“Cuenca doesn’t look like a sixteenth-century city that has been preserved; it looks like a city that has been in use since the sixteenth century” Calvin Trillin

There are so many things I love about Cuenca, but my absolute favorite thing is the architecture. On December 1, 1999 the Historic Center of Cuenca was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in recognition of the historical, cultural and architectural merits of the city.

Cuenca’s architecture is a combination of pre-Colombian, Cañari, and Incan archeological sites; as well as buildings from the Spanish Colonial and Republican eras. It is ancient and historic, indigenous, Spanish, French, European, earthen, adobe, pastoral, authentic, artistic, spirit-filled, elegant, and also humble.

The photos are all mine, unless otherwise noted. The old historical photos come from various sources. The historical facts are coming from the City of Cuenca, so I am assuming the history is correct. I am doing this only for the fun and love of it. I believe when you love something you want to learn as much as you can about it.
I hope some of you will enjoy following along on this tour of Cuenca architecture.
Jane Hiltbrand
August 5, 2019

Quinta Guadalupe

Avenida Loja y Calle Alfonso Borrero This french style building was designed as a holiday home for Juan Manuel Vintimilla. It was built in the early 20th century, around 1920. The estate was much larger, had crops, and was not considered to be in the city – it was a country home. Beautiful wrought-iron railings…

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Los Molinos del Batan (Le Moulin Restaurante)

Los Molinos del Batan was originally a flour mill operated using the waters of the Tomebamba river to turn the grinding wheels for making wheat and rye into flour. Now operating as Le Moulin Restaurant, the restaurant contains two original flour mills. Beneath the restaurant and connected to the hoppers above in the main dining…

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Calle Mariano Cueva

This colorful Cuenca street runs from the north on Ave de las Americas, south to Calle Larga. It was named after a Vice President of Ecuador, Mariano Cueva Vallejo. This mural was painted by the very talented Felipe Urgiles.You can see the tower of Todos Santos Church on Calle Larga to the right in this…

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Mauricio’s Bookstore

I had walked by this building many times but never ventured in. Looking up from the street, the top floor almost looked abandoned to me, but I should have known better. Sr. Mauricio will greet you at the top of the aged staircase, and he will be delighted to help you find any book you…

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Seven Churches on Outskirts of Cuenca

It is a tradition in Cuenca to visit seven churches on Good Friday. I have already posted on this blog about many of the better known churches. (Please see the new Table of Contents) We decided to visit seven churches on the outskirts of Cuenca for this Viernes Santo. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Baños.…

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Casa de Laura

On a hillside outside of Nabon, overlooking the León Valley, is an enchanting place that is beyond fairy tale dreams come true! It is the magical home of Maria Graciela Vintimilla called “China” by her friends. The house is named after her mother Laura. It is about a 90 minute drive from Cuenca. China is…

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Quingeo

The small village of Quingeo is about a 50 minute drive southeast of Cuenca, and is full of colorful adobe homes. I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico so when I see old adobe homes like this it makes my heart very happy! Sra. Maria, la esposa de don Guanoquiza Here you can see the…

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CASA SAN JOSÉ (a restoration in progress)

I was so honored to be invited by the Teodoro Montero family to view their family home which is currently in the process of being renovated; and to attend a lovely event in the home, featuring Teodoro’s book, an autobiography of his life. The home is being renovated by Felipe Urgiles, who is the same…

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ITZA Hotel

It’s no secret that I am crazy in love with Cuenca’s gorgeous Spanish Colonial, French, Republic Era, and adobe Architecture. But Cuenca does modern style renovation really well too! This hotel in El Centro just recently opened. The hotel is at the corner of Gran Colombia and Benigno Malo. It is the old building of…

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The GM Palace

This spectacular Cuenca Patrimonial home was built in 1890 by the Cuencano poet Ernesto Lopez Diez, inspired by a trip he took to France, and designed in the french style of the early 1900’s.   Ernest Moscoso (Gustavo Moscoso’s father) bought the house in 1995, intending to restore it.  After his father’s death, when Gustavo was…

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A Hidden Hacienda in Cuenca

Recovecos de Cuenca, hidden surprises of Cuenca. I was very honored to be invited into this 225 year old private home in Cuenca, previously a hacienda, with large land holdings. It is now in a very urban part of Cuenca, which used to be considered the countryside. Walking or driving by now, you might not…

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Iglesia San Roque and San Roque Neighborhood

San Roque is a very traditional neighborhood of Cuenca. The first church was built by the priest Fernando Avendaño, between the years 1875 and 1880. A subsequent church was built in 1927 using the foundations and walls of the 1875 church. San Roque was named after the Holy pilgrim who dedicated his life to prayer…

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CIDAP – CENTRO INTERAMERICANO DE ARTES POPULARES

Former Doctor Gonzalo Cordero Crespo House This beautiful building was constructed between 1945 and 1952. Gonzalo Cordero Crespo was a prominent politician.  CIDAP was created in 1975, through an agreement between Ecuador and the Organization of American States OAS, which is dedicated to the promotion of Artisan craftsmanship and popular culture. In 1977 CIDAP rented…

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Escuela de Medicina/Museum of the University of Cuenca

The former School of Medicine of the University of Cuenca was built on this particular plot in 1916 because it was adjacent to the old St Vincent of Paul Hospital, therefore enabling students to obtain practice as well as theoretical training. The main entrance has an exquisite wrought-iron semicircular gate.  The whole building is slightly…

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Cuenca en La Noche

Cuenca is gorgeous all the time. But it is even more enchanting at night. “Cuenca doesn’t look like a sixteenth-century city that has been preserved; it looks like a city that has been in use since the sixteenth century.” Calvin Trillin

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Museo de Medicina

Formerly the St Vincent of Paul Church and Hospital. 12 de April and Solano Avenue. For over seven decades, these buildings accommodated the St Vincent of Paul Hospital, the city’s first health institution run by Social Welfare. It is accessed via a long exterior corridor that generates a slow approach, providing users with the time…

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Iglesia de la Merced

The Mercedarian Monastery in Cuenca was founded on 12 May 1712. Its first commander was Father Pablo de Santo Tomás, who initiated construction of the church and monastery. The latter was allocated to the Oblate Fathers, whose order was founded in the city of Cuenca by Father Padre Julio María Matovelle, the designer and builder…

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Gobernacion del Azuay

At the corner of Calle Simón Bolívar and Calle Luis Cordero, overlooking Parque Calderón , sits the Gobernacion del Azuay, the government center of Azuay Province.  There is an elegant staircase to the second floor, with a large tile mural as the backdrop. On the wall facing you as you enter is a large format wall…

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Calle las Herrerías

The Las Herrerías neighborhood is one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Cuenca.  In the past this area was on the edge between the city and rural areas.  Workers came to this area with their horses loaded with products to sell in Cuenca.  The horses were tied to posts, while their owners went to sell their products…

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