Best Places to Visit in Santo Domingo
For tourists, the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo is the highlight of the city and is home to many of the main attractions. The Old Center is the perfect blend of history and modern Dominican life. Scattered among beautifully restored colonial buildings, the 16th-century ruins are a constant reminder of the city’s incredible history.
The first city of the New World was founded by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s and is where Columbus lived and was buried. Today, the entire colonial zone of the Zona Colonial is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many of the historic buildings house museums, restaurants and hotels.
All of the attractions described here are within the Zona Colonial. The area is relatively small and easy to explore on foot, but with so many attractions it’s easy to spend a few days here and soak up the atmosphere.
Narrow, single-lane roads lead to parks with mature trees and old stone buildings. Resembling a European cafe, the open-air dining room provides a cozy haven where you can sit back and watch life flow on hot days.
Parque Colón and Plaza de España are two major tourist attractions and good places to start your visit. In these areas, you’ll find numerous restaurants, as well as official guides to show you around and provide information on what to see and do in Santo Domingo.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Santo Domingo and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Santo Domingo
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Santo Domingo:
1. Museo de las Casas Reales
Built in the first half of the 16th century, this impressive building was originally built according to Spanish orders to house the most important government offices of the New World. In the 1970s it was converted into a museum showcasing the history and culture of the area.
Exhibits include Taino artifacts, colonial furniture, and an interesting collection of weapons, among others. The corridors are congested in places and the museum can feel very crowded on busy days, but the inner courtyard with benches and a small garden provides a pleasant respite.
The screens are in Spanish, but the entrance fee provides headsets that record in multiple languages.
Location: South side of Plaza de España, Calle Las Damas
2. Panteón Nacional
Originally built as a church in the first half of the 18th century, the building was converted into a national mausoleum in 1956 by order of dictator Rafael Trujillo to honor the country’s most important figures. Unexpectedly, the building now houses, among other things, the remains of his assassins.
Famous names such as Francisco Gregorio Billini, Gregorio Luperon, Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Jose Gabriel Garcia are also buried here. The interior is beautiful, with marble tombs, arches, ornate ceilings and huge gothic chandeliers on the walls. Across the entrance, at the end of the long red carpet, an unquenchable flame rose from the ground.
Location: Calle Las Damas, one block south of the Museo de las Casas Reales
3. Parque Colón
At the heart of the Zona Colonial is the Parque Colón, the liveliest and most charming square in the city. Musicians and street performers frequent the square, shoemakers line the street, and children chase pigeons around the statue of Christopher Columbus, which stands proudly in the centre.
On the south side of the square is the Catedral Primada de América, the first cathedral in the Americas. Built in the early 1500s and completed in 1540, its original name is the Basilica of Santa Maria.
Calle El Conde, the city’s main pedestrian street running along the north side of Parque Colón, has several restaurants with outdoor tables overlooking the park. This is the best place to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful square. If you want to visit, Chu Chu Colonial tour cars leave from the east side of the square.
It’s also an excellent base if you’re going to spend a night or more. Set in a historic building with beautiful courtyards and old-world charm, the quaint Palacio Boutique Hotel is not far from Colon Park. It offers luxury and mid-range rooms of various sizes and prices. Another hotel worth considering with its colonial atmosphere is El Beaterio Casa Museo.
Location: Calle El Conde and Calle Arzobispo Meriño
4. Catedral Primada de América
Completed in 1540, this impressive cathedral, on the south side of Cologne Park, was the first cathedral in America. This is not a ruin but a fully functional place of worship that has retained many of its original features from the 16th century.
Original mahogany doors lead to the grand interior where you can see the silver altar and the 1520 Virgin Mary painting. Although its real name is the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Menor, tourist maps list the location as Catedral Primada de América.
Location: Calle Arzobispo Meriño, south of Parque Colón
5. Plaza España
Plaza de España is a very large open square located on the edge of the Zona Colonial, near Rio Ozama. Often a venue for events and public gatherings, this is not an intimate plaza where you can sit on benches under the trees and sip your coffee.
There are many restaurants on the edge of the park that offers al fresco dining. Guides often hang out near cafes and approach tourists and entice them to take a walking tour. In the square, opposite the restaurant and close to the river, is the Cologne Castle. The former home of the Columbus family is now a museum.
Where: Calle La Atarazana or the northern end of Calle Las Damas, outside the Museo de las Casas Reales
6. Chu Chu Colonial Sightseeing Trolley
The Chu Chu Colonial is a small open-air sightseeing train that runs through the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. Although the area is small and easy to walk, Chu Chu is an attractive option on a hot day.
The tour takes approximately 45 minutes and allows you to enjoy the view from the relative comfort of a shaded bench along the cobblestone streets, past the city’s most famous sights. Check out places you might want to go after the tour. The tour starts on the east side of Parque Colón.
Location: Colon Park
7. Choco Museum Santo Domingo
The Chocolate Museum is more than just a delicious stop in the Zona Colonial. Housed in a 16th-century building, the museum and chocolate factories are an educational experience and a fun way to learn about the Dominican Republic’s cocoa industry. You can taste chocolate and chocolate drinks or try cocoa beauty products.
Behind the sampling, counter is a small museum showing the history of cocoa and the drying and processing of cocoa seeds. You can buy a variety of chocolate treats and products in front of the store. Screens are marked in English and Spanish, some staff speaks English. Museum and chocolate samples are free.
Location: Parque Colon, near Calle Arzobispo Meriño, just north of Calle El Conde.
Official website: https://www.chocomuseo.com/
8. Calle El Conde
The best place to enjoy al fresco dining in Santo Domingo is on Calle El Conde. This pedestrian street runs from Plaza Independencia to Parque Colón and beyond to Rio Ozama. The best part is the part near the river around Parque Colón where most of the restaurants are.
Restored colonial buildings and open-air restaurants lining the streets give this end of Calle El Conde a decidedly European feel. Tourists tend to visit this area frequently. The further you walk into Independence Square, the more modern it gets, with streetwear shops, small shops and a more authentic Dominican vibe.
9. Parque Independencia
At the westernmost end of Calle El Conde, Parque Independencia commemorates Dominican independence. Enter the square through the massive Puerta del Conde, covered with busts leading to the Altar de la Patria (National Altar), the mausoleum where the founder of the Dominican Republic rested. Inside, the names Sanchez, Duarte and Mela are prominently displayed.
Besides the mausoleum, the square has little shade and gets very hot at noon.
10. Amber World Museum
The Amber World Museum is an incredible place to see beautiful specimens of amber and learn about this resinous fossil. Even if you have no interest in visiting the museum, the visually striking images here are worth seeing. For a small entrance fee, a knowledgeable English-speaking guide will take you around the museum, show you the exhibits and learn how amber is formed, mined and used.
Pieces of amber come in a variety of colors, and backlighting displays fossils inside, from ants and termites to leaves and flowers. Some pieces have magnifying glasses so you can see the fossil in detail. Note that the curved handrail on the stairs to the second floor is made of amber wrapped in acrylic. The Dominican Republic is famous for its amber, which is almost always transparent here and emits a glow not commonly found in amber. You can often see fossils, even very small fragments, in Dominican amber.
Address: Calle Arzobispo Merino 452
Official website: https://amberworldmuseum.com/
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Santo Domingo. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Santo Domingo, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.