The Zona Colonial district of Santo Domingo is where the majority of the city’s top attractions are found. The old town is a wonderful blend of Dominican tradition and contemporary culture. Ruins from the 16th century can be found all over the city, interspersed with beautifully restored colonial structures, serving as a constant reminder of the city’s rich history.
This New World settlement was founded by Christopher Columbus and is also the final resting place of the explorer. Many of the historic buildings in the colonial district, known as Zona Colonial, are now museums, restaurants, and hotels thanks to their inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The majority of the featured venues and activities are located in the Zona Colonial. Even though there is a lot to see in such a small area, one could easily spend several days here just walking around and taking it all in.
What is the Cost of Living in Santo Domingo?
The average monthly budget for a family of four (without rent) is $2,931.5 ($166,015.9 RD$). For a solitary person, the average monthly budget is estimated at $940.0 (53,231.8 RD$) in expenses.
Santo Domingo is 52.2% cheaper than New York (without rent, of course). On average, rent in Santo Domingo is 80.7% cheaper than in New York.
Which Dish Best Represents in the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?
Traditional Caribbean flavors are best represented in Dominican cuisine. The Dominican national dish, la Bandera, is included in the prix fixe menus of many local restaurants and is the staple meal of Dominican households.
The dish’s name comes from the colors of the national flag, and its components—white rice, red beans, and (with some creative coloring) blue meat—reflect those colors.
Best Places to Visit in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Two of the most popular tourist destinations are Parque Colón (Columbus Park) and Plaza Espana. There are plenty of places to eat in these neighborhoods, and you can also find official tour guides who will gladly show you around and tell you all about the city of Santo Domingo.
1. Columbus Park (Parque Colón)
Parque Colón, at the center of the Zona Colonial, is the city’s liveliest and most alluring public plaza. There is a statue of Christopher Columbus in the middle of the square, and people gather there to watch musicians and street performers, have their shoes shined, and chase pigeons.
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The Catedral Primada de América, the first cathedral in the Americas, is located on the south side of the square. Its full title is the Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, and construction on it began in the early 1500s and was finished in 1540.
2. Known as the “First Cathedral in the Americas,” or “Catedral Primada de América”
Located to the south of Parque Colón, this magnificent basilica was finished in 1540 and is the oldest cathedral in the Americas. While many of the building’s 16th-century architectural details have been preserved, this is not a ruin but rather an active house of worship.
Once inside the original Mahogany doors, visitors can admire the silver altar and a painting of the Virgin Mary that dates back to 1520. Tourist maps refer to this landmark as Catedral Primada de América, despite the fact that its official name is Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor.
3. Museum of the Royal Palaces (Museo de las Casas Reales)
This magnificent building dates back to the first half of the 16th century and was commissioned by the Spanish to house the New World’s most important government offices. It became a museum dedicated to the area’s history and culture in the 1970s.
Among the many interesting collections on display are those of Tano artifacts, colonial furniture, and weapons. The museum’s narrow corridors and heavy foot traffic can be uncomfortable, but the quiet interior courtyard with its benches and miniature garden is a welcome relief.
4. The National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic
Originally constructed as a church in the first half of the 18th century, the building was converted to the national mausoleum in 1956 under the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo to honor the country’s most important people. The building now holds the remains of the men who murdered him, a turn of events he never could have predicted.
Also interred here are famous names such as Francisco Gregorio Billini, Gregorio Luperón, Eugenio María de Hostos, and José Gabriel García.
5. Spanish Plaza
Located on the outskirts of the Zona Colonial and not far from the Rio Ozama is the spacious Plaza Espana. Frequently the site of events and public gatherings, this is not an intimate square where you would go to sit on a bench and sip a coffee under a tree.
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On the edge of the park are a number of restaurants with outdoor dining. Tour guides often hang out in the vicinity of the cafés and approach visitors to entice them into joining a walking tour.
6. The Three Eyes (Los Tres Ojos) National Park
If all the historical buildings and the tight quarters of the Zona Colonial have you craving something more natural, take the 15-minute drive out to the 3 Eyes National Park. Be prepared to descend beneath the earth into lush and humid caverns, where you’ll find crystal-clear waters in a series of four lakes.
The lakes are spectacular and always glass calm, making it easy to see how they received their names. With a bit of imagination, you might think they look like blue-green eyes.
7. Chu Chu Colonial Sightseeing Trolley
The Chu Chu Colonial is a small, open-air sightseeing train that runs through Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. While the area is quite small and easily walkable, on hot days the Chu Chu is a tempting option.
The tour lasts about 45 minutes and lets you see the sights from the relative comfort of a shade-covered bench as it pulls you along cobbled streets and past the city’s most famous sites. Keep an eye out for places you might want to visit after the tour. The tour starts from the east side of Parque Colón.
The charming old town is where most of Santo Domingo’s top attractions are located. However, there is more to do than visit historic sites from the colonial era.
Zona Colonial, the historic district of the capital of the Dominican Republic, is a great place to go for a look at the city’s Gothic architecture and to learn about the city’s rich past.