10 Of The Best Things To Do In Santo Domingo

Plan at least 2-3 nights in the historical and artistic Santo Domingo. 

A proper trip to the Dominican Republic kickstarts in Santo Domingo, the island nation’s cultural capital. Try to plan your trip from November to March, when the weather is less abrasively hot and the city is less likely to be bombarded by tourists. As you’ll discover, it’s easy to spend most of your time in the vivacious Zona Colonial where beats of live merengue in Parque Colón vibrate along a sordid history from European colonization, slavery and eventual independence.

Zona Colonial

The vibrant Zona Colonial, as a whole, is unquestionably the most popular area to visit in Santo Domingo. It is also home to several landmarks, including: Columbus Park (Parque Colón,) Museo de las Casas RealesFortaleza Ozama, and many more. The ancient Zona Colonial is the oldest inhabited area in the Americas where Europeans continue to settle. Due to its colorful architecture and rich history, the entire neighborhood is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zona Colonial
PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Zona Colonial
PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Zona Colonial
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Museum of the Royal Houses

C. Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic

Museo de las Casas Reales, or Museum of the Royal Houses, is a must-see in Zona Colonial since it is one of the most significant monuments built during the colonial era. The 16th-century structure is the former palace of the Real Andiencia of Santo Domingo. It makes an important mark in history as not only the first, but also the oldest headquarter of Spanish power in the New World where administration offices were held as well as a place to hold trespassers until their death sentences.

Museo Casas Reales, Santo Domingo
Museo Casas Reales, Santo Domingo. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Pantheon of the Fatherland

F4G8+2M9, C. Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic

National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic was built in 1714 as a Jesuit church where masses were held. Later, it was used as a tobacco warehouse, then a theater. In 1956, it was transformed into a national mausoleum, as a final resting place for the influential figures in recent history of Dominican Republic.

National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic
National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Kahkow Experience

C. Las Damas 102, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic

It was the Spaniards who first introduced cacao to Dominicans in 17th century. Later, when the French took over the island, they also planted new varieties from other colonies. Today, Dominican Republic is the premier exporter of Fair Trade, organic cocoa since the land now grows high-quality cocoa. At Kahkow Experience, you can learn about the history of cocoa and taste them yourself at the in-house café. You can also create your own chocolate bar!

Fortaleza Ozama

C. Las Damas 1, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic

Ozama Fortress was built by the Spanish between 1502-1508, as their entry to Santo Domingo. Named after the river that it sits by, the fortress we see today is one of the remaining Walls of Santo Domingo, the oldest military European constructions in the Americas. Designed in the form of a stone castle, the fortress also houses tunnels and dungeons where prisoners were kept, including Christopher Columbus.

Fortaleza Ozama, Santo Domingo
Fortaleza Ozama, Santo Domingo. Image by neufal54 from Pixabay

The Three Eyes

Santo Domingo Este 11604, Dominican Republic

Los Tres Ojos National Park, or Three Eyes National Park, is a beautiful site, especially for nature lovers. The 50-year limestone cave is essentially a series of three lakes fed by water from an underground river. Despite its blue color, which has confused many adventurers, the water is composed of calcium minerals. The park makes the perfect day trip, especially if you have more than two days to spend in Santo Domingo.

Museum of Rum

C. Isabel La Católica 261, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic

Museum of Rum is a lovely place to learn more about the history of rum and sugar cane, from roots of slavery to the development as a source of economic prosperity for the nation. The museum is attached to a ballroom where several night of the week, various dances showcased: merengue, salsa, zumba…etc. There’s also a gift shop where travelers can purchase infused rum made by the museum staff. Ginger, cilantro, pineapple, passion fruit…every flavor is homemade and delicious!

Museum of Rum
Museum of Rum. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Malecón

The pier along George Washington Avenue is often referred to as Malecón – a 14-kilometer promenade along the Caribbean Sea. This is where bustling restaurants, lively fiestas, luxury hotels and casinos reside. Every July, locals celebrate Merengue Festival here as well. This is also a fun place to discover Haitian naif art where artists showcase their paintings at various stands along the Malecón.

Malecon, Santo Domingo
INSTAGRAM @alcaldiadn

Puerta del Conde

C. Palo Hincado, Santo Domingo 10209, Dominican Republic

La Puerta del Conde or The Count’s Gate is part of the structure “El Baluarte del Conde” (The Count’s Bulwark.) The former defensive wall which surrounded Zona Colonial was the main entrance to the fortified city of Santo Domingo. In 1844, this was where Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, one of the Dominican Founding Fathers, declared Dominican Republic’s independence with the first Dominican Flag.

Puerta del Conde, Santo Domingo
INSTAGRAM @tyronebc

National Palace of the Dominican Republic

Av. México, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Fans of the Godfather might recognize this establishment from Part II where Michael speaks to Fredo on New Year’s. The National Palace currently houses offices of the president and vice president of the Dominican Republic. Designed by Italian architect Guido D’Alessandro, the neoclassical building combines 18,000 square meters of space and widely considered as one of the most magnificent architectures in the country.

National Palace, Santo Domingo
INSTAGRAM @psyjavy
Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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