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Sightseeing in Santo Domingo

Sightseeing in Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic, is a thriving city full of culture and historical significance. This city was once home to Diego Columbus, Christopher Columbus’ son, as one of the first settlements in the New World. Today, Santo Domingo is home to over two million people. The mix of the old colonial city with Santo Domingo’s modern skyscrapers is fascinating. Don’t miss out on spending a couple days in Santo Domingo before leaving the Dominican Republic. While Punta Cana and other beach resorts in the eastern part of the country are gorgeous, Santo Domingo will give you a glimpse into the real DR.


Colonial Zone – The Colonial Zone is the oldest section of Santo Domingo that contains dozens of buildings and landmarks with rich history dating back to the 16th century. This area is characterized by cobblestoned streets, stone buildings, and many plazas and parks. While there are plenty of landmarks to visit, I recommend at least hitting the following:


  • Fortaleza Ozama – This castle is the oldest military structure in the Americas that remains standing. Go early in the morning and you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Start by walking the grounds of the fortress and taking in the views of the immense structure. Then, explore the interior – you’ll find yourself climbing spiral staircases, exploring abandoned rooms, and peering over the Ozama river from the castle rooftop. Before you leave, check out the other structure on the grounds that you cannot enter. I’m not sure the significance of the building, but dozens of green parrots call this place their home.


  • Museo de Las Casas Reales – This “Museum of the Royal Houses” is one of the best museums in the Colonial Zone due to its diverse collection and the building itself. The building was originally constructed in the 16th century and was used as administrative buildings for the Spanish government. An audio guide is included with the admission fee so you can learn all about the history of the city and country dating back to the 1500s. Make sure to spend a few minutes in the pretty courtyard where peacocks roam about.


  • Alcazar de Colon – Another museum you won’t want to miss is “Alcazar Colon.” This building originally served as the family home and palace of Diego Columbus. Though the original contents of the palace were destroyed long ago, the museum has been restored with pieces representative of the times so you can get a feel for how Columbus lived in the early 1500s.


  • Monastery and Hospital Ruins – Some significant structures in the Colonial Zone have not survived the test of time intact. You can walk around the ruins of the first monastery and first hospital constructed in the Americas. Beware that you’ll be sharing your walk with many pigeons and parrots.


  • Cathedral of Santa Maria de La Menor – This is the oldest cathedral in the Americas and is absolutely gorgous. Duck inside for peaceful reflection and a a break from the intense Santo Domingo sun.


  • Calle El Conde – This street is the most bustling of the Colonial Zone. Street art, restaurants, and throngs of tourists and locals are indicative of Calle El Conde.

You can book an organized walking tour or head out on your own to explore this area on your own. I recommend going on your own since you can dictate your pace and see as much or little of the zone as you please. Bring cash as each place costs a few dollars to enter. You can pay in Dominican pesos or USD.


Los Tres Ojos – Los Tres Ojos is a small national park about five miles east of the Colonial Zone. The park features a limestone cave with spiral rock staircases leading to three freshwater lakes. As you descend the main staircase into the cave, keep your eyes peeled for dinosaurs amongst the mossy green vines and lush ferns…not really, obviously, but reportedly some scenes of Jurrasic Park were filmed at the park, so use your imagination! You might see some birds and ferrets milling about the greenery in the cave and a few fish and turtles swimming in the clear blue water of the lakes. The three lakes in the cave are small and easily accessible, so it only takes about twenty minutes to visit all three. There is an option to be pulled across a small channel on a boat to see a fourth, larger lake; however, the boat costs a few dollars. You can peer down at the larger lake free of charge from an overlook area in the park. Overall, Los Tres Ojos is a cool slice of nature in a bustling city and is worth taking an hour out of your day to see. Grab a cab from the Colonial Zone and ask your driver to wait for you while you’re inside the cave. Round trip fare should only cost about $15 USD.


Quisqueya Baseball Stadium – Dominicans live and breathe baseball. There are two home teams in Santa Domingo and games are played nearly year round. In the winter season, you’ll get a chance to see some MLB players. Grab a ticket to a game at Estadio Qusqueya to experience something authentically Dominican – when I was there with my boyfriend, we were the only tourists in site. Unfortunately our game was rained out (hence the poor picture), but it was cool to walk around the stadium and watch the players warming up in the batting cages. You can find the baseball schedule online and can reportedly buy tickets at the stadium. The Bolleteria was closed when we arrived for a game, so we bought them from a scalper (if you feel uncomfortable in that situation, you may want to try calling the box office beforehand to see if it’s open). I would also recommend seeing an afternoon game if possible. Inside the stadium is safe, but the surrounding neighborhood seemed a bit sketchy and it’s difficult to find a cab late at night. Bring small Dominican bills with you because there is an Uber station in the stadium parking lot and you can pay the driver in cash.



Adrian Tropical – Adrian Tropical is an affordable restaurant in the modern Gascue neighborhood with a five star view of the Caribbean sea. You’ll hear the waves crashing underneath you as you sit cliffside on their large patio. A variety of seafood and chicken dishes are available for about $10USD per person. Just a heads up – the menu is completely in Spanish. If your Spanish skills are a bit rusty, you can find the menu online before you go and translate a few dishes from each section.


El Conuco – El Conuco is the cutest restaurant in the Gascue area. This indoor restaurant makes you feel as if you’re outside with the pavilion style construction and variety of colored lights hanging from the rafters. The waiters and waitresses bust into impressive choreographed Latin dancing every hour or so, and the show is worth sticking around for. The food and drinks are delicious and the service is friendly. El Conuco was definitely my favorite restaurant of Santo Domingo.


Some areas of Santo Domingo are safe for tourists and some are not. Overall, The Colonial Zone is very safe for walking, but as always you should take proper precautions with your valuables and be aware of your surroundings. The modern Gascue neighborhood is also reportedly safe for tourists (this is where our hotel was), but I did feel uncomfortable a couple times when men followed my boyfriend and I around for a few blocks and into a pharmacy. I do not recommend traveling to Santo Domingo solo, especially as a female. Avoid walking around after dark if possible and if you are unsure if an area is safe for walking, take a cab. Lastly, Uber is taking off in Santo Domingo and is a safe and cheap method of transportation. Consider splurging for international cell phone service so you can use the application.


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