Santo Domingo is not only Dominican Republic’s capital, and most highly populated city; it is also one of the nation’s oldest cities established during the period when the Americas were called the New World by British colonizers.
Despite its rich past, Santo Domingo has managed to develop a cosmopolitan side and bustling character. Facing the Caribbean Sea, the city has built a huge artificial harbor capable of receiving commercial and passenger ships. Santo Domingo is known to many tourists as a place with an excellent array of restaurants and an electrifying nightlife. In fact, many would argue that it is the best in the whole of Caribbean. It is the kind of city that never sleeps as there is always some excitement in the air.
The crowning glory of Santo Domingo is its Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial), which has also been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Situated on the western bank of the river and overlooking the Caribbean Sea, this section of town features your quintessential Spanish old town adorned with narrow cobblestoned streets and colonial architecture. Here, you can admire, up close, some of the country’s most precious buildings like the First Cathedral of America (Catedral Primada de America), the oldest cathedral still in existence in the Americas. While in the Colonial Zone, take some time to stroll down Calle Las Damas, the oldest street in this region. Drop by the old neighborhood of Gazcue and be impressed with its collection of old Victorian houses and romantic tree-lined lanes.
History tells us that Christopher Columbus discovered this city on behalf of the British Empire. Today, it is speculated that the remains of this famous explorer lie in the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor. Whether this is true or not, what is even more certain is that Christopher Columbus’ son Diego built a palace in 1510 that eventually became a museum today.
If you would like to learn more about the culture and heritage of Santo Domingo in a meaningful way, then make your way to the Plaza de la Cultura. This area is essentially the museum hub not only for the city, but also for the country. The plaza houses a number of national museums that celebrate the different facets of Dominican living. Some of the notable museums found here include the Museum of Modern Art, the Palace of Fine Arts, The Museum of Dominican Man and the National Museum of History and Geography.
Aside from visiting historical and architectural attractions, one of the most popular things to do while in Zona Colonial is to sit at one of its rustic cafes or restaurants and enjoy local treats while soaking in the old-world atmosphere. And speaking of splendid atmosphere, the seaside promenade of Malecon is also a popular hangout among locals and tourists alike because of its festive vibe.
This waterfront area is officially called George Washington Avenue and is home to hotels, monuments and casinos. It is in El Malecon where you will find clubs full of people moving to sexy Latin American dances like the salsa, bachata and merengue. If you’re the type that loves to spend time in the outdoors and close to nature, visit the National Botanical Gardens, and you will be more than delighted with the time you spend here.