Cuenca, Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos

A fascinating history filled with mestizo, indigenous and european symbols and elements

Founded in 1557 by the Spanish conqueror Gil Ramirez Davalos, Cuenca became from its first years one of the most exquisite fusions of Indigenous and European cultures, an eloquent and artistically beautiful example of ethnical and cultural mix.

Founded in 1557 by the Spanish conqueror Gil Ramirez Davalos, Cuenca became from its first years one of the most exquisite fusions of Indigenous and European cultures, an eloquent and artistically beautiful example of ethnical and cultural mix.

The city’s Historic Center is packed with colonial elements such as the wood-carved and iron balconies, the cobble-stones and an architectonic style with European and particularly Spanish influence, without excluding curious and fascinating indigenous details.

A special mention is due to the numerous churches and temples of Cuenca, a symbol of the Spanish religiousness, transplanted to these remote lands. Nowadays, Cuenca continues to be one of the most religious, mainly catholic, cities in Ecuador.  While tradition usually speaks of seven temples, this is a mention that only refers to those seven that are within the obligatory pilgrimage of the faithful during the Holy Thursday rites. Currently there are more than 50 churches throughout the urban areas of the city and it is a popular saying that “in Cuenca there is one church for every week of the year”. 

Most of the churches in Cuenca have more than 100 years of existing. Yet, the one that bears the unquestionable title of the oldest church in the city is “El Sagrario”, presently known as the “Old Cathedral”, which was built in 1557, the same year that the city was founded and christened with the name of “Santa Ana de los Cuatro Rios de Cuenca”, in reference to the four waterways that cross or surround the city. This historic Catholic temple which now serves as a Religious Art Museum, was elevated to the category of Cathedral in 1787, when the Bishopric of Cuenca was officially created. Part of its rich history also refers to the presence in the temple of the French Geodesic Mission that, in the 1700’s, explored most of Ecuador on their scientific mission to determine the earth’s shape and geodesic data.

Thus, Cuenca actually has two Cathedrals, the Old one (today a Museum of Religious Art) and the New Cathedral, one of the most stunning and monumental religious edifications in all of Ecuador and perhaps in Latin America, with rich details in fine marble and gold leaf. The New Cathedral is undoubtedly the most iconic symbol of Cuenca in present days. The two oldest temples in Cuenca, after the Old Cathedral, are the Monasteries of La Concepción, better known as “Las Conceptas” and “El Carmen de la Asunción”, which were built few decades after the city’s Spanish foundation. 

As in most colonial cities, interesting buildings surround the Main Square, presently known as “Parque Calderon”, in honor of a young Cuenca-born hero of Ecuador’s Independence from Spain, whose statue stands in the very center of the Square. Among the main buildings around the Plaza are the Bishopric, the Court of Justice and the Municipal Palace. However, the two constructions that dominate the perimeter are definitely the Old Cathedral, situated on the south-eastern corner of the Square, as well as the New Cathedral, officially called “Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion” which occupies the entire south-western half of the Plaza.

Cuenca’s Historic Centre includes colorful markets such as the traditional and lively Flowers Market tucked on one side of the New Cathedral. There are numerous popular markets where one can find from the most varied and delightful handicrafts to delicious typical fare from the city and the region. Among the most traditional neighborhoods stands the one of the Blacksmiths, where artists, rather than artisans, hand-create the most amazing forged ironworks; there is also the Todos los Santos neighborhood, known as the neighborhood of the Bakeries, with its delighting and ever-present aroma of freshly baked breads. El Vado and other picturesque neighborhoods will certainly charm all visitors. 

In the surroundings of Cuenca there are exceptional touristic attractions of varied types such as El Cajas National Park, just 30 minutes west of the city, a complex of more than 230 lakes and lagoons of ancient glaciation origins amidst spectacular landscapes of high Andean mountains. Also, at short distances away from Cuenca, you can reach the imposing Inca Ruins of Ingapirca or the lovely villages and handicraft centers of Gualaceo, Chordeleg and Paute, nestled in beautiful Andean valleys and bucolic rural settings. Hence, Cuenca not only enchants with its unique architecture, religious art and finest handicrafts, but also with the perfect complement of natural reserves, Andean landscapes and historic and archeological treasures, ready to be visited and enjoyed.


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Cuenca: my destination

Cuenca is the destination that awaits you.


Bolivar Street 12-55 and Tarqui.
Cuenca, Ecuador.

(+ 593) 7 282-3918 / 282-3889




© Mansión Alcázar Boutique Hotel, 2019