Dominican Republic
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Top Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo

Considered the oldest European-founded city in the Americas, Santo Domingo was founded by Christopher Columbus’ brother Bartholomew in 1496. The city grew quickly in importance, and the first Spanish governor of the Indies, Nicolás de Ovando, took up residence in 1502. The colonial part of the city, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1990, is still home to several important and interesting colonial-era buildings.

Santo Domingo’s importance waned over the next couple of centuries, as it was vulnerable to piracy and mainland cities became wealthier. When French slaves in Haiti rebelled in 1822, they even managed to take over the present-day Dominican Republic for a period of 22 years.

The gap between the rich and poor in the city is a wide one. Visitors will see elegant homes, fancy high-rises and modern cars as well as shacks and shantytowns. The crime rate has been up in recent years, in part because of a recession in the economy.

Visitors who want to check out the old colonial section of town, which is home to several interesting buildings and museums, including the home of Christopher Columbus’ son Diego, known as the Alcázar de ColĂłn. There are several parks, including a zoo. Baseball fans will definitely want to catch a game: Santo Domingo is home to the Leones del Escogido and the Tigres del Licey teams. Many major leaguers play on these teams during the baseball off-season. 

There is good shopping in town if you’re looking for some souvenirs. The Dominican Republic is one of the world’s leading producers of Amber, and you can even check out the Amber Museum on Arz. Meriño 452 in the colonial section. There are fine cigars everywhere, and other locally-made products include rum, coffee, and cocoa. Tourist-trap gift stores sell paintings, t-shirts, pirate stuff (i.e. beer mugs with pirate flags on them), hand-carved African-style masks, and more assorted crap than you could go through in a month. Prices are surprisingly high, but if you need a magnetized bottle opener with a pirate skull on it that says “Dominican Republic”, where else are you going to find one?

Santo Domingo is known for sizzling nightlife, as the locals salsa and meringue the night away. Bring your dancing shoes, but be sure to take care, as tourists can be targets for thieves and scammers.


Other places in Dominican Republic: Punta Cana,

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
23 Jan 2008

Things to do in Santo Domingo

Alcázar de Colón/Diego Columbus House

117580Christopher Columbus’ son Diego became one of the earliest governors of the Indies in 1509, and he ordered the construction of a family home and governor’s mansion between 1510 and 1512. The ...
Historical Building
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Cueva de los Tres Ojos/Three Eyes Cave

117589The Cave of the Three Eyes (Cueva de los Tres Ojos) is a collapsed cave featuring three small pools located on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. It was formed centuries ago when some underground caves ...
City Park
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Amber World Museum

117678Apparently, the Dominican Republic was once full of tree sap. Who knew? Today, this small island nation produces more than its fair share of amber, everyone’s favorite fossilized yellow goo that ...
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
View Santo Domingo Map

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