The French Route of Cuenca is a three hour walking tour of the historic center of Cuenca in southern Ecuador which explores the French influence visible in local architecture, while telling the history of Cuenca from a different perspective. For an extra fee, we can arrange a theatrical performance of a local legend related to the French connection in Cuenca.
This tour includes
· A bilingual (English/Spanish) guide
This tour does not includes
· Travel insurance
· Any other service not mentioned herein
||Price (per person)
Geodesic French Mission
This scientific expedition arranged by the Science Academy of Paris arrived to Cuenca in 1739 set with the task of measuring the meridian and establishing the exact shape of the Earth.
Plaza San Sebastián
Miguel Leon Square is better known as San Sebastian. San Sebastian Church is one of two Indian Parishes in the city, churches where indigenous people traditionally gathered for their religious services.
Calle de la Condamine
La Condamine Street was named in honor to Carlos Maria de la Condamine, an illustrious scientist who was a member of the First Geodesic French Mission. History tells us that he lived on this street when he stayed in Cuenca. La Condamine is located in the El Vado neighborhood, an area which evokes remnants of a more splendid era when it was center to traditional crafts and a meeting point for poets and musicians. The houses were built following the Republican style, and there is still a traditional hat repair shop and a barber’s.
Casa de la Bienal
This is the head office for the Contemporary Art Biennial in Cuenca. It’s probably one of the best examples of French influence in architecture and decor from the beginning of the 20th Century in Cuenca. The house was first purchased by José Antonio Alvarado in 1907. The design was arranged by the original owner who was one of the first importers of decorative materials for homes in the city. The house is a kind of showroom with mural paintings, wall paper and multicolor tin sheets. The building transports visitors to a time when owners attempted to recreate a refined European atmosphere. This is the only building you’ll enter during the tour.
Built in 1929 in a Neoclassical style, Clinica Bolivar was once the home of Manuel Felipe Ullauri Romero. The decor is inspired in the Renaissance periods of Louie XIV and Louie XV, such as the floral elements on the windows. Ullauri spared no expense to beautify his home, importing multicolor tin sheets from France to decorate the main living room and dire vases to crown the terrace. The building was sold on his death in 1932 and turned into a pension. In 1982 the Bolivar Clinic Foundation purchased the building to convert it into a hospital.
Casa del Coco
This house is a fabulous example of the fusion between colonial and French decor, including an internal patio, back patio, back garden and doors and windows made from plaster, lime and brick. The main room is richly decorated with tin sheets imported from France, while the facade was decorated with friezes, columns and frames lending the building an elegant republican style. The house was built in 1890 for Florencia Astudillo Valdivieso, the wealthiest woman in Cuenca at the time, known for listening to mass comfortably from her home (the reason for the oratory on the second floor). After her death the house changed hands before being purchased in the 1970s by Ernesto Moscoso who then converted it into the Casa del Coco (his nickname) which is a commercial establishment.
Dirección de Educación
The provincial headquarters of Education on Simón Bolivar are located in this neoclassical building from the 1930s. Corinthian columns and wrought iron balconies add a special touch to the doors and windows framed with half point arches. There are also decorative elements around the portholes of the facade.
This home was originally owned by the Malo Tamariz family before being purchased by Dr. Benjamin Sojos in 1907. In 1910 he created a new facade using cement imported from France, visible today in the Corinthian columns and turrets. In 1912 new materials such as doors and windows were purchased from France, but due to World War 1, only one door arrived. For this reason Benjamin Sojos used local wood for the doors. The original pharmacy of Dr. Sojos still exists today on the first floor. Here you can purchase soda beverages, essential oils, sulfur lotions and more.
Seminario San Luis
The history of the San Luis Seminary goes back to the beginning of the 19th century when the first Conciliar Seminary was founded in 1813. It was the only higher education institution in southern Ecuador at the time, offering lessons in Theology, Law and Medicine. Funding for the school came from a tax charged on cacao imports. The building was recently restored by the Archdioceses of Cuenca for use as their Pastoral office. Inside there are magnificent patios with an impressive view of the Cathedral domes.
Casa de la familia Jerves Calero
This home was built in 1917 for Jose Calero. It is one of the most valuable testimonies of a time of great economic wealth in Cuenca, when exports of husk and straw hats were at a high. Calero was owner of large agricultural properties down on the coast. The house still preserves some of the elegant decor of the time, such as embossed tin ceiling imported from France and fine carved wood covered in gold leaf on the windows. The current owners describe a time when there were many objects imported from France such as crystal lamps, marble tables and rock crystal mirrors, all a backdrop to many parties for Cuenca society. Today it is the location of Cuenca’s Tourism Board.
Parque Calderón is the main location of most social, political and religious events in Cuenca, and it is surrounded by public buildings such as the Municipality, Governor’s office, Old Cathedral, New Cathedral and Provincial Court of Justice. There are several elegant houses around the park representative of an architectural style influenced by France at the beginning of the 20th century.
The construction of the Old Cathedral (El Sagrario) started little after the foundation of Cuenca in 1557. It had become a cathedral with a bishop by the end of the 18th century. It has been remodeled several times but has maintained its colonial structure. It is now used as the Old Cathedral Museum and contains several works of art. The First Geodesic French Mission which arrived in Cuenca in 1739 used the south tower (destroyed at the end of the 19th century) as a base point for the work of geometrical triangulation between Tarqui and Cuenca. A marble plaque commemorates this event with the words “Tower more famous than the Egyptian Pyramids” written in 1804 by the Colombian scientist Francisco Jose de Caldas. This point is said to have been a meridian and parallel cross. This is why many believe that the use of the meter as a measuring unit was developed in Cuenca.
Corte de Justicia
This neoclassical-style building was built in 1929 as the first University of Cuenca. Its architect Francisco Espinoza Acevedo followed a French classic style, with walls covered in marble bought close to the city and polished in the Tomebamba River mills. In the interior, the ceiling is made from multicolor tin sheets imported from France. The University used the building until the 1960s when the Superior Court of Justice moved in. It is currently the Provincial Court of Justice.
Iglesia de San Alfonso
In 1870 the Redemptorist missionaries arrived in Cuenca and were given a piece of land where the church and monastery of San Agustin were estabilished. They removed the old building and a new temple was built and called San Alfonso. A young Redemptorist brother was hired, Juan Bautista Stiehle, who designed the new building. It was built in a neo gothic-style and included 92 stained glass windows imported from France at the end of the 19th century created by French artist Henry Louis Vistor Gesta. There are several French elements inside, including the tubular organ, the Via Crucis paintings and a sculpture of La Piedad.
Alcaldía de Cuenca
The office of the Mayor of Cuenca, on Bolivar and Borrero, was built between 1922 and 1926. A neo classic mansion that originally housed the Banco de Azuay, it is considered the best example of French architecture in Cuenca. The architect Luis Felipe Donoso Barba managed to communicate economic power in his design. The building currently houses the office for the Mayor and there is an art gallery on the first floor.