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Travel Logs December 2014

Compulsive Traveler

Ten Things to Do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

By Sandra Scott

The park is the hub of all the activity in the historical zone. It is centered by a statue of Christopher Columbus. Interestingly Columbus’s back is to the Cathedral and he faces the Hard Rock Café –  two faces of the city.

Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic, is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the New World. The city’s Colonial Zone is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. Alcazar de Colon: The home, one of the oldest in the Americas, was built under the direction of Diego Colon, son of Christopher Columbus, in 1510. The beautifully restored building is now a museum with a fascinating collection of European Late Medieval and Renaissance art. Although many of the furniture items are reproductions, they give visitors an idea of what life was like in colonial Santo Domingo.
  2. Museo de las Casas Reales: The building dates back to the 16th century and has a comprehensive display of cultural artifacts from the earliest days of the Spanish conquest to the formation of the Dominican Republic. It was home to the treasury, governor’s office, and courts.
  3. History in Motion: Hop on one of the “Chu Chu” trolleys for a city tour called “500 Years of History in 45 Minutes.” During the tour the narrator provides insight into local history with stories about the people who once lived there. A must-do. There are also horse-drawn carriages available for a private tour.
  4. Chocolate Museum: Learn about chocolate from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar. The museum depicts the process from start to finish. Plan to participate in one of their workshops and make your own chocolate. If you don’t have time for a workshop you can always buy chocolate items including Cacao Liqueur and chocolate bars.
  5. El Conde: Stroll down the eight-block pedestrian walkway lined with Art Deco buildings that house a variety of small shops. It extends from Parque Colon to Parque Independencia and is one of the city’s oldest streets. It is the place to buy locally made souvenirs and other “treasures.”
  6. Cathedral Primada de America: The first cathedral, consecrated in 1540, was built in the Gothic style. The Cathedral is home to a treasury of art, painting, monuments and tombs of archbishops from the colonial era. It is a favorite place for weddings. There are many other churches in the city.
  7. Parque Colon: The park is the hub of all the activity in the historical zone. It is centered by a statue of Christopher Columbus. Interestingly Columbus’s back is to the Cathedral and he faces the Hard Rock Café –  two faces of the city. Sit on one of the benches to soak in the local ambiance.
  8. The Lighthouse: Where is Columbus buried? According to one version his remains are entombed across the river in a newer part of the city in the towering Lighthouse which was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It was built in the shape of a cross and the powerful beam of light is said to be seen in neighboring Puerto Rico.
  9. Los Tres Ojos: While not in the historic district, the limestone cave called The Three Eyes in English is a series of three lakes one of which has a Garden of Eden look and is reached by a unique guide-propelled raft. The lakes are connected by a series of walkways and steps.
  10. And more: There are a plethora of museums some deal with amber, larimar and rum. Stroll the Calle de Damas, the oldest paved street in the Americas. Take note of the many buildings with traditional balconies.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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