Cuenca is a very attractive colonial city that is well worth a visit while in Ecuador. It has a population around 400,000 with many expats from the US who have retired there. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Just walk and look up as you see beautiful colonial balconies and architectural details. There are beautiful squares and an abundance of churches. Though not as ornate as those in Quito, they are worth visiting as you walk the streets of the old town.
Make sure to add these to your list:
Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno (the Municipal Museum of Modern Art): At 1527 Calle Sucre, this a a small contemporary museum that is located in a former colonial building that has several galleries and a lovely courtyard. Hopefully you will catch the Cuenca Bienal which featured video installations as well as some very good abstract paintings from artists from South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. There are also temporary exhibitions that change monthly.
Flower Market: This is a picturesque flower market across from the Catedral Nueva.
Eduardo Vega, workshop and gallery: After visiting the scenic overlook just above the gallery stop in to see his contemporary ceramics. His tiles, dinnerware and other pieces are very attractive and are beautifully made. Villa Turi 201
El Bado neighborhood: This is an area along the river that is beginning to be gentrified. There are a number of renovated buildings and some small cafes and restaurants that have been opened by expats like Buen Cafe at Calle Condomine y Juan Montalvo.
San Francisco Church, San Sebastian Church and the Catedral Nueva are worth the visit. The Cathedral has some nice side altars.
Mercado 10 de Agosto: This is a wonderful market to explore, where you can see wonderful local fruits like the yellow naranjillo and vegetables, indigenous women selling and preparing food and many locals shopping and eating.
Central Bank Museum/Museo del Banco Central: Before touring the museum, make sure to explore the Inca ruins and terraces in the rear of the property and then go the the small zoo at the bottom of the hill, where you will see some amazing, colorful parrots, macaws and toucans.
The museum features some very nice displays on the Inca culture with some nice ceramic pieces as well as exhibitions on some of the other indigenous cultures of Ecuador on the second floor. I also enjoyed a temporary exhibition of ceremonial masks!
La Casa de las Palomas: Located in Cuenca at Calle Bernigno Malo 6-40, this is an old colonial building that has beautiful wall murals in the interior courtyard. Make sure to poke your head in for a picture.