Santo Dominigo is the largest city in the Caribbean and is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas. It was the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the New World and boasts the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, road, and fortress.
The city’s Colonial Zone was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is a must see for visitors. The government has done an excellent job of ensuring 400-500 year-old structures are available for the world to view and enjoy. We always enjoying staying in a hotel in this area – it’s one of the only places you can experience that kind of old world charm outside of Europe. Guided tours are available: driving, walking, hop on/off buses, or by charming horse and buggy. A list of some “must sees” are at the bottom of this post.
We have our favourite places to stay and go. Our favourite mid priced hotel is the Boutique Hotel Palacio, a beautiful restored building with rooms all looking into central courtyards. The location can’t be beat; everything in the Colonial Zone is within walking distance. The staff are excellent and the rooms really clean and well appointed. We paid $90 US/night and even had free WIFI and free enclosed parking!
Restaurants are in abundance and it’s hard to choose; there are some incredible options. Our favourite restaurant is La Bricola, an Italian restaurant offering incredible food, but the highlight is the beautiful ambiance. Located in a building from the 17th century, the historical charm and authenticity of the location adds to the experience.
A short walk to the Alcazar de Colon area (the residence of the son of Christopher Columbus) you will find a lovely ancient square, currently housing restaurants of all kinds, but once they were taverns, shops and other businesses normally located in an ancient port. Our favourite restaurant here is Pat’e Palo. Incredible food and ambiance located in a 500 building, painstakingly restored. Pirates called this area home, including the infamous Francis Drake. Legend has it that the restaurant was created by Dutch pirate Johannes Frederikzoon. From the website: “This brave pirate, worn out by the taste of salty water on his lips, abandoned his ship and his treasures to stay here on this island. Mutilated and wounded, he found home within this tavern, holding a steady one-eyed gaze towards the tumultous Caribbean Sea while distancing himself from the piracy and the pillage. Abandoning the sea, he filled his heart with merriment and the good company he found here — as many do to this day.”
Santo Domingo has a rich historic area, but is also a thriving modern city. Like any large city, shopping malls are in abundance as are some of our usual big box stores like Ikea. You can even eat at some North American restaurants like Tony Romas, TGI Friday’s, McDonalds, etc. The city has a rich cultural diversity and hosts many major events each year.
For more information about a trip to Santo Domingo, follow this link. From the North Coast, it’s a 3.5 hour drive on beautiful roads.
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