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The oldest part of Quito was founded in 1534 by Spanish explorer Sebastián de Benalcázar on the site of the ancient town of Shyris. The original colonial town was delineated by its four most important monasteries: San Francisco, La Merced, San Agustín, and Santo Domingo. Today informal markets and street vendors still crowd the cobbled routes that run between those ancient monuments,
while the interiors of the churches and monasteries are quiet, timeless refuges.