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The first European city founded in the Americas, the Dominican Republic's sprawling capital combines an astonishing history with 21st-century sophistication and Latin mystique. Founded in 1496 by Don Bartolomé Colón, Columbus's brother, the Zona Colonial within the old city walls is bursting with more than 300 buildings of historic import. Retracing the steps of Spanish conquistadors through cobbled courtyards and alleys, you feel the past through your feet. To the east, the monumental Columbus Lighthouse is a gargantuan tomb where the "great explorer" is supposedly buried. Beyond the colonial zone, the pace picks up. The ...

The first European city founded in the Americas, the Dominican Republic's sprawling capital combines an astonishing history with 21st-century sophistication and Latin mystique. Founded in 1496 by Don Bartolomé Colón, Columbus's brother, the Zona Colonial within the old city walls is bursting with more than 300 buildings of historic import. Retracing the steps of Spanish conquistadors through cobbled courtyards and alleys, you feel the past through your feet. To the east, the monumental Columbus Lighthouse is a gargantuan tomb where the "great explorer" is supposedly buried. Beyond the colonial zone, the pace picks up. The Malecón seafront boulevard is lined with high-rise hotels and casinos, but the red-light district is also here and the boulevard is no longer safe to walk at night. Santo Domingo's excellent array of museums spanning art, history, and culture concentrate in the Plaza de la Cultura, which also boasts the National Theater - venue for highbrow cultural events. To the northwest, the thoroughly modern Naco region is ground zero for business, shopping, fine dining and nightclubs, although its congested roads are a nightmare. A subway system is nearing completion.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Caribbean, eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Haiti.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Dominican Peso
  • Research: Santo Domingo | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Santo Domingo can be insufferably hot May-October. Carnaval occurs in March, and the Merengue Festival takes place in July.