A Cruising Couple | June 17, 2016 11:00 PM ET
Wandering Santo Domingo’s Enchanting Colonial Zone
The oldest city in the New World, Santo Domingo offers a multitude of attractions worthy of exploration on your next trip to the Dominican Republic. The city has been a cultural hub for intellectuals, poets and musicians since its founding in 1498 — and very much remains so to this day. Whether it’s wandering the oldest church in the Americas or sipping Dominican rum over live jazz, here are a few of our favorite spots you won’t want to miss in Santo Domingo:
Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor
Also known as Catedral Primada de America, this cathedral in the heart of the colonial zone is the oldest in the Americas. While visiting the magnificent cathedral, you can choose to add an audio tour, which you can purchase with your entrance ticket. The audio tour is full of impressive facts, including the spot where Christopher Columbus was buried for many years and notes on how the original key is still used to open the 500-year-old mahogany doors.
We were fortunate enough to stay just a few buildings down at Casa Naemie, a boutique Bed & Breakfast that oozes old town charm. There was no better way to start our day than walking past the dramatic cathedral on our way to a leisurely cup of morning coffee in the adjacent park.
Ruins of The Church of San Francisco
A hurricane is to blame for the destruction of the first monastery in the new world. It is now used for social and cultural events such as free concerts. The ruins are especially beautiful at night when they are lit up.
Walk down Calle Hostos past the impressive ruins of Hospital San Nicolas de Bari and you'll notice something strange. It may be hard to pick out at first, but this street has a much more romantic feel to it compared to others in the colonial zone. We attribute it to the fact that it is one of the only streets that doesn't have telephone poles or wires and old-fashioned street lamps light the way.
Built by coral brought from the sea back in 1508, a climb to the top of this significant Spanish fort offers a great view over the entrance of Rio Ozama and the Caribbean Sea. Take time to walk around the entire grounds and see the old cannons still guarding the wall.
A real treat, the Chocolate Museum can teach you everything you want to know about Dominican cacao and chocolate. There are even chocolate infused liquors and beauty products.
A favorite spot for locals to stroll about on evenings and weekends, the Malecon is a strip of sidewalk that runs from the old colonial zone along the coastline of the Caribbean. It’s not technically within the Colonial Zone, but its nearby location makes it an easy stop on your itinerary.
Sunset at Plaza Espana
Situated at the end of Calle de las Damas, finish your day off during sunset on Plaza Espana. We recommend grabbing a bite to eat at any of the restaurants surrounding the plaza. Pate Palo was our favorite; we rarely eat at the same restaurant twice, but we just couldn’t help returning to this restaurant at the end of our trip.
We discovered Pate Palo as well as a few other delightful restaurants on our food tour with Tequia Experiences. Our guide Miguel was a wealth of knowledge. As we indulged in delicious Dominican cuisine throughout the Colonial Zone, Miguel told us all the little-known secrets about Santo Domingo’s fascinating history. This was the highlight of our time in Santo Domingo, and without this personal food and walking tour, we would have left the city without a true appreciation for its mesmerizing culture and history.
Jazz Night at Lulu's
When our food tour did come to an end, we asked Miguel where we could find some live music after dark. The answer: Lulu's. This particular Monday, Lulu's had a live jazz performance by Sly de Moya and the Latin Bars, a talented local band from the area that had us dancing in our seats. As we would later find out, one of the musicians actually graduated from the Berklee School of Music.
Bonus: Christopher Columbus Lighthouse
While it's not in the Colonial Zone, the impressive Christopher Columbus Lighthouse is a spectacle to see. At night, the structure lights up and produces a cross of light in the sky.
Have you visited Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone? What must-see destinations would you add to this list?
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