With over three million residents, the cosmopolitan city of Santo Domingo is possibly the most vibrant place in the entire Caribbean. Santo Domingo features a rich culture and history juxtaposed against modern developments. In the historic Colonial City, newer hotels are located on ancient cobble-stoned streets; luxury cars share the roads with horse-drawn carriages; an avant-garde international cuisine scene thrives amid classic Creole cuisine; and 21st century buildings rest beside 15th and 16th century traditional houses.
As the oldest city in the New World, Santo Domingo’s Colonial City boasts the first street, cathedral, university and hospital in the Americas. In fact, visitors usually notice that the well-preserved ancient city, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990, makes them feel as if they had been transported back to another time.
Furthermore, and thanks to being selected as the 2010 American Capital of Culture, The Cultural Capital Organization, with the collaboration of the Dominican authorities, recently invited the public to help select from among 27 cultural sites, the seven treasures of cultural heritage in Santo Domingo.The seven treasures elected by unanimous vote include the Columbus Palace, the first Cathedral in the New World, the Ozama Fort, the Museum of the Royal Houses, the National Botanical Gardens, the Caribbean seaside boardwalk called the Malecon and the Palace of Fine Arts.
The Colonial City
Santo Domingo is the city of firsts in the Americas. Located in this metropolis are the first buildings constructed for religious, health, judicial and government purposes after the Spanish arrived. Among them, the first Cathedral of the Americas was erected (1523-1546), with its blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Don’t miss the beauty of the Alcázar de Colon, the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century by the son of Admiral Christopher Columbus, Don Diego Columbus. He lived there with his wife Maria de Toledo, the niece of the King of Spain. Columbus Park is in the center of the city’s ancient quarter. It is an “urban living room” where everyone goes to enjoy its tree-lined streets where beautiful buildings date back several centuries.
Museums and Culture
An eminently cultural city, Santo Domingo has the greatest number of museums in the Caribbean. Among them are: the Museum of Dominican Man, the Museum of Modern Art, the Columbus’ Lighthouse, the Amber Museum, the Larimar Museum and the Rum Museum. It is also seemingly always filled with cultural events, including dance, theatre, opera, film and visual arts.
You can find anything in Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic has free trade agreements with the United States and Europe, evidenced by the wide range of international stores and brands. Among the most popular shopping malls in the capital city are the Plaza Central, Acropolis, Megacentro, Mercado Modelo, Calle El Conde, Bella Vista Mall, Avenida Duarte, Plaza Lama, Americana Departamentos, Centro Cuesta Nacional, Jumbo, Sema, Multicentro Churchill, and IKEA.
Santo Domingo is filled with grand parks that will impress and amaze any visitor. It’s beautiful National Botanical Gardens has a collection of native plant life and a Japanese garden that is as good as any in the land of the rising sun. The city’s amazing Zoo features gives you an authentic atmosphere with wild animals move freely along its trails and great savannah.