Tourist’s guide to Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic: old city in a new world

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – the very first city to appear on the map of America. Many houses, streets and even the airport are associated with the name of one person – Christopher Columbus.

View of Santo Domingo

Photo: cities of Santo Domingo

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General information

Santo Domingo is the cultural, political and economic center of the Dominican Republic. Located in the southern part of the country, covers an area of ​​104.44 km². The population is just over two million. Most of the inhabitants profess Catholicism.

In different historical eras, the city of Santo Domingo was called either New Isabella or Ciudad Trujillo. He received his current name a little less than 60 years ago in honor of the patron saint – St. Dominic. However, another name is also known – “Gateway to the Caribbean Sea”.

Interestingly, Santo Domingo is the oldest city in America. It was founded by Bartolomeo Columbus, the younger brother of the famous navigator. It happened in 1498.

Attractions and entertainment

Colonial Zone
Colonial Zone

The colonial city of Santo Domingo is a historical building in the heart of the Dominican capital and the location of the first European settlement in the New World. This quarter is located on the Caribbean Sea.

On the Colonial Territory (Ciudad Colonial) is the largest number of historical attractions of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:

  • Alcazar de Colon;
  • Osama fortress;
  • Museum of the Kings;
  • Cathedral of the city.

The center of the Old Town is Park Colon or “Columbus Square”, on which stands a bronze monument in honor of the great navigator. In the eastern part of the colonial zone is another iconic place – Calle Las Damas. This is an old cobblestone street, built in 1502 (which means the oldest in the New World).

Also be sure to visit the Osama fortress, built by the Spaniards. Like most historical sites, it was erected in the 1530s and is the oldest military port in the New World. Interestingly, Christopher Columbus himself lived here for 2 years with his wife.

Los Tres Ojos National Park

Los Tres Ojos National Park is a few km from the Dominican capital. This place is known for an incredible cave (15 meters deep) and underground lakes. When visiting the reserve, it is best to follow the following route:

  1. Visit the caves of Los Tres Ojos. This attraction consists of several small caves, which are interconnected by stone steps. Each has a lake and an observation deck with a beautiful view of the underworld.
  2. Next, head to the first lake, located among the rocks. It impresses tourists with its blue and incredibly clear water.
  3. The second body of water is very small and with not very clear water (tan).
  4. The third lake is the largest and most mysterious, because it is located in the center of a cave decorated with stalactites. If you want to fully enjoy the beauty of the underwater world, it is worth a ride on a raft.
  5. The last, the fourth lake, is considered the most beautiful in the national park. The water in it is aquamarine in color, and in appearance it somewhat resembles a crater of a volcano, overgrown with greens from all sides. To get here is the most difficult, since there are a lot of comers.
Lake in the national park

Many tourists note the incredible similarity of local nature with those landscapes that they saw in the movie “Jurassic Park.”

Tourists advise you to pay attention to the fact that the park is very humid, and after visiting you want to change into dry clothes. Also keep in mind that many bats live in caves.

  • Location: Avenida Las Americas | Parque Nacional del Este, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
  • Opening hours: 8.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.
  • Cost: 100 pesos + 25 (if you want to get to the fourth lake).
Cathedral of Santo Domingo

The Cathedral of Santo Domingo is the oldest Catholic church not only in the Dominican Republic, but in South America. It was built in the 1530s. The architectural style in which the cathedral is built is a mixture of Gothic, late Baroque and Plateresco.

Cathedral of Santo Domingo

In addition to its architectural and historical value, the cathedral is known as a treasury. It stores jewelry, rare wood, gold and silver dishes, paintings. According to legend, the remains of Christopher Columbus also lie here.

For the past 20 years, the temple has been open exclusively for tourists. At the entrance you will be given an audio guide and headphones.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the church, you must visit it, because a huge number of historical figures have visited this place.

  • Location: Calle Arzobispo Merino, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 16.00.

National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic

The Pantheon of the Dominican Republic is a symbol of the country and the last resting place of the most significant and honorable citizens. The building was built by the Jesuits in 1746, but it was used as a church.

National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic

Only after 210 years, the building was restored and converted into a pantheon. This happened by order of Trujillo (dictator of the Dominincan Republic).

It is interesting that even now the guard of honor is constantly in the building and the eternal flame burns. Tourists recommend coming here with a guide, because by visiting this place on your own, you can miss a lot of interesting things.

  • Location: C / Las Damas | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00.
Lighthouse columbus

The Columbus Lighthouse is perhaps the most controversial landmark in Santo Domingo. The building was built in the shape of a cross, and on its walls you can read the statements of famous travelers. Powerful floodlights are installed at the top of the building, which illuminate the path at night. Here are the remains of Christopher Columbus.

Lighthouse columbus
Alcazar de colon

Alcazar de Colon is the oldest royal residence in America, built in the 1520s. Previously, the palace had 52 rooms, and the building itself was surrounded by dozens of gardens, parks and outbuildings. However, only half of the sights reached our time.

Interestingly, this landmark of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic was erected from corals, and the builders did not use a single nail.

Alcazar de colon

Now the Alcazar de Colon houses the Alcazar de Diego Colon Museum, which houses art from the Middle Ages. Here it is worth seeing:

  • a collection of tapestries created by the Van den Hecke family;
  • paintings of famous European artists;
  • sculptural compositions dedicated to South America (modern art hall).

Practical information:

  • Location: Plaza de Espana | Off Calle Emiliano Tejera at foot of Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00.
  • Cost: 80 pesos.

Las Damas Street (Calle de Las Damas)

Las Damas Street or Dam Street is one of the oldest in America, the construction of which began in the 1510s. She got this name due to the fact that ladies often walked here, wanting to show each other their outfits. According to legend, the Calle de Las Damas was created at the request of the daughter-in-law of Christopher Columbus.

Las Damas Street

The street really retained its old look, however, cars standing along the houses greatly spoil the impression. Nevertheless, this is not a reason to refuse a walk, and here it is worth:

  • drink a cup of aromatic coffee in one of the local cafes;
  • ride in a chaise;
  • carefully inspect the facades of houses (on many you can see interesting signs and enameled figures);
  • buy postcards with photos of Santo Domingo in Domininkan;
  • relax in the shade of trees.


Santo Domingo is very popular among tourists, so hotels with a little more than 300 are always worth booking in advance.

Hotel in Santo Domingo

So, a hotel room 3 * for two will cost $ 30-40 per day. This price includes a delicious breakfast (local cuisine), all the necessary equipment in the room and a large terrace (often overlooking the historical part of the city). Also, many hotel owners are ready to provide a free transfer from the airport.

A 5 * hotel will cost $ 130-160 per day for two. The price includes a spacious room, a restaurant or a bar on the ground floor, an on-site swimming pool, a large terrace and many gazebos in which guests can relax.


Santo Domingo is a true paradise for lovers of wholesome and delicious food. There are small cafes and bars on every corner, and as a rule, representatives of the same family work in them. Oddly enough, most often there are cafes and restaurants not with Spanish, but with Italian cuisine.

Be sure to try the following dishes:

  • Sancocho (Sancocho) – a thick soup with meat (or fish) and corn;
  • Sancocho Dish
    Sancocho Dish
  • La Bandera is a salad of beans, rice, meat and fried bananas;
  • Arepitas de mais – corn pancakes;
  • Keso Frito – Toasted White Cheese.

On average, lunch in a cafe for one person will cost $ 6-7 (this is one dish + drink and dessert). Dinner in a restaurant for two with alcohol will cost more – at least $ 30.

Please note whether the price includes compulsory gratuities (10%) and tax (10-15%). Often they are not included in the price, and the dish comes out much more expensive than planned.

Weather and climate. When is it better to come

Santo Domingo is located in the southern part of the Dominican Republic, so the climate is tropical. Both winter and summer are very warm: at any time of the year the temperature fluctuates around 24-27 ℃. Humidity is increased.

The average temperature in January is 24 ℃. In July – 27 ℃. The hottest month is August, the coldest is January. Most precipitation falls in September – 201 mm. The smallest – in January (72 mm).

Weather in Santo Domingo

Please note that November and December are periods of heavy rains and strong gale-force winds. The rest of the year, the probability of bad weather is minimal.

The high season in Domininkan is the time from November to April, when dry and warm weather sets in. Tourists come these months in order to not only sunbathe and swim, but also to see whales.

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Interesting Facts

  1. The old city of the Dominican capital occupies less than 1% of the total area of ​​Santo Domingo (which is very small).
  2. Santo Domingo is the cultural capital of South America in 2010.
  3. In many pharmacies in Santo Domingo, in addition to medicines, cigarettes and construction tools are sold.
  4. Metro to Santo Domingo
  5. In 2008, the first metro line was opened in Santo Domingo, however, it is still not very popular – for unknown reasons, people prefer land transport.
  6. Dominicans are very religious people, and on every fourth car you can see the stickers “Jesus will save us” or “God be with us!”.
  7. Know that in Santo Domingo there are a lot of so-called “valets”. These people persistently offer to guard the car in your absence. In fact, in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) is quite safe, and it’s just a very easy way to earn money.

Visiting Columbus Lighthouse, Colonial City and Los Tres Ojos:

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