Things to do in Santo Domingo

Santo Domigo has an array of historical and natural attractions to suit even the most discerning traveller. Though situated right on the Caribbean Sea, Santo Domingo isn't a beach town. Instead, visitors should spend some time at historically significant sites such as the Catedral Primada de America or the Fortaleza Ozama.

Visitors should also allot an hour or two for the architecturally significant and visually awesome Columbus Lighthouse, which now houses the alleged remains of Christopher Columbus. And then there's the Malecon, which some say is the best nightlife available in the Caribbean.

Whatever a traveller's tastes, Santo Domingo is both big enough to entertain for days and small enough to cover in a solid day of sightseeing and cultural exploring. With plenty of attractions to entertain and amaze for the whole family, the diversity of the city is really shown through various sights, from the natural beauty of the Los Tres Ojos National Park to the historical splendour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.

Cathedral of Santa Maria photo

Cathedral of Santa Maria

Inside the Colonial City stands the oldest cathedral in the western hemisphere. Consecrated in 1541, it is still used to this day. Its mix of late-Gothic and Renaissance elements p…

Cathedral of Santa Maria

Inside the Colonial City stands the oldest cathedral in the western hemisphere. Consecrated in 1541, it is still used to this day. Its mix of late-Gothic and Renaissance elements provide a beautiful example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, with its golden coral facade and Gothic interior. Its walls have seen a great deal of history, including the coming of Sir Francis Drake, who captured Santo Domingo in 1586 and held the town for ransom. Interestingly, the remains of Christopher Columbus were once housed at the cathedral, before their final resting place in the Faro a Colon. The cathedral's treasury has an excellent art collection of ancient woodcarvings, furnishings, funerary monuments, silver, and jewellery, which visitors can explore.

Colonial City photo

Colonial City

Known as the Colonial City, the historic enclave of Santo Domingo covers only one square mile (3 sq km), but has dozens of historical sites and buildings behind its walls. Visitors…

Colonial City

Known as the Colonial City, the historic enclave of Santo Domingo covers only one square mile (3 sq km), but has dozens of historical sites and buildings behind its walls. Visitors will find parks, forts, churches, plazas, statues, palaces and monuments. A walking tour of these fascinating buildings takes at least three hours, and proceeds over cobbled streets where Christopher Columbus, Fernando Cortez and Francis Drake once walked. The city's main street, Calle de Las Damas, is the oldest street in the New World. Regarding sights, must-sees include the House of Cord, which is the oldest European building in the Americas, and the Alcazar Palace, where Christopher Columbus' son Diego once lived. It was built between 1510 and 1514.

Columbus Lighthouse Monument photo

Columbus Lighthouse Monument

The monument was built on the eastern shore of the Ozama River in the early 1990s, to commemorate both Santo Domingo's status as the oldest European city in the Americas, and the 5…

Columbus Lighthouse Monument

The monument was built on the eastern shore of the Ozama River in the early 1990s, to commemorate both Santo Domingo's status as the oldest European city in the Americas, and the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World. The building is 680 feet (210m) long, and built in the shape of a cross. It houses what are claimed to be the remains of Columbus himself, and is fitted with intense lights that project the image of the cross into the sky at night. The monument was designed by Scottish architect J.L. Gleave, who won an international competition with his plans for the lighthouse.

National Aquarium photo

National Aquarium

One of the better aquariums in the Caribbean lies about a mile east of the Columbus Lighthouse monument, and offers visitors guided glimpses of the region's diverse, colourful sea …

National Aquarium

One of the better aquariums in the Caribbean lies about a mile east of the Columbus Lighthouse monument, and offers visitors guided glimpses of the region's diverse, colourful sea life. The open, airy National Aquarium is equipped with a clear-glass sea-tunnel that makes viewing the enclosed sea life an awesome experience. Visitors can see everything from angelfish to sharks. The attraction is just a short drive out of the city.

Plaza de la Cultura photo

Plaza de la Cultura

The vast green square in the heart of Santo Domingo serves as the city's cultural and artistic showcase. It's fronted by a cluster of four museums and houses the city's most import…

Plaza de la Cultura

The vast green square in the heart of Santo Domingo serves as the city's cultural and artistic showcase. It's fronted by a cluster of four museums and houses the city's most important cultural venues, including the Teatro Nacional (National Theater). The square also boasts the likes of the Palacio Nacional, which houses the Presidency of the Dominican Republic; the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), a neoclassical building that is the permanent home of the country's National Symphony Orchestra; and the Boulevard 27 de Febrero, a pedestrian promenade located on the busy Avenida 27 de Febrero, which displays works of art from prominent Dominican artists and sculptors.

Los Tres Ojos National Park photo

Los Tres Ojos National Park

Located on the east bank of the Ozama River, the 'Three Eyes' park is a surreal experience for visitors. The attraction is actually a series of huge natural caves that contain fres…

Los Tres Ojos National Park

Located on the east bank of the Ozama River, the 'Three Eyes' park is a surreal experience for visitors. The attraction is actually a series of huge natural caves that contain fresh-water lagoons. One is a sulphuric lake rumoured to be bottomless. A volcanic crater contains it. The caves are also festooned with stalactites and stalagmites. History lovers should note that the pre-Columbian Taino Indians used the caves for religious ceremonies. The site is currently one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the country.

Boca Chica photo

Boca Chica

The small seaside town of Boca Chica lies just east of Santo Domingo on the Avenida de las Americas, and is a popular escape from city life. Its calm, crystal-clear waters make for…

Boca Chica

The small seaside town of Boca Chica lies just east of Santo Domingo on the Avenida de las Americas, and is a popular escape from city life. Its calm, crystal-clear waters make for superb swimming conditions, and its golf and seafood scenes are highly recommended. Visitors may also enjoy the destination's yacht clubs. Along with its azure waters and pristine white sands, Boca Chica's short distance from the island's capital city makes it the most popular beach in the Dominican Republic, especially on weekends and holidays. Boating visitors can anchor off Boca Chica's two islets, La Piedra and La Matica.

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