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Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic

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Discover the hundred-year-old city of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in the Dominican Republic and visit the first European settlement in America through the history and culture of the country, and the traditions of its inhabitants.

It was founded by Bartolomé Columbus in 1496 in the east shore of the Ozama River, but later moved to the west side by Nicolás de Ovando due to its destruction by a hurricane  in 1502. Santo Domingo was the first headquarters of the Colonial Spanish government in the New World.

Despite all this, when the Europeans landed on the island, it was already inhabited by other settlers.  Indigenous people had divided the lands of the island into five chiefdoms, capturing their culture on them by means of art and tools, which you’ll be able to contemplate in the numerous museums of the area.

If you are interested in Pre-Columbian history, you’ll enjoy it especially in the permanent and temporary exhibitions of the Dominican Man Museum, National Museum of History and Geography, Hall of Pre-hispanic Art and Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes).

The Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo is also the most modern and dynamic metropolis in the Caribbean. La Capital—as it is affectionately called—epitomizes the pulse of Dominican culture, where the old and the new converge seamlessly from centuries-old architecture and history, to large shopping malls, art galleries, an electric nightlife, and a booming gastronomy scene.

It is currently the 10th most populated city in Latin America and the first one in the Caribbean. It is one of the largest cultural, economical, political, commercial, and industrial centers in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, its city center, known as Ciudad Colonial or Colonial City, was declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1990. In the Trenecito Colonial (Chu Chu Colonial) Little Train you’ll be able to take a walk around the various streets of the city center and contemplate its architectural wealth.

In this same city, you’ll be a witness to the passing of time over different buildings, streets, squares, and parks. Stroll down hundred-year-old streets and contemplate the different Colonial houses and fortifications that keep the charm of previous centuries, both on their facades and inside. Admire the numerous religious temples enduring the hardships of years and weather. Visit small churches like the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, or some more stunning ones like El Templo de las Mercedes Temple. Behold the Primada de América Cathedral and travel to the origins of Christianity in the New World.

The inhabitants of Santo Domingo have many reasons to be proud of their country but, above them, all, stand the struggle for independence. That’s why there are numerous monuments, buildings, parks, and museums in honor of those who fought for it. Visit the Independence Park, with the Count’s Gate and the Altar de la Patria (Altar of the Homeland), or the Plaza de la Misericordia Square, where Independence was proclaimed. Discover how it was forged in the Trinitarios House, or where its main responsibles lived, as in the Casa Duarte Museum. Visit the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance to discover more about that troubled time.

The city of Santo Domingo has thrown itself into both preserving its historic and cultural heritage as well as encouraging both old glories and young stars. Thus, places like the Contemporary Pottery Museum, the Bellapart Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Fine Arts Palace will make you enjoy the wonderful contemporary Dominican art.

Not only will you be able to see buildings and artifacts made by men; but in Santo Domingo, you’ll also contemplate nature in all its splendour. Visit the gorgeous Botanic Garden, the zoo, or the incredible Aquarium, stroll around any of the countless parks of the Dominican capital city. In the East Viewpoint Park, you’ll find the typical vegetation and fauna of the area, as well as Pre-Columbian art in its caves.

You can also have a refreshing bath at any of the beaches near the city. Boca Chica BeachCaribe Beach and Guayacanes Beach are waiting for you with their fine-grained sand and warm tropical waters.

At night, you won’t be able to avoid dancing to the rhythm of Caribbean music, tasting its cuisine, or participating in the traditional festivities that the city offers in many of its events throughout the year.

Santo Domingo is an incredible city made up of history, culture, and tradition that you shouldn’t miss while traveling to the Dominican Republic.

Places you must visit while in Santo Domingo

ALCÁZAR DE COLÓN

One of the most popular museums in the Colonial City is also its most impressive in architecture. Completed around 1512, this Gothic and Renaissance style palace was once the home of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus, and his wife María de Toledo, niece of King Ferdinand of Spain.

With views overlooking Plaza de España on one side, and the Ozama River on the other, it is the oldest vice-regal residence in the Americas, and the first fortified palace turned into a museum showcasing 16th century furniture, art, musical instruments, and weapons. Winding staircases lead towards the couple’s well-preserved bedrooms, and to the lavish crystal chandelier-lit reception hall where events were hosted for the Spanish aristocracy.

Credit: godominicanrepublic.com

CHINA TOWN

One of only two Chinatowns in the Caribbean, completed in 2008, Santo Domingo’s Barrio Chino is located directly north of the Colonial City. Signature Chinese gates mark the start and end of the neighborhood, running principally along Avenida Duarte, and stretching across Mexico, Mella, and Benito González avenues. Sculptures of key Chinese figures dot the streets, from a monk to life-size lions. The city’s most authentic Chinese restaurants are found here, as well as multiple Chinese grocery stores, a street vegetable market every Sunday, and other local shops selling clothing to housewares. The neighborhood’s unique Chinese-Caribbean pulse is worth experiencing.

credit: Godominicanrepublic.com

BOCA CHICA

The city dweller’s beach, Boca Chica is as synonymous with Santo Domingo as any of its principal sights. A forty-minute drive lands you on this beautiful white sand beach town, filled with an authentic Dominican bustle: vendors hawking wares, hotels and restaurants lining the sand, and rows of fry fish shacks selling an authentic lunch of red snapper, tostones, and yaniqueques. Adults enjoy meals and cold beers on the beach to the sound of merengue and bachata, while the children frolic in the shallow, calm turquoise waters that make Boca Chica a family favorite. On the eastern edge of town are a row of swanky beach clubs and restaurants offering a seafront lounge atmosphere.

CATEDRAL PRIMADA DE AMÉRICA

Built between 1510 and 1540, the first cathedral of the Americas—known as Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Encarcación o Anunciación, Primada de América—continues to stand tall in all of its glory over the heart of the Colonial City. The 500-year-old Gothic-style building continues to serve as the most important site for official ceremonies, and religious celebrations. Touring the interior reveals the cathedral’s ornate Gothic ceiling, colonial period oil paintings, sacred chapel rooms, as well as an area with gravestones containing the remains of archbishops. The remains of Christopher Columbus were found here in the 19th century.

CAYACOA GOLF CLUB

Built in 1989 and designed by Jack Corrie, Cayacoa Golf Club is located just 25 minutes northwest of Santo Domingo, yet remains a well-kept golfers’ secret. The 18-hole, par 72 course stretches over a hilly terrain punctuated with small lakes and a handful of terrific par 3s. The course’s higher elevations boast a stunning backdrop of thick vegetation and rolling hills. Although relatively close to Santo Domingo, it offers a peaceful atmosphere where golfers can relax post game at the on-site restaurant and bar, with a terrace overlooking the 18th hole.

Cayacao Golf Club

MALECÓN DE SANTO DOMINGO

The city’s seafront boulevard—officially called George Washington Boulevard—is one of its iconic features, playing a key role in Santo Domingo’s selection as Culture Capital of the Americas in 2010. Lined with the Caribbean Sea on one end, and rows of brand hotels, restaurants, and nightlife on the other, the Malecón comes to life in the afternoon at sunset, and continuing into the night. Residents stroll its length, past two historic obelisk-shaped monuments, for an evening breeze, jogging, and biking, or just to enjoy one of the seafront recreational parks such as Plaza Juan Barón and Güibia. Renovated in 2017, the Malecón is livelier than ever, with marked biking and rollerblade lanes, as well as more esplanades and relaxation seating along the sea.

Santo Domingo Catalonia Hotel and Malecon

FORTALEZA OZAMA

Built by the Spanish in the early 16th century, the Ozama Fortress is the first permanent military structure in the Americas, marking the beginning of Spanish colonization. Set at the back of sprawling, walled grounds, the fortress was built to resemble a medieval castle and is marked by a 69-feet tall central tower. The tower’s winding, spiral staircase leads to a lookout platform with impressive views over the Ozama River, and Santo Domingo’s port. Also visible are the original cannons facing the river to protect the city’s entrance from pirates and invaders. Construction of the fortress lasted from 1502 to 1508, led by then-Santo Domingo governor Fray Nicolás de Ovando. Admire the fort’s original coral stone material and medieval appearance, but also explore its interior tunnels and dungeons where prisoners, including Christopher Columbus, were once held captive.

FARO A COLÓN

Built-in the shape of a cross, the Columbus Lighthouse stands over the eastern end of Santo Domingo. The remains of Christopher Columbus were located at this site, which doubles as a mausoleum and museum. The lighthouse was designed by Scottish architect Joseph Gleave, and built during the government of President Joaquín Balaguer as a way to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival on the island. Various chambers display indigenous artifacts from around the Americas

 

Highest Rated Hotels for your stay in Santo Domingo

InterContinental Real Santo Domingo

Real InterContinental Santo Domingo is located in downtown Santo Domingo, in the Piantini district, opposite the Acropolis Center. The Blue Mall is 700 meters away. The hotel offers an infinity pool on the 3rd floor.

All rooms have streaming speed internet, soundproof windows, perfect blackout curtains, 300 gauge Egyptian cotton sheets, an alarm clock with a mobile docking station, and other features for your convenience.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL ON BOOKING.COM

JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo

The elegant JW Marriott Santo Domingo features a concierge desk, gift shop, currency exchange service, an indoor pool, and a restaurant. This smoke-free hotel also offers free WiFi.

All rooms and suites are elegantly furnished and have spacious bathrooms, some with a bathtub. They include cable and satellite TV, air conditioning and a sofa.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL ON BOOKING.COM

Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo

Just in front of the Silver Sun Gallery, Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo is located 750 meters from La Arboleda Park and offers free WiFi access in public areas, a swimming pool and an on-site restaurant.

The air-conditioned rooms at Embassy Suites by Hilton feature a flat-screen TV, a seating area and a fully equipped kitchenette including a microwave and a refrigerator. The private bathrooms in each room include a shower, a hairdryer, and free toiletries.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL TO ON BOOKING.COM

El Hotel Villa Colonial

Hotel Villa Colonial is located in the heart of Santo Domingo’s old town and offers an outdoor swimming pool, tropical gardens and a charming terrace. The air-conditioned rooms have cable TV.

The functionally furnished rooms at Hotel Villa Colonial have a fan, safe and small fridge. There is a private bathroom with a hairdryer and free toiletries.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL ON BOOKING.COM

 El Beaterio Casa Museo

This property is housed in a converted 16th-century monastery in Santo Domingo’s historic colonial zone, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers a terrace with panoramic city views, a private courtyard, and free WiFi.

The elegant, air-conditioned rooms at El Beaterio feature cast iron furniture and exposed wooden beams. They also have a view of the courtyard, cable TV and a safe. A hairdryer is provided in the private bathroom with a bath or shower.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HOTEL ON BOOKING.COM

I hope this Blog about Santo Domingo has been helpful and informative to you if you have any questions leave them down in the comments at the end of this blog.

Check out these links below to other amazing blogs all from the Dominican Republic beautiful wonders:

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  1. Milly says:

    Santo Domingo is home of the most important historical facts in America ??? great blog

    1. Serafin Fleischer replied:

      Thank you and yes! I will be writing on that too!