Santo Domingo, officially Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic and the largest city in the Caribbean region by population. It is the oldest European city in the Americas and its Colonial Zone is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, fortress in the New World, and was the first seat of Spanish colonial rule. It is located within the boundaries of the Distrito Nacional, bordered on three sides by Santo Domingo Province. It is the commercial, cultural, economic, financial, industrial, and political centre of the country.
This fascinating city has impressively maintained its rich cultural, architectural, and artistic heritage that offers a lot of tourist attractions, among others. There’s the Colonial Zone, where Christopher Columbus himself walked on. Being the first major European settlement in the New World, there’s plenty of 15th- and 16th-century architecture here, like the Ozama Fort, the Alcazar de Colon and the Cathedral, as well as beautiful convents and churches like the Iglesia Regina Angelorum and the Convento de los Dominicos. La Atarazana street has several romantic outdoor cafes which offer a great view of the Alcazar and the bay area. Walk along Calle Las Damas, the first European street in the world. Then continue along the old Calle del Conde, the former commercial heart of Santo Domingo, lined with shops along the pedestrian. Malecon’s multiple shops, restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars, and many hotel and casino complexes give it such a vibrant atmosphere and excellent opportunities to just relax and people-watch. Visit museums located in the Colonial Zone like Alcázar de Colón, Naval Museum of the Atarazanas, Museum of the Casas Reales, World of Ambar Museum, Museum of Duarte, and Museo del Ron Dominicano. Stroll at one or more of the parks in the city including the popular Los Miradores park; choose from a wide variety of cuisines offered from all around the world; and if you happen to be visiting during festival season, the city plays hosts to the Annual Merengue Festival in the summer and Carnival in the spring.
How to get around within Santo Domingo
Getting around Santo Domingo is quite tricky and confusing for those who are not familiar with the city. Don’t hesitate to ask locals for instructions and it’s always best to buy a street map. If you plan on walking around, the best and safe places to do so are the Malecon and Colonial Zone, which have multiple pedestrian attractions. Please note that there’s a limited number of taxis in the city (they’re also expensive). It’s safer to call a dispatcher to have a taxi sent to you instead of getting one on your own. While taking the bus is more inexpensive, most of its passengers are locals getting to and from work, so expect the stops are geared towards those areas. Collective taxis, known as ‘guaguas’ to locals, have a predetermined route and are also an inexpensive option but can be rather uncomfortable. Santo Domingo also has its own two-line Metro, which operates on a North-South axis under the Maximo Gomez Avenue, going from Villa Mella to the Centro de los Heroes and the Malecon.
How to get there
Santo Domingo is served by Las Americas International Airport, located about 15 minutes from the greater metropolitan area and around 30 minutes from the city centre. It offers direct flights from several cities in the Americas, Europe, and surrounding Caribbean islands. From the airport, you can get on a taxi by booking transfers in advance or go to the second floor at the Arrivals where a minivan that seats up to eight people can take you to the Zona Colonial. Another airport in the city is La Isabela International Airport, a major hub for Dominican airlines operating small air carriers. Aside from getting in by plane, you can also do so by boarding a ferry or cruise ship. There’s a ferry service between Santo Domingo and Mayaguez, as well as San Juan (Puerto Rico). Cruise ships dock at the state-of-the-art Sansouci terminal. From there, you can take a taxi to the city centre.