Freebies: One of the nice things about Cuenca is there are many free events or places to visit at no cost. By popping into most restaurants or hotels you can discover a little booklet that tells you what is going on that month in the city.

At Plaza de San Sebastian which is a very pleasant square in itself there is the Museo de Arte Moderno which houses contemporary art and peaceful green spaces. Along the square there is also an Italian restaurant known for it’s homemade pasta ($$$) and nice cafés, and its namesake church.

Museo de Arte Moderno

Banco Central on Calle Larga is another great museum to visit. But on Saturdays the “archaeological park” in the back Pumpapungo is free. It is a lovely and diverse garden with tropical birds, llamas and Inca and Cañar ruins.

Archaeological park view
Archaeological park view

Mirador de Turi is Cuenca’s high point and can be found easily enough by walking south down Avenida Solano. It is quite the hike up but there is a path and stairs. You are basically making a straight line up with a few jogs here and there. Great views of Cuenca, church at the top.

Barranco or the Panama hat museum on Calle Large is a fun museum where you can see how the famous Panama hats are made and try a few on. If you walk up the stairs at the back you’ll get a peek at the river before going through a café and then back to the museum.

Me in a Panama hat!
Me in a Panama hat!

You can also walk around the city and enjoy the many churches. They aren’t always open though. But when they are you feel blessed to have caught them between closed doors.

As a UNESCO site, Cuenca is constantly under construction but don’t let this prevent you from exploring the city on foot. I think one of the joys of this city is catching a glimpse of the stunning courtyards that lie beyond seemingly plain doors, admiring the vintage automobiles chugging around the town, and the colonial architecture and details.

The Rio Tomebamba is another free option to enjoy. It is beautiful to walk along and visiting the various outdoor markets are other good options too. I think the 9 de Octoubre is the best to shop at. Although sitting with an ice cream from Tutto Freddos in Parque Calderon people watching is an excellent pastime too.

And although this is not entirely free either, at Parque de la Madre around 7:30am you can join in the aerobics class for 35 cents.

What else did I miss??? I’m sure I’ve missed something!

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