As well as being a major metropolis, Santo Domingo is the capital and cultural heart of the Dominican Republic. The city is a wonderful mix of history and modernity, and is an incredible place to tour and visit. Here are some top tips for when you visit.
These are just a few suggestions as to the Top 10 things to do in Santo Domingo
This natural wonder and cave complex is perfect for a day tour. You can enter the beautiful structures by foot or by boat (the latter is a little bit more exciting!)
El Faro, the controversial Columbus Lighthouse (Tues–Sun 9.30am– 5.30pm; RD$100; 591 1492), towers over the western end of Parque Mirador del Este, a pleasant stretch of manicured woodlands spanning the length of the barrios east of the Ozama. At the park’s far eastern tip is a series of large caves dotted with freshwater lagoons. Known as Los Tres Ojos, or “The Three Eyes” (daily 9am–5pm; RD$25), the caves were used by the Tainos for religious ceremonies; more recently they’ve been the setting for no less than six Tarzan movies. Walkways lead you to three of the lagoons and a manually powered pulley conducts a ferry to a fourth.
The oldest colonial residence in the Americas and one of the best art galleries in the region. The gallery exhibits some the Caribbean’s most important collection of art works.
The most outstanding structure in the old city is the Alcázar, a palace built for Columbus’s son, Diego, and his wife, who was also niece to Ferdinand, king of Spain. Diego became the colony’s governor in 1509, and Santo Domingo rose as the hub of Spanish commerce and culture in America. For more than 60 years, this coral limestone structure on the bluffs of the Ozama River was the center of the Spanish court, entertaining such distinguished visitors as Cortés, Ponce de León, and Balboa. The nearly two dozen rooms and open-air loggias are decorated with paintings and period tapestries, as well as 16th-century antiques. A walk downhill from the Alcázar leads to the impressive Puerto de San Diego, which dates from 1571 when it was built as the main gate into Santo Domingo. Some of the original wall can be seen by this gate, which once guarded against attacks coming from the river.
Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
A fascinating building architecturally and the oldest cathedral in the Americas, situated right next to Colombus Park, it’s well worth a stop here.
This is a must see of the Top 10 things to do in Santo Domingo, but note please dress accordingly this is a place of worship!
A beautiful part of the city – here you can see a sundial dating back to 1753 and visit the Institute for Hispanic Culture.
The coral-limestone facade of the first cathedral in the New World (Catedral Primada de America) towers over the south side of the Parque Colón. Spanish workmen began building the cathedral in 1514, but left to search for gold in Mexico. The church was finally finished in 1540. Its facade is composed of architectural elements from the late Gothic to the lavish Plateresque style. Inside, the high altar is made of hammered silver. A museum houses the cathedral’s treasures; it’s in the former jail, a yellow building just across the street. Mass times vary so check before going there the day before.
An exquisite building built on beautiful park grounds, and the offices of the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the state; it is an important cultural point of interest.
This should definitely be high on your list to visit as it is considered by some to be the best garden of its kind in the world. Tours are advised as the park is so vast!
The National Botanical Gardens should be high on your list of things to do while visiting Santo Domingo. Covering over 200 acres, this park is the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. It is also considered to be one of the finest in the world.
The Gardens feature a diverse range of flora that includes more than 300 varieties of orchids, gorgeous palms and lots of native plants. There is also a Japanese Garden section that is very beautiful.
The Gardens were initially created to study, investigate and preserve the plant life of the Dominican Republic. It is a sanctuary for plants and animals that is ideal for exploration, having lots of trails and roads for visitors.
This is really a must-see Santo Domingo attraction, so put it near the top of your list. You will have a fun and relaxing time amidst the natural beauty of the Dominican Republic, and far from the city noise.
Look for the choo-choo train to take you on a guided tour!
The National Botanical Gardens is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Whether it’s for international or local performances, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of the acts here.
An amazing place with really world class exhibits. One of the highlights is definitely the planetarium show, and a tour will make your trip even more enjoyable. I love this place and its definitely in my Top 10 things to do in Santo Domingo.
At the entrance to Santo Domingo, overlooking the Ozama River, you’ll find this beautiful 16th-Century castle.
Museo de las Casas Reales
One of the important cultural monuments built during the colonial era – if you want to learn more about the region’s history, this is definitely a sight to visit.
Built in the Renaissance style during the 16th century, this building was the longtime seat of Spanish authority for the entire Caribbean region, housing the governor’s office and the powerful Audiencia Real (Royal Court), among others. It showcases colonial-period objects, including many treasures recovered from Spanish galleons that foundered in nearby waters. Each room has been restored according to its original style, and displays range from Taíno artifacts to dozens of hand-blown wine bottles and period furnishings.
Several walls are covered with excellent maps of various voyages of European explorers and conquistadors. Also on display is an impressive antique weaponry collection acquired by dictator/president Trujillo from a Mexican general (ironically, during a 1955 world peace event); you’ll see samurai swords, medieval armor, ivory-inlaid crossbows and even a pistol/sword combo. Admission includes an audio guide available in a number of languages including English.
The city is ideal to visit all year long, as there is always a warm tropical climate. However, in the summer months it can get very hot indeed, and is sometimes prone to hurricanes, so if you don’t like it too hot, a visit in the winter months might be more up your alley!
Two or three days is a perfect amount of time to see all the tourist spots and still have enough time to relax and enjoy the city. Most people combine a trip to Santo Domingo with a visit to the nearby Punta Cana.
CurrencyDOP ($ or RD$)
Time ZoneUTC (-04:00)
Best time to visitIf you don’t like intense heat and possible hurricanes, try to visit in the winter, when the temperatures are still warm and tropical.
These are just Top 10 things to do in Santo Domingo remember there is so much to see and do in this amazing capital city.