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Santo Domingo

  • Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and considering the average size of the cities in the country, it sprawls across the Ozama River stretching for 40 sqm. A frenetic city where poverty rubs with incredible fortunes, like in most big cities, Santo Domingo isn't anything to write home about. However, one area that all the guide books will recommend seeing - and needless to say we ...
    © Edan / 123RF
  • This majestic fortified port is what's left of the former colonial fortifications, standing at the far end of the pedestrian street Calle del Conde.
    © Edan / 123RF
  • At the heart of a cosmopolitan district, this market hall displays an impressive variety of Dominican handicraft:
    © Edan / 123RF
  • With its golden-tinted coral limestone façade, Santa María la Menor was the first cathedral to be built in the New World.
    © Edan / 123RF
  • Especially well-restored, the New World's first street owes its name to the women of the courtyard who used to walk up and down it.
    © Edan / 123RF
  • From here, Cortez, Pizzarro, Balboa and Velazquez planned their conquest of, in order, Mexico, Peru, Panama, and Cuba.
    © Edan / 123RF
  • It is a rather ugly-looking giant cross-shaped cement building measuring 310m long, 44m wide, and 33m tall!
    © Edan / 123RF
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and considering the average size of the cities in the country, it sprawls across the Ozama River stretching for 40 sqm. A frenetic city where poverty rubs with incredible fortunes, like in most big cities, Santo Domingo isn't anything to write home about. However, one area that all the guide books will recommend seeing - and needless to say we agree with this one - is the Zona Colonial. Originally founded by Bartholemew Columbus, Christopher Columbus's younger brother, in 1496, a few years after the Spanish invasion, the Zona Colonial is significant in that it was the first European city - often referred to as the 'New World' - in the Americas. In fact, Calle Las Damas was the first street of this developing world to come. The street remains as it originally was when it was built about five centuries ago. This is the beating heart of the neighbourhood; it is also here that you will find the city's best hotel, Nicolas de Ovando (MGallery by Accor; see the hotel review). The area has been part of the UNESCO heritage list since 1990.

The city is built in the shape of a grid, like Manhattan or greater Barcelona, meaning that it's quite easy to find your way around. The streets are lined by, for the most-part, dilapidated 16th-century houses and buildings, which makes up the area's irresistible charm. There are otherwise a few boutiques, bars and restaurants, although nothing much to hold you back for more than a couple of days. A restaurant we recommend highly for a taste of local cuisine is the Meson d'Bari. In terms of things to see and do, the Natural History Museum is a great place to understand the country's history up to its contemporary culture.

Santo Domingo: what to do?

The hotels all offer high quality well-being services, with a wide range of spas in beautiful settings, as well as wide range of sports activities such as tennis, cycling and horse riding. The water sports (diving, water skiing, sailing, etc) are not to be missed! Fans of golf will also find beautiful golf courses.

The colonial zone gathers the oldest and most remarkable structures in the country, some as much as five centuries old and therefore the first of America. Three main roads gather the main attractions of this district, including the famous Calle de las Damas, the first street in the New World.

  • The history behind the city.
  • The energy of the city.
  • Lack of dreamy beaches despite being built right on the coast.
  • The traffic can be a real nightmare.

Santo Domingo: what to visit?

Reminders

A suitcase for the summer: light clothing cotton, open shoes, shorts, shirts, T-shirts, without forgetting the bathing suit, as well as warm clothes and walking shoes for getaways in the mountains. A lightweight raincoat is useful during the rainy season (from May to July).

To avoid

Definitely avoid travelling at night in Santo Domingo, travel during rush hours and in busy places. Likewise, avoid travelling alone, especially if you are a woman. The 'Mirador Sur' park in Santo Domingo is a popular place for sports but many delinquents hang around here. Attacks are unfortunately quite common and you should preferably go there in a group. Finally, it is strongly discouraged to use the 'car publico', several attacks on foreign nationals have been reported, go for major taxi companies, and book your taxi by phone.

Santo Domingo: what to eat?

Rich and spicy, Dominican cuisine is the result of Creole, European and African influences. Starch foods (rice, sweet potatoes and plantain), fish and shell fish as well as tropical fruits are the key foods. The stews (mondogo, sancocho) are common, with goat meat or fish cooked in coconut milk being prime examples.

Santo Domingo: what to buy?

Jewellery made from amber (brown solidified resin), larimar (blue stone), leather items, baskets, naive paintings, a legacy of Indian Taïnos, CDs of merengue and bachata, cigars, liquid vanilla, jam, rum and coffee are the main souvenirs that you can bring home. They can be found everywhere on beaches and especially in local markets.

Santo Domingo Reviewedhotels
  • 8.35 /10
    Rated by Easyvoyage
    Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando
    St Domingue - Dominican Republic
    Hotel Hotel 5 Etoile(s)

    In the heart of the Zona Colonial, the old quarter or colonial ...

  • 7.95 /10
    Rated by Easyvoyage
    El Embajador, a Royal Hideaway
    St Domingue - Dominican Republic
    Hotel Hotel 5 Etoile(s)

    El Embajador is located 2 miles from the colonial district. In ...

  • 7.95 /10
    Rated by Easyvoyage
    Holiday Inn Santo Domingo
    St Domingue - Dominican Republic
    Hotel Hotel 3 Etoile(s)

    In a quiet residential district in the capital, Santo Domingo, ...

  • 7.9 /10
    Rated by Easyvoyage
    Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua
    St Domingue - Dominican Republic
    Hotel Hotel 5 Etoile(s)

    On the seafront in the capital, Santo Domingo, the Renaissance ...

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