Also known as “the first city of America”, is the oldest capital of the Caribbean
Officially founded in 1498 by Bartholomew Colón, the metropolis has grown on both sides of the Ozama River becoming an urban centre of almost 3 million people.
Santo Domingo offers different features for travellers planning to spend some days in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, those imagining vacationing by the sea should learn that the city does not offer public or private beaches and they should go to towns nearby like Boca Chica and Juan Dolio.
If there isn’t a beach nearby, where do I go?
When visiting Santo Domingo, the Zona Colonial is the main attraction. The city’s historical center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, offers a Caribbean atmosphere characterized by colorful houses and old stone constructions. Most of the history museums are located in this part of town, as well as the main churches and features of the city. Plus, the historical center offers a wide variety of hotels and restaurants for all price ranges.
At calle Las Damas, for example, you will find the Fortaleza Ozama, as well as the Pantheon, the Cacao Museum and some of the first houses of the city. If you walk around the Parque Colón, you will not only find the 1st Cathedral of the Americas, but also different restaurants and cafés to shield yourself from the restless sun.
Do not miss the opportunity of going to the botanical garden or to Los Tres Ojos, a set of underground lagoons located in the eastern part of the city. Additionally, Santo Domingo also has a number of green spaces where the locals usually go to exercise at the end of the day. The municipality has installed sport machines in the parks and offers zumba classes open for everyone.
What to do
If, by chance, you are in the city on a Sunday night, do not miss the opportunity to dance merengue and bachata at the concerts in Las Ruinas de San Francisco in the Zona Colonial. Every week, a group known as Bonyé plays live music while locals gather to dance and have fun with friends and family. It is also the perfect place to meet other travellers, as it has become a popular feature among backpackers and tourists visiting the city.
Where to eat
If you want to eat international food in a beautiful setting, try one of the famous restaurants at Plaza España in Zona Colonial. With a general view of the river and the house of Diego Colón, restaurants offer outdoor arrangements for you to seat and enjoy the nice weather.
If you want local food, you have three different options: El Conuco, located in the old neighbourhood of Gazcue, offers traditional food as well as live shows of merengue. With a similar concept, Jalao, has become one of the most popular restaurants in Zona Colonial, as it is located in Parque Colón just in front of the Cathedral. Also, you could also try some mofongo at Adrián Tropical, a local chain of dominican food that has a good quality/price offer and it is opened 24 hours a day.
Dominican Republic is known for its music and internationally recognized artists, so when you are in the city, one of the best ideas is to go to any local bar where you will easily find a dance partner that can teach the basic steps of bachata and merengue (if not more urban and modern rhythms like dembow and reggaeton). So, when you are in Santo Domingo, just go dancing.
Latin American Post | Laura Delgado
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto