A Brief Tour Around Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic Capital
City of Contrasts!

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic, the Capital city, is located midway along the southern coast of the island. A City teeming with life.

Santo Domingo is a City of dramatic contrasts. Home to some 2.2 million Dominican's; amongst them the Republic's business elite, many of whom drive the almost obligatory Mercedes. At the other end of the scale Santo Domingo Dominican Republic capital city is also home to a severely impoverished under-class scratching a living amidst the City's pollution and its often almost grid-locked streets

On this page we hope to provide something of a whistle-stop tour of Santo Domingo Dominican Republic, a truly amazing - if 'curate's egg' - of a Caribbean capital city.

Why a 'curate's egg'? Those of you who know the phrase may have guessed already...because many aspects of this bustling city are definitely – 'good in parts' (as the 'polite' curate was supposed to have said when served with a 'bad egg' at breakfast).

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic has the accolade of being 'the oldest city in the New World'. It was here that Christopher Columbus, smitten by the many charms of Hispaniola ( as he christened it)- the Isle he thought "the most beautiful in the World" – eventually made his base. This was after his brother Bartolome - having abandoned La Isabella, their ill-fated first settlement - had created the foundations of today's Capital, in the area now known as the 'Zona Colonial'. The Columbus palace still stands in the midst of this, the oldest part of Santo Domingo, the City this famous family founded and, for many years, 'ruled' over.

A City of 'dubious firsts'!

It was also from Santo Domingo Dominican Republic that the Spanish 'conquistadores' set out to dominate the rest of what has since come to be called the 'West Indies', or Caribbean, as well as most of the Americas. From here these early Europeans invaded the 'New World' generally usurping local natives, by spredaing their diseases, slaughtering, pillaging and enslaving almost all they came into contact with - and in the process vastly enriching the 'Spanish Empire' in the process.

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic also has the 'dubious' claim to being the original home of the Slave trade as it was here that Africans were first 'forcibly imported' and set to work as enslaved labourers on the burgeoning sugar plantations which made Hispaniola such a valuable asset to Spain for so many years.

The History of the Capital of the Dominican Republic may be a 'curate's egg' itself, and the reality of today's Capital may also be judged to be a mixture of the good, the bad.

Plagued though it is by petro-chemical pollution and poverty, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic still has a great deal to interest those visiting this historic Caribbean capital:

Positively historic!

But let's focus on the positive...and there are truly many excellent aspects to this buzzing, thronging place, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic. The old colonial district, for instance, is wonderful, there is no doubt. Its antiquity is almost 'crystallised' as there are still so many well-preserved aspects of the original City of the Columbus' time that survive.

Situated along the west bank of the Rio Ozama, which empties into the Caribbean Sea just here, many of the original, and ancient limestone buildings still watch majestically over the harbour areas. Here in the Zona Colonial, a rich variety of great restaurants, attractive bars, classy small hotels, intriguing shops are all woven in and around the cobbled streets. This atmospheric place is alive with the rhythms for which the Dominican Republic is most famous, the mesmerising 'merengue' along with bawdy 'bachata', and even scintillating Cuban 'son', pumping from the many hot and 'steamy' clubs.

The Zona Colonial also features many historic buildings that may be of interest to visitors:

  • Iglesia Santa Barabara
  • Museo de las Atatrazana
  • Museo Duarte
  • Monasterio San Francisco
  • Casa de la Moneda
  • Casa del Cordon
  • Alcazar de Colon
  • Panteon Nacional
  • Galleria Elin
  • Casas Reales
  • Capilla de los Remedios
  • Hostal Ovando
  • Casa Francia
  • Catedral Santa Maria
  • Casa de Bastidas
  • Fortaleza Ozama
  • Larimar Museum

...amongst the many others that lead you on to the ancient and historic entrance to the old city, 'the Gates of Mercy' – Puerta de la Misericordia.

But not all the 'excellent' aspects of the capital are found solely in the Zona Colonial. Santo Domingo Dominican Republic also hosts some fine museums and galleries within its newer confines:

  • Museo del Hombre Dominican
  • Museo Prehispanico
  • Museo del Arte Moderno
  • Museo de Historia y Geografia
  • Teatro Nacional

...for instance, all speak for themselves, even if your Spanish is limited, and are all are situated in the Plaza de la Cultura in the north of the classy residential area, Gazcue.

It's no wonder that many, visiting the Dominican Republic for the first time, have started their vacation in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic. Indeed a good number have found themselves so enthralled by the charms, and temptations, of this old colonial city they remained here for their whole stay!

And there's more...

Traveling down town, to the southernmost end of the Zona Colonial, and out along the coast road you come to the sea front 'boardwalk' or 'promenade' called (as is typical in seaside resort towns and cities in the DR) el Malecón. This area has even been recognized by the 'Guinness Book of Records' for the length of its palm-fringed avenue of 'merengue-belching' operations earning it the title of 'the Planet's largest Disco'.

Like bees to honey those seeking late night syncopating action are found rhythmically thrashing around until the early hours of the morning, with many a chilled 'Presidente' beer, or 'exotic' cocktail in hand! We THINK that this 'feature' of Santo Domingo deserves to be classed in the 'Good' category, as many of the capital's staunchest revellers enjoy so many hours here...

But as it is 'horses for courses'...other more sedate, or 'high brow', attractions of Santo Domingo Dominican Republic include, for example:

  • The Palacio Nacional – Takes some trouble to get to see as you need to book ahead, but worth the trouble to see inside.

  • The Palacio del Bellas Artes – A beautiful setting for classical and other 'more refined' musical diversions.

  • The National Library – A paramount resource for those devoted to the history of the Dominican Republic.

  • Galeria Bidó – A fine private gallery that focuses on one of the Dominican Republic's foremost artists (Cándido Bidó) as well as featuring excellent exhibitions of other fine local artists.

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic also offers the opportunity for more athletic pursuits (whether watching or partaking) at:

  • The Centro Olímpico – 'officially' for locals, but often used by tourists for swimming and tennis - with no great likelihood of being challenged. Most notable though is perhaps the Beisbol (Baseball!) ground which offers a useful practise arena for future 'super stars' amongst the young Dominicans who regularly play there!

  • Parque Mirador del Sur – Is also good for an invigorating walk, or maybe cycling-off the impact of numerous 'restaurant' visits. But not such an aesthetically pleasing setting since the impact of occasional Hurricanes have taken their toll on the tree count!

  • The Botanical Gardens – A verdant haven, fitting for a pleasant stroll, in a city otherwise much troubled by the overwhelming affects of traffic and road works!

Other sights worth seeing (amongst many others we haven't had time to do justice to, but which would have also rated at least a 'good' on the Santo Domingo attractions list):

  • Los Tres Ojos – 'The three eyes' are an intriguing group of historically notable caves, out beyond the Eastern edge of the City, worth a look when exploring the most ancient aspects of the capital, and for those interested in the ancient native 'Taino' (pre-New World) culture.
  • Lago Subterraneo – Beyond the Parque Mirador this cave lagoon may be of most interest to climbers who wish to tackle the cliffs that face on to it.

Indeed, it is hard to do justice to Santo Domingo Dominican Republic capital city of contrasts - in such a brief 'whistle stop' tour! You too will no doubt find the same problem in trying to take-it-all-in in a single day. So if your Dominican Vacation time and itinerary allow - why not consider staying overnight in this mesmerizing place?

You can check out some accommodation options here:
(Opens in new window - so be sure to allow pop-up)

Santo Domingo Hotels - availability and prices

But we may also have some other places to suggest if these do not quite fulfil your needs - so be sure to CONTACT US if you need more assistance, in finding a perfect place to stay, in the historic Dominican Capital!


More about Santo Domingo...

NOTE: If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out our additional Santo Domingo information page here -- which tell you more about the great city and its history!

You might also want to take a look at out tips for traveling between Santo Domingo and Samana Peninsula

Santo Domingo

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