurate.  As an example, we waited for the L11 bus to go to Mirador de Turi.  But the bus did not have the bus number (meaning the L11 sign).  It only had a Turi sign which could be confusing for people who are not familiar with the route because there is a community named Turi about 30 minutes south of Cuenca.  You need the Movilizate card to ride the bus.  Ride cost is $0.30.  The driver does not accept cash payments.

Finally, there are a lot of yellow taxis in Cuenca.  It is a very convenient way to get around and not expensive.  It costs us $3.15 to get from the bus terminal at the city’s north side to Mall del Rio at the city’s south side.  Ride time was about 15 minutes.  So our advice is just use the taxi if you are just visiting Cuenca for a day or two.


Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city sitting at roughly 2,530 m (8,300 ft) above sea level. We loved walking around the city’s historic district that has many Spanish colonial buildings. Mercado 10 de Agosto should not be missed if you like to see stalls of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables. There are also a number of food stalls to satisfy your hunger.

Not far from Mercado 10 de Agosto is the Plaza San Francisco that has many artisan shops. Plaza de las Flores is by the Cathedral Metropolitana Inmaculada Concepcion which has the three prominent blue domes. And if you get tired of walking the historic district, sit on one of the benches at Calderon Park.

Perhaps the must not miss place in Cuenca is the Mirador de Turi. It offers a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains.