Santo Domingo

The capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, in 1498 and is the oldest European settlement in the Americas. There is a fascinating colonial heritage that is clearly seen in the Colonial Zone of the city, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Santo Domingo is home to the Americas’ first cathedral, university, court of law, and monastery, yet combined with this rich legacy are upmarket resorts and beaches that highlight the future of the city.


Next to the Ozama River, the Colonial Zone is lined with cobbled streets and contains an impressive collection of buildings that date back to the 16th century. The first street to be built in the Americas was the Calle de las Damas, which houses many historical buildings, including the Ozama Fortress, the oldest fortress in the Americas. The Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor was declared the first cathedral in the New World in 1542 by Pope Paul III. Nearby, the Castle of Columbus was built by Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus, and his wife Maria de Toledo, who was a distant niece of King Ferdinand, and offers a glimpse into the fascinating history of the Columbus family.

The Columbus Lighthouse was built in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Close by and worth a visit is the National Aquarium, home to over 250 species of sea creatures.

Santo Domingo’s museums give visitors an insight into Dominican life, both past and present. The Plaza de la Cultura is home to some of the best-known ones, including the Museum of the Dominican Man, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of History and Geography, and the National Museum of Natural History.

For beach lovers, the closest beach to Santo Domingo is Boca Chica, and it has palm trees, golden sands, and crystal blue waters.


Calle el Conde is a pedestrian connecting the Colonial Zone with the modern part of the city. It is full of shops that attract locals as well as tourists, and one of the more popular goods sold is jewellery made from local amber, thought by many to be the best in the world, and larimar, a semi-precious stone that is only found in the Dominican Republic.

The Mercado Model used to be a farmer’s market that has now become a big gift shop, offering a large choice of local handicrafts. The country is also famous for its cigars, which many locals believe rival those made in Cuba, and there are many cigar vendors scattered throughout the city.

For shopping centres, the Plaza Central and Plaza Lima are large malls with a wide choice of branded goods.

Nightlife and Eating Out

One of the most typical dishes from the Dominican Republic is La Bandera, translated as flag, which is a platter whose colours are derived from rice, beans, meat, and vegetables. Other popular dishes include Sancocho, which is a Dominican stew, and chicken mixed with rice. One of the best restaurants for Dominican food is El Conuco. The country is also known for its seafood, and Restaurant Bucanero comes highly recommended. For international cuisine, David Crockett for American steaks and Pepperoni Café for Italian food are worth visiting.

The Colonial Zone is home to a number of bars and clubs that offer live traditional Dominican music, such as Merengue or Bachata. La Guacara Taina is thought to be the best nightclub in the country, built into underground caves, and specialises in Merengue, Salsa, and other types of Latin music.

Tourist Information

Ministry of TourismApdo 497Santo Domingo

Telephone: +1 809 221 4660Website:


Las Americas International Airport is around 20-30 minutes drive east of Santo Domingo, and is served by European, North American, and South American airlines, both charter and regular. From the airport to the city centre, there are coaches for tour groups and taxis for individual travellers.