A Guide to Cuenca’s Best Neighborhoods

For many reasons, Cuenca, Ecuador earns top billing as one of the world’s top expat destinations.

The cost of living is low—three-course lunches start at $2.50—the weather is great, usually around 65 to 70 F during the day, and it’s never too cold or hot. When we want to travel back to the U.S., it takes us as little as six-and-a-half hours’ flight time to New York (plus you’ll get a major discount on your fare if you are a resident retiree).

We find the health care top-notch and affordable, and there are all the modern amenities you could want…you’ll catch a first-run movie in English and attend free symphony performances, museums, and art exhibits.

But when you first choose to relocate to Cuenca, finding a place to call home can be daunting. It’s a city of half-a-million people. Yes, it’s an excellent and popular retirement destination, but where exactly should you be looking?

Cuenca has many appealing districts, each different from the other. The most famous of these is El Centro. Cuenca’s historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s chock-full of stunning colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants, and art galleries. It’s one of the first districts you will want to visit as a new expat.

The tempting aroma of little bakeries entices you. Just-cut flowers from nearby greenhouses overflow at the market behind the new cathedral. People relax on benches in Parque Calderon, Cuenca’s lovely central square. At night when things quiet down is a great time for a leisurely after-dinner stroll. Beautifully-lit churches and prominent old buildings along the way are truly enchanting. El Centro is where you’ll find the city’s best restaurants and bars. Calle Larga, next to the Tomebamba river, is party central until the wee hours of Thursday and Friday nights. Tiesto’s restaurant on Juan Jaramillo is a must!

Expat Regina Potenza has lived in El Centro, as the downtown area is called, for three years. She rents a rambling apartment for around $300 a month. “I live on a quiet, convenient side street in a safe residential area. Since there are no bus routes here, it’s a relatively traffic-free street as well, especially after dark.”

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