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Must-dos in Santo Domingo’s Ciudad Colonial

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Travellers from all over the world flock to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, and its marvellous Colonial City.

The oldest area in Santo Domingo and the most historically vibrant in the entire Dominican Republic, the Colonial City has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Everything in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo is within walking distance, so we’ve compiled a list of must-dos to help you make the most of your experience. Go ahead, walk around, explore, mix with the locals and soak up the Dominican culture.

A walking tour of Santo Domingo

Plaza España and Alcázar de Colón Museum

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Plaza España is the largest square in the neighbourhood. Among the colonial-style buildings that surround it, you’ll find the Alcázar de Colón Museum, the first viceregal residence built in the Americas.

Admission to the museum costs 100 Dominican pesos (about CA $2.50) per person and includes an audio tour with a headset.

Come evening, take your pick among the many restaurants that line one side of the square, and enjoy a delicious meal on a terrace. You won’t be disappointed.

Catedral Primada de América

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Built in 1512, the Catedral Primada de América is the oldest cathedral in the Americas; the tomb of Christopher Columbus was even kept there until 1992. It is a vast structure with many annexes. One of its facades overlooks the charming Parque Colón, where locals gather to play music, celebrate or simply relax.

Bring suitable clothing if you plan to visit the cathedral; visitors are asked not to wear skirts, shorts or low-cut tops.

Admission is 60 Dominican pesos (about CA $1.50) per person.

Calle El Conde

Calle El Conde is the only pedestrian street in Santo Domingo. It is teeming with small shops that specialize in all types of handicrafts.

Fortaleza Ozama

Fortaleza Ozama in Santo Domingo
Photo credits: Air Transat

The Ozama Fortress was built by the Spanish in 1502 at the entrance to the Colonial City to protect Santo Domingo and watch over the Ozama River. It was the first military structure built by Europeans in the Americas.

Inside, you will see extremely well-preserved prison cells and a spiral staircase that takes you to the roof, which offers a spectacular view of the site.

Admission is 70 Dominican pesos (about CA $1.80) per person.

Pantéon Nacional

Panteon Nacional at Santo Domingo
Photo credits: Air Transat

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Built at a later date (in 1714), Santo Domingo’s National Pantheon features a neoclassical style. While its exterior is impressive, the inside architecture is even more so. The ceiling boasts magnificent paintings and a massive chandelier. On the ground, an eternal flame burns 24 hours a day in honour of the heroes of the Dominican Republic. The flame is guarded by a soldier who stands by the door and remains immobile for hours at a time.

Admission is free.

Museo de las Casas Reales

The Museum of the Royal Houses is right next to Plaza España, on the same street as the Pantéon Nacional. Dating back to the 16thcentury, it was an administrative building used by Spanish colonies in America. At the heart of the building is a courtyard where architecture, greenery, and sunlight meld into a beautiful, serene setting.

Admission is 100 Dominican pesos (about CA $2.50) per person and includes an audio tour with a headset.

Barra Payan

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

For lunch, we recommend you stop in at one of the restaurants in the Barra Payan chain, known for its great sandwiches and fresh juices. Best of all, there’s something for everyone. Feel free to browse their vast menu or simply opt for their specialty, the “pierna” sandwich. As for juices, we couldn’t decide which one to recommend—they’re all delicious, so you can’t go wrong.

Mingling with the locals in Santo Domingo

La Leyenda del Cigarro

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Cigar making is a fundamental part of Dominican culture. The La Leyenda del Cigarro store on Calle El Conde is a great place to observe a seasoned artisan at work.

Lulu Tasting Bar

Lulu's tasting bar, Santo Domingo
Photo credits: Air transat

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Although the entrance and terrace of the Lulu Tasting Bar look out onto the beautiful Parque Billini, one of several parks in Santo Domingo, the place to be is inside, where you’ll find tables set up in a lovely open-air courtyard, surrounded by colonial-style walls with a variety of exotic creeping plants. With a vast menu of cocktails to discover, ask a mixologist, who will be delighted to guide you.

Monasterio de San Francisco

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

While the ruins of the San Francisco Monastery themselves are well worth seeing, on Sunday nights, they are the setting for a celebration even more compelling than the ruins themselves. Santo Domingo locals converge at sunset to enjoy some live music, have a drink and, especially, dance to some bachata and meringue.

Explore Santo Domingo, and you will discover a whole new side to the Dominican Republic.

Photo credits: Air Transat

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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