This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
The capital of the Dominican Republic blends old and new unlike anyplace else on earth. This is the birthplace of European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere, with a wealth of historic sites that rank among the oldest of their kind in the new world. The Zona Colonial district of the city is a smorgaboard of landmarks, some dating from the time of Columbus. The Alcazar de Colon—the palace built by Columbus’ son Diego Colon—dates to the year 1512, while the Catedral Santa Maria la Menor is the oldest cathedral in the Americas. Other historic sites in this region include la Puerto del Conde, where the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic raised their country’s flag for the first time, and the National Pantheon, which was a former Jesuit church dating to the early 1700s. Most of the original buildings from centuries past have been meticulously restored. The city’s history is also preserved in its many museums, including the Museo de las Casas Reales, devoted to the history of the colonial period and itself housed in a building dating to the 16th century. Other museums explore a wide variety of aspects of Dominican life, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Dominican Man, the Rum Museum, and museums devoted to two precious geological elements found in the Dominican Republic, amber and larimar.
But the culture here doesn’t live in the past. In this cosmopolitan city, visitors will find a modern and extensive dining and nightlife scene, with many restaurants and bars open until the wee hours of the morning. By night, entertainment comes in the form of
nightclubs, bars and cafes, as well as theatrical performances, live bands playing in a variety of venues and classical performances taking place in its concert halls. Daytime explorers can stroll along the malecon, a promenade that runs alongside the sea, lined with hotels and casinos. Shoppers here often find bargains on high-end goods, especially jewelry containing amber.
- Best time to go:
November to May
- Fun fact:
The remains of Christopher Columbus are rumored to reside inside the Columbus Lighthouse
- Getting there:
Delta flies from Atlanta and New York (JFK) to Santo Domingo
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
Mangu, a dish of mashed plantains
- Best buys:
Cigars, rum, amber jewelry
- Information please:
Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism—godominicanrepublic.com