Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

You will be fascinated with every step you take in the first Spanish city of the Americas. Founded in 1496 by the brother of Christopher Columbus, the Ciudad Colonial section of Santo Domingo is filled with history from over 500 years ago. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety.

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1 Christopher Columbus Monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The Christopher Columbus monument at Parque Colón is the epicenter of historical Santo Domingo. Columbus set foot on this island on December 5, 1492, toward the end of his first voyage. The Taino people called the isle Ayti. Columbus renamed his discovery La Isla Española (Hispaniola). Four years later, Columbus’ brother Bartholomew established the New World’s first Spanish colony. Initially, the settlement was called La Nueva Isabela. A short time later it was retitled Santo Domingo in honor of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, the founder of the Dominican Order. This bronze tribute to Cristóbal Colón was sculpted by Ernesto Gilbert and erected in 1886.

Parque Colón, Calle Isabel La Católica, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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2 Parque Colón in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Founded in 1496, Santo Domingo is the oldest European settlement in the Americas. Since 1990, Ciudad Colonial (Colonial City) has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. The 0.4 square mile area is filled with historic landmarks, homes and streets. Many of these sites date back to the 16th century. An example is this Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación, finished in 1541. Parque Colón (Columbus Park) is an excellent place to begin your walking tour. Let’s start with some of the noteworthy structures encircling this square (formally called Plaza Mayor).

Cathedral of America, Calle Isabel La Católica, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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3 Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

On the south side of Parque Colón is Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación. This is the oldest cathedral in the Americas. Pope Julius II commissioned the Catholic church in 1504. The Gothic design by architect Alonso de Rodriguez features a warm-colored coral limestone. Within the 177 foot length of this minor basilica are a central nave and 12 side chapels. From 1542 until 1795, the remains of Christopher Columbus were interred within Catedral Primada de América. This western façade with a Plateresque style is called the Great Gate. The double-eagle relief above the arches is the coat of arms of Charles V as the Holy Roman Emperor. He was also known as Charles I while the King of Spain when the cathedral was consecrated in 1541.

Cathedral of America, Calle Arzobispo Meriño, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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4 Palacio Consistorial in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Visually dominating the western edge of Parque Colón is the white, 95 foot bell tower of Palacio Consistorial. The Town Hall was constructed in 1504 as the mayor’s office and residency. The Baroque design of architect Luís Bogaert morphed over the centuries and was then restored to its near-original appearance in the late 19th century. The tower was added in 1913. Consistorial Palace is now a venue for special events and art exhibitions.

Palacio Consistorial, Calle Arzobispo Meriño, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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5 Amber Museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Glistening in the sun along the northern border of Parque Colón is a former home built in 1508. Since 1996, this has been the location of the Amber Museum (Museo del Ámbar). Next door is the Amber Art Gallery. The retailer specializes in jewelry, artworks and crafts made from amber. Amber is a yellow to brown gemstone mined in three locations on the island. The material is resin from a conifer tree fossilized about 25 million years ago. Some specimens have insects and flora embedded inside.

Museo del Ámbar, Calle El Conde, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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6 Borgellá Palace and Cathedral Museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Flanking Parque Colón on the east are two noteworthy structures. On the left is the former 16th century mansion of Diego from Herrera (a province of Seville, Spain). When the residence was acquired by Haitian Governor Gerónimo Borgellá in 1823, it was expanded and renamed Palacio de Borgellá. The colonial building has sequentially housed the Tribunal (courthouse), Senate plus the Haitian and Dominican Republic governments. Borgellá Palace currently offices the department responsible for maintaining the Colonial City. On the right is Museo de la Catedral (Cathedral Museum). Among its extensive displays are 500 years of religious art, statues and artifacts.

Museo de la Catedral, Isabel La Católica Street, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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7 Tower of Homage at Ozama Fortress in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Fray Nicolás de Ovando had valid reasons to believe Santo Domingo was vulnerable to attack when he became governor in 1502. The riches from the gold rush of 1500 to 1508 had attracted the attention of potential French and British conquerors plus pirates. The enslaved indigenous Taíno people were increasingly combative as their population shrank from disease and abuse while working the mines. So he ordered the construction of Ozama Fortress. The initial citadel was finished in 1508. The 59 foot Tower of Homage was added in 1509. Torre del Homenaje became the temporary residence of Diego Columbus (eldest son of Christopher) when he was appointed Governor of the Indies in the same year. Throughout most of the ensuing 500 years, Ozama Fortress was a prison. Many political adversaries were incarcerated and executed here until the 1960s.

Calle Las Damas 1, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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8 Bulwark and Cannons at Ozama Fortress in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Ozama Fortress was protected by huge defensive walls. The first bulwark was constructed in 1570. The second shooting platform was added in the 17th century. Cannons were positioned along the battlements and aimed toward the Ozama River, the namesake for the citadel. The rusted guns remain in their original positions. They provide an eerie reality to the oldest European fortress in the Americas.

Calle Las Damas 1, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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9 Casa Rodrigo de Bastidas in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Rodrigo de Bastidas was a Spanish conquistador. After accompanying Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, Rodrigo de Bastidas began a nearly thirty year exploration of the New World. Unlike most Spaniards during the Age of Discovery, he treated the native people with respect and dignity. Casa Rodrigo de Bastidas was his residence, built during the early 1500s. The building was exceptionally large (over 9,800 square feet) because it served as a warehouse for treasures he and others acquired before sending them to Spain. After he was murdered and buried locally in Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación, his descendants lived here for generations. Today, it is the Trampolín Children’s Museum.

Casa Rodrigo de Bastidas, Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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10 Casa de Hernán Cortés in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Continue walking north along Calle Las Damas. Ladies Street was constructed during the first decade of the 16th century, making it the oldest street in the Colonial City and the Americas. It was flanked by some of the finest residences of the period. Many of them were commissioned by Nicolás de Ovando while he was Governor of the West Indies (1502 until 1509). He then appropriated the mansions to prominent Spaniards. This is the first one built in 1502. It would later become Casa de Hernán Cortés. Cortés was a notary for the town council after arriving in Santo Domingo from Spain in 1504. He began his illustrious (some say notorious) career as a conquistador in 1511 by overthrowing Cuba. Within a decade, Hernán Cortés had conquered the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico as New Spain. This residence is where he mapped out his assault. Casa de Hernán Cortés has been the French Embassy since 1999.

Calle El Conde & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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11 National Pantheon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

This Neoclassical, limestone façade designed by Geronimo Quezada y Garçon was a Jesuit church and convent when finished in 1745. The complex was dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He was the Spanish Catholic priest who founded the Society of Jesus in 1541. After the Jesuits were expelled from Santo Domingo in 1767, the building was repurposed several times. In 1958, Dictator Rafael Trujillo converted the property into the National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic. The remains of over 40 heroes and famous Dominicans are interred within the Panteón Nacional. Ironically, some of them include the assassins of Rafael Trujillo.

Calle Las Damas & Calle Mercedes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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12 Honor Guard at National Pantheon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

This presidential honor guard stands at attention at the entrance of National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic. The soldier is part of the Regimento Guardia de Honor. At the other end of the red carpet is an eternal flame encased in a marble mosaic.

Calle Las Damas & Calle Mercedes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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13 Ceiling of National Pantheon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Gracing the arched ceiling of the National Pantheon are two magnificent paintings by Rafael Pellicer. They are entitled Ascension into Heaven (Ascensión a los Cielos) and The Final Judgement (El Juicio Final). Hanging from the dome is a bronze chandelier. This was a gift to the Dominican Republic by Francisco Franco, the former dictator of Spain from 1938 until 1973.

Calle Las Damas & Calle Mercedes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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14 Chapel of Our Lady of Remedies in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Francisco Dávila was an alderman in Santo Domingo in the mid-16th century. During his tenure, he commissioned the construction of a chapel adjacent to his residence. The small church with a two-tier belfry was finished in 1554. This served as a private chapel and mausoleum for him and his descendants plus the Orvando family. When the structure was near ruins, it was extensively restored in 1884. Two years later, the chapel was renamed Our Lady of Remedies (Capilla de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios).

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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15 Royal Houses Museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

This large Renaissance structure was built at the end of Calle Las Damas in 1511 as the Real Audiencia. The Royal Audience was the appellate court representing Spain in the Indies (New World). This first courthouse in the Americas had jurisdiction over the Caribbean. The adjacent building served as the Palace of the Governors until 1799. In 1976, they were combined into the Royal Houses Museum. Museo de las Casas Reales is a wonderful experience. There are 20 rooms. Several of them are restored to their historic appearance with period furniture. Among the displays are colonial armaments, maps, Spanish and Taíno artifacts, exhibits about government and family activities plus portraits of Spanish kings. You will also enjoy seeing replicas of the three ships used during Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the New World.

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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16 Anchor Outside Royal Houses Museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Resting along the wall of the Museum of the Royal Houses is this rusted, wrought iron anchor. This was part of the galleon Conde de Tolosa. In 1724, the ship sunk during a hurricane in the Bay of Samaná in northern Dominican Republic. The hull was carrying a year’s supply of mercury, an essential material used for silver mining. Most of the 600 crewmembers were killed. The underwater graveyard was discovered in 1977 by treasure hunter Tracy Bowden. His company, Caribe Salvage S.A., has uncovered many sunken vessels throughout the Caribbean.

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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17 Casa de las Gárgolas in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

If you are a fan of gargoyles, then this façade might catch your fleeting fancy. This was the home of Don José Fernández when it was built in the early 16th century. But a late 19th century event is what makes Casa de las Gárgolas special. This is where the national anthem of the Dominican Republic was created. The lyrics were written by Emilio Prud’Homme and the music was composed by José Rufino Reyes Siancas. The piece was first performed on August 17, 1883. Over a half century would pass before the song was officially adopted in 1934.

Calle Mercedes, No. 4, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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18 Sundial at Sundial Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

You will want to linger a few minutes at the large open square in front of Museum of the Royal Houses. The pedestrian-only space is named Plaza Reloj de Sol. This means Sundial Plaza. When this sundial was created in 1753, it was the first Spanish-authorized timepiece in the New World. Reloj de Sol was installed during the co-governorship of Francisco Rubio Peñaranda. It provided the official time for the local government. After more than a quarter century, you can still rely on its accuracy.

Reloj de Sol, Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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19 Other Highlights of Sundial Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Among other attractions at Sundial Plaza are cannons positioned along the colonial defensive wall. Also admire a pair of sculptures entitled “Iron Bull.” The twin artwork was created by José Ignacio Morales. He is better known as El Artistico. This former blacksmith turned Dominican artist has dedicated four decades to converting scrap metal into amazing sculptures, gates and monuments. The best part of this plaza is the elevated view of Ozama River. Go ahead. Look over the side.

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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20 Ozama River from Sundial Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

As you stand at the edge of Sundial Plaza, you are rewarded with a panorama of the Ozama River. Rio Ozama travels for nearly 100 miles before flowing into the Caribbean at the south end of Santo Domingo. Directly below you is Don Diego Terminal. The facility welcomes cruise ship and ferry passengers to the Colonial City. Along the east bank shown here is the Bartholomew Columbus Marina. Named after the brother of Christopher Columbus, Marina Bartolomé Colón provides berths for small pleasure crafts and yachts.

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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21 Chapel of the Rosary from Sundial Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Often overlooked from Sundial Plaza is this humble white building on the opposite bank of the Ozama River. This land is where Bartholomew Columbus founded La Nueva Isabela in 1496, the first settlement in the Americas. The Spanish colony was moved in 1502 to the west side of the river and became Santo Domingo. Yet this Chapel of the Rosary was built in 1544 and then left behind by the colonists.

Calle Mercedes & Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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22 Nicolás de Ovando Statue at Spain Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

From the Royal Houses Museum and Sundial Plaza, take a few steps north until you reach Plaza de España. Spain Plaza is a large unshaded square. In the center is this statue of Nicolás de Ovando. He was a great yet controversial leader. In 1501, Ovando was appointed as Governor of the Indies by the Catholic Monarchs in Spain. Shortly after he arrived in 1502, he moved the struggling Spanish settlement from the east bank of the Ozama River to the current location of the Colonial City. He implemented governmental and military discipline. He commissioned a development boom of buildings, infrastructure and institutions. In short, Ovando created Santo Domingo into the pride of Spain in the New World. Yet the growth came at a huge cost. He was brutal to the Taíno people. Ovando enslaved them to work mines, executed rebellious chieftains and their tribes while causing others to suffer famine. The Spanish also unknowingly imported diseases. These had a devastating impact on the indigenous population. From 1496 until the end of Ovando’s administration in 1509, the Taíno population was reduced 90%.

Plaza de España, Calle La Atarazana, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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23 Alcázar de Colón at Spain Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

In 1509, Nicolás de Ovando was removed as Governor of the Indies and replaced with Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus. Accompanying him was his wife, María de Toledo. She was the cousin of King Ferdinand II of Spain and the highest-ranking noblewoman in the Americas. Within a year, Diego Columbus commissioned an elaborate, 55 room residence. The project required the labor of 1,500 Taíno people. By 1514, the first palace of the New World was finished. This became the social epicenter of Santo Domingo, welcoming a long list of Spanish conquistadors and dignitaries. Descendants of Columbus lived here until 1577. Alcázar de Colón is the historical highlight at Spain Plaza (Plaza de España). Inside is the most visited museum in Santo Domingo. You can tour 22 restored rooms with colonial period furniture, including the couple’s bedrooms. The walls are covered with medieval and Renaissance artwork plus tapestries. The Museo Alcázar de Diego Colón is a must-see attraction.

Plaza de España, Calle La Atarazana, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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24 San Diego Gate in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Before continuing your exploration of Ciudad Colonial, take a quick and worthwhile detour. At the right of Alcázar de Colón is a terraced walkway leading down to the Ozama River. You will exit at this impressive gate. When Puerta de San Diego was constructed in 1576, it was the main entrance into the city from the port. Hence its alternative name Gate of the Sea. Among the heraldic symbols is the double-headed eagle of Charles I of Spain, also named Emperor Charles V (center). On the right are the Pillars of Hercules and the coat of arms of Santo Domingo.

Puerta de San Diego, Av Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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25 San Diego Low Battery in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Now look to your left. This is the Low Battery of San Diego (Bateria Baja de San Diego). Imagine being a 16th century invader and staring at the cannons protruding from the flared openings called embrasures. Equally daunting was another set of guns positioned above. If you have time, you can continue exploring the defensive wall in either direction. Heading south brings you to a bastion called Invincible Fort (Fuerte Invencible). This is across from the Don Diego cruise and ferry terminal.

Puerta de San Diego, Av Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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26 Juan Pablo Duarte Statue at San Diego Fort in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Now look to your right. Standing in the center of Plaza Patriótica is a sculpture of Juan Pablo Duarte (1813 – 1876). This is one of several tributes to Duarte in Santo Domingo. He is the founding father of the Dominican Republic after securing freedom from Haitian dominance. He organized the initial revolt, co-authored the constitution and helped finance the Dominican War of Independence (1844 – 1856). The toll on him was tremendous. He was imprisoned, financially ruined and died in exile. Today, he is considered the country’s primary hero.

Puerta de San Diego, Av Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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27 Restaurants at Spain Plaza in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Has all of this walking made you hungry? You are in luck. There is a cluster of eight, upscale restaurants located at the west side of Plaza de España. They are tucked into a line of 500 year old warehouses. All of them offer good food and outdoor seating. The most popular is Pat’e Palo. This European brasserie is always ranked among the top ten in the city.

Atarazanas Street # 25, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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28 Casa del Cordón in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Casa del Cordón dates back to 1503. This is the first stone residence in the Americas. The name House of the Cord stems from the relief over the entrance resembling the braided cords worn by Franciscan friars. The home was built for Francisco de Garay. He was a Spanish conquistador who traveled to Hispania in 1493 during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. Francisco de Garay later was the governor of the colony of Santiago (today’s Jamaica) from 1514 to 1523. He also was the first to explore the southern coast of North America including Florida and the Mississippi River. Casa del Cordón has another distinction. This was the temporary home of Diego Columbus and his wife María de Toledo while the Alcázar de Colón was under construction. Finally, in 1586, negotiations with Sir Francis Drake occurred here to pay him ransom for the safe return of the captured city. The historic building is now a bank.

Calle Isabel La Católica & Calle Emiliano Tejera, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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29 History of San Francisco Monastery in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Shortly after Nicolás de Ovando became governor in 1502, he invited the Franciscans to his new city. They built the first San Francisco Monastery with wood in 1508. Starting in 1523, the friars spent about 140 years constructing it with stone. The vast, two block property – designed by Rodrigo de Liendo – included a convent, church and chapel. This archway was the entrance to the church, finished in 1556. Monasterio de San Francisco was assaulted many times. Sir Francis Drake ransacked it in 1586. The monastery suffered earthquake damage in 1673 and again in 1751. Several hurricanes pummeled the building. In 1808, portions collapsed during the Battle of Palo Hincado between the Spanish and the French. Further destruction occurred at the hands of the Haitians a few decades later. The final straw was in 1930 during the category 4 Hurricane San Zenon. The monastery is now in ruins.

Calle Hostos & Calle Emiliano Tejera, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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30 Interments at San Francisco Monastery in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Archeologists have found the graves of several famous Spaniards buried within San Francisco Monastery. Among them was Bartolomé Colón. Bartholomew Columbus was the younger brother of Christopher Columbus. Another was Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda. After arriving in Santo Domingo with Columbus in 1493, Ojeda is famous for his three voyages to explore and map the northern coast of South America. As specified in his will, his body was interred below the church threshold when he died in 1515. The church’s former nave is now the occasional venue for concerts and other special events.

Calle Hostos & Calle Emiliano Tejera, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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31 Row Houses on Calle Hostos in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

From San Francisco Monastery, head south along Calle Hostos. You will know if you are going in the right direction if you see delightful wooden row houses flanking you while walking down a hill. Each single-story, colonial house is adorned with unique wrought-iron grillwork. The property lines are defined by their own shade of pastel colors. If this street looks vaguely familiar, then you are a fan of the movie “Godfather II.” This is where the bombing scene was filmed portraying Cuba.

Calle Hostos & Calle Juan Isidro Pérez, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic
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32 Our Lady of Altagracia Church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The original Church of Our Lady of Grace was built as a chapel adjacent to Hospital San Nicolás de Bari. Both were founded in 1503 by Nicolás de Ovando, the first governor of Hispanola. The latter is now in ruins. Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia was rebuilt in 1922 with a stunning, Elizabethan Gothic design. The Catholic church is dedicated to the Virgin of Altagracia. January 21 is the feast day for this protector saint of the Dominican Republic.

Calle Hostos & Calle Mercedes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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33 Hospital San Nicolás de Bari in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

In 1502, Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella appointed Nicolás de Ovando as the first royal governor of the West Indies. Shortly after he arrived in Santo Domingo with 2,500 colonists, he established Americas’ first hospital and dedicated it to Saint Nicholas. The Brotherhood of Our Lady of Conception was in charge of its expansion. When the final construction phase of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari was finished in 1552, it was the most magnificent medical facility in the Western Hemisphere. The Renaissance and Gothic structure survived centuries of attacks, storms and earthquakes until it collapsed in 1911 during a hurricane. The ruins were modified in 1976 for safety.

Calle Hostos & Calle Mercedes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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34 Calle El Conde in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Calle el Conde is the main street in colonial Santo Domingo. The pedestrian-only, cobblestone walkway runs east to west for about eleven blocks. It stretches from Calle de las Damas near the Rio Ozama riverbank to Independence Park (Parque Independencia). Expect Calle el Conde to be busy. Shoppers bustle from store to store. Tourists search for the best place to eat or drink. Dominicans socialize with their friends and neighbors. Street performers hope to fill their hats with your money. Children laugh while playing tag. The curious watch all the action from benches beneath street lamps. You have not experienced Ciudad Colonial unless you have strolled along Calle el Conde.

Calle El Conde & Calle Hostos, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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35 Juan Pablo Duarte Monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The date was July 16, 1838. A group of men assembled in the home of Juan Pablo Duarte a few steps from this square. Their common cause was to gain freedom from Haitian rule. They formed a secret society called La Trinitaria (The Trinity). That meeting led to a declaration of independence in 1844 and the end of 22 years of oppression. Military conflicts ensued through 1856 until Haiti was finally suppressed. For his bravery as the visionary leader of the resistance, Juan Pablo Duarte is called the Founding Father of Dominican Republic. In 1930, this monument was erected in his honor at Duarte Park (Parque Duarte).

Parque Duarte, Calle Padre Billini, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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36 Dominican Convent in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

15 Dominican friars from the Order of the Preachers arrived in Santo Domingo in 1510. About 25 years later, they finished constructing a religious compound consisting of a convent, church and the first university in the Americas: Saint Thomas Aquinas (Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino). The chapel was hastily built in 1532. When it proved unstable, it was reconstructed in the late 16th century and then again in 1681. The last restoration was in 1746. Inside are five chapels worth visiting.

Dominican Convent, Calle Padre Billini, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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37 Anton de Montesinos Statue in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Anton de Montesinos was among the first Dominican friars to arrive in Santo Domingo in 1510. He soon became outraged by the Spaniard’s inhumane treatment of the Taíno, the indigenous people of Hispaniola. At great personal risk, he delivered a damning sermon about the atrocities on December 21, 1511. The reaction by Spanish bureaucrats was swift and negative. They were reliant on the enslaved natives to operate their gold mines. They appealed to Ferdinand II to extradite the heretic. When Montesinos returned to Spain, however, he convinced the Spanish king that the brutality was wrong. This lead to the proclamation of the Laws of Burgos in 1512. Leyes de Burgos prohibited future abuses and outlined how the Taíno should be treated. This 49 foot recreation of Montesinos’ sermon was created by sculptor Antonio Castellanos Basich and erected along the riverfront El Malecón in 1982.

Paseo Presidente Billini & Calle 19 de Marzo, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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38 Fort of Saint Joseph in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

After admiring the Anton de Montesinos Statue, cross the street named Paseo Presidente Billini to examine the Fort of Saint Joseph. Built in 1505, Fuerte de San José was an early addition to Santo Domingo’s defensive network. The small, rectangular redoubt helped defend the southern flank of the city. Sentries were posted in the corners while protruding cannons aimed toward the river.

Fuerte de San Jose, Calle José Gabriel García, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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39 Fort of San Gil in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

In 1510, Fort of San Gil was strategically built where the Ozama River flows into the Caribbean Sea. The single sentry box on the polygonal bastion could easily detect any enemy ship approaching Santo Domingo. After the original Fuerte de San Gil was heavily damaged by a storm in 1887, it was reconstructed to the original appearance. In the background is Obelisco Hembra. The official name for the Female Obelisk is the Monument to Financial Independence. The twin, 66 foot monoliths were raised in 1947 when the Dominican Republic paid off its debts to the United States.

Paseo Presidente Bilini & Calle Pina, Santo Domingo 10208, Dominican Republic
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40 Mouth of Rio Ozama in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Take a moment to enjoy the shoreline in front of Fort of San Gil. This view toward the northeast (your left) is the entry to the port of Santo Domingo. In the background is the Anton de Montesinos Statue. Below it is the popular Montesinos Beach. These waters at the convergence of the Rio Ozama and the Caribbean seem picturesque and calm. Yet this was the site of a maritime tragedy. In 1916, the USS Memphis was struck by a series of rouge waves. Some reports suggest the highest surge reached 70 feet. The Navy cruiser crashed against these rocks, killing 43 members of the crew. The crippled ship remained here until 1937 when it was finally salvaged.

Paseo Presidente Bilini & Calle Pina, Santo Domingo 10208, Dominican Republic
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41 Gate of Mercy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

When this entrance into Santo Domingo was created in 1534, it had two names: Puerta de Santiago and Puerta Grande. For decades, this was the site of public executions. When a small adjacent chapel was built, the archway was renamed the Gate of Mercy in 1842. Two years later, Puerta de la Misericordia gained historic significance. This is the location where Matías Ramón Mella – one of the original members of La Trinitaria – fired the first shot in revolt against the Haitians. His act of bravery made him one of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic.

Calle Palo Hincado & Calle Arzobispo Portes, Santo Domingo 10210, Dominican Republic
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42 Obelisco Macho in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic with tyranny from 1930 until he was assassinated in 1961. During those 31 years, he was president twice. He grew the country’s prosperity via oppression and brutality. An example of his dominance and arrogance was renaming the city Ciudad Trujillo in his honor. To celebrate the event, Trujillo commissioned the Obelisco Macho along the El Malecón (George Washington Avenue and Paseo Presidente Bilini). The Male Obelisk he created now symbolizes the country’s disdain of his leadership. The painting by Dustin Muñoz features three of the Mirabal sisters. They were killed in 1960 by Trujillo’s secret police for resisting his government. They are among the thousands reportedly murdered by the dictator.

Paseo Presidente Billini & Pdte. Vicini Burgos, Santo Domingo 10208, Dominican Republic
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43 Count’s Gate at Independence Park in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Fort San Genaro (Bastión de San Genaro) was built in 1543 as part of the city’s extensive fortifications. In the mid-17th century, the defensive wall was strengthened and renamed El Baluarte del Conde. It honors El Conde de Peñalve, a key figure in the victory over the British during the Siege of Santo Domingo in 1655. The Count’s Gate (Puerta del Conde) was a primary entry into the city. This is now Independence Park. The square was the site of the declaration of Dominican Independence by Francisco del Rosario Sánchez in 1844. This event is why the gate is called Puerta de 27 de Febrero.

Parque Independencia, Calle Mariano Cesteros, Santo Domingo 10209, Dominican Republic
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44 Fatherland Altar at Independence Park in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

In 1976, a white mausoleum was built at Independence Park. Inside of Altar de la Patria are three marble sculptures of the country’s founding fathers by Nicholas Arrighini. They stand above the graves of La Trinitaria, the three most revered patriots of the Dominican Republic. On the left is Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, second in command during the Dominican War of Independence. In the middle is Juan Pablo Duarte, the founder of The Trinity. On the right is Matías Ramón Mella. He fired the first shot against the Haitian government soldiers. The collective efforts of these patriarchs led to the claim of independence on February 27, 1844.

Parque Independencia, Calle Mariano Cesteros, Santo Domingo 10209, Dominican Republic
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45 National Palace in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

National Palace is the contemporary architecture highlight of the Dominican Republic. Its Neoclassical design was crafted by Guido D’Alessandro. This grand, 190,000 square foot edifice was commissioned by Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. Construction began in 1944 on the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence. Palacio Nacional was finished three years later. Beneath the 112 foot dome are the offices of the Executive Branch including the president and vice president. The National Palace is the epicenter of the central government’s Distrito Nacional (National District).

Presidencia de la República Dominicana, Av. Mexico, Santo Domingo 10217, Dominican Republic
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46 Palace of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The cream-colored, Neoclassical façade of the Palace of Fine Arts is magnificent. This cultural center has hosted a variety of performing arts since 1956. Among the most popular events are concerts by the National Symphony Orchestra and National Choir. Dance enthusiasts enjoy programs conducted by Folkloric Ballet and the National Dance School. Also consider booking a seat for a play in the Fine Arts Theater.

Palace of Fine Arts, Av. Máximo Gómez, Santo Domingo 10205, Dominican Republic
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47 Boats Tethered by Floating Bridge in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

There are two more recommended places to see during your visit. To reach them, you must leave Ciudad Colonial, cross the Ozama River at Puente Flotante and enter Eastern Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Este). This is best done by taxi. Watch for these quaint wooden boats as you drive over the Floating Bridge

Puente Flotante, Santo Domingo Este 11602, Dominican Republic
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48 Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Faro a Colón opened in 1992 as part of the quincentennial anniversary of the discovery of the Americas. Inside is an elaborate mausoleum reported to contain relics of Christopher Columbus (although the explorer’s body has proven to be buried in the Seville Cathedral in Spain). There is also a museum with exhibits from each of the countries in the Americas. The Columbus Lighthouse is probably the largest lighthouse you will ever see. The concrete structure designed by Joseph Lea Gleave measures 680 feet long and 195 feet wide. Faro a Colón is located in the Santo Domingo Este Municipality. This is a short distance by car from the Colonial Zone.

Faro a Colón, Av. Mirador del Este, Santo Domingo Este 11604, Dominican Republic
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49 Los Tres Ojos National Park in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Another attraction in the Santo Domingo Este Municipality is Los Tres Ojos National Park. This means The Three Eyes in English. Inside the nature park are three underground lakes plus a freshwater lagoon. The largest limestone cave measures 50 yards. These geological waterways – accented with stalagmites and stalactites – were created by seismic activity.

Paqueo Parque Los Tres Ojos, Avenida Las Américas, Santo Domingo Este 11604, Dominican Republic
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