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A Tourist Guide To The Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World and was founded by Christopher Columbus and his younger brother, Bartholomew Columbus, in 1496. The part of the city inhabited in the early 1500s is called the Colonial Zone ( Zona Colonial in the Spanish). The Colonial Zone boasts many firsts for the New World. The first paved street, university, cathedral, castle, monastery, hospital and fortress – to name a few. With beautiful architecture and rich history, the Colonial Zone is a must-see when visiting Santo Domingo. The Colonial Zone has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the Colonial Zone, along with the beauty of the historical buildings, you will find: hotels, restaurants, cafes, museums, bars, shops, etc. The two most famous streets in the Colonial Zone are Calle Las Damas (the street of the Colonial Zone). women) and Calle Conde. Calle Las Damas was the street that high society women walked down after church on their way to lunch. Calle Las Damas is a wonderful street during the day, but it becomes even more wonderful at night, as the street lights turn the walls of the buildings a beautiful shade of orange. With every step you take on the first paved street of the New World, you travel deeper in time until you feel like you’re in the 1500s walking alongside Christopher Columbus himself.
There are many hotels to choose from and they provide a wide range of prices from economical to elegant. What is nice about the budget hotels in this area is that they are clean and staffed with friendly people – with many English speakers. Keep in mind that these are old buildings, and although they are clean, most of the rooms are small and have “Old Building” issues. However, for the price, I think they offer a great experience in a great area. There are many of these hotels and many offer different specials at different times, so it is difficult to recommend one specific hotel. The reason I like the hotels in this area is that when you walk out the door of your hotel, you don’t need to pay a taxi to take you to a place to enjoy. You are already in the #1 destination in Santo Domingo.
On the higher end, there are several hotels to enjoy, but I will talk about Hodelpa Nicolas De Ovando. This hotel has spacious guest rooms, a nice courtyard at the back to enjoy the evenings, a small bar, good food for the breakfast buffet, and for dinner they have an amazing menu, but the two best aspects of this hotel are its history and its architecture. . Nicolas de Ovando, a traveling companion of Christopher Columbus, was the 3rd governor of the Indies and this hotel used to be his home and dates back to 1502. This hotel is located on Calle Las Damas (the first paved street) in one of the first houses built, so to me, there is no better place to stay to be able to immerse yourself in the culture of the oldest city in the New World. But don’t worry if the hotel is out of your budget, you can visit it and enjoy a cocktail at the bar or in the courtyard.
Things To Do And See
I highly suggest that you take the walking tour on Calle Las Damas and make it one of the first things you do when you arrive in the Colonial Zone. Once you understand the buildings and their history, you will be able to enjoy them more. For example, if you are sitting in the Spanish Square (Placo Espana) enjoying a nice dinner, as you look across the square and see the stone building, it will no longer be just a stone building because, after the walk, you will understand that this is the house of the son of Christopher Columbus, Diego Columbus.
Walking along Las Damas street, you will be approached by the tour guides who will offer you the walking tour. So far every tour I’ve taken has been with guides who spoke excellent English. The walk usually takes two hours. I usually talk to the tour guide beforehand and ask them to hit the highlights and try to do the tour in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The cost for the tour is usually around $1,000 Dominican Pesos ($20 USD), but you can try to negotiate a lower price. The tour guides do a great job and care, so I think they win the $1,000 Weights.
The next section will talk about some of the buildings worth seeing and many of these will be included in the tour.
Buildings, Museums and Historical Attractions
Cathedral of Santa Maria / The Cathedral of Santa Maria– built in 1514, is the first cathedral of the Americas. This cathedral is an active cathedral and holds services and has 7 beautiful chapels.
Alcázar de Colón is the house of the son of Christopher Columbus (Diego Columbus). This home has been turned into a beautiful museum with some original furniture and some reproductions of the original furniture. A walk through this museum will give you a sense of how Columbus lived in the 1500s.
Plaza de España is a large, open meeting place that on one side has 8 restaurants overlooking the square and on the other side has the Alcazar de Colon (the house of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus). The square is located at the end of Calle Las Damas.
Calle Las Damas is probably the most historically significant street in the city. It was the first paved street in the Americas and it was also the street that the women of high society walked down after church to attend lunch. The street is filled with buildings from the 1500s that have now been turned into museums, hotels, restaurants, etc. Draws the history as you walk down this street.
Calle Conde is probably the 2nd most important street in the city. This street is closed to cars and is full of shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, and it has a small park (Parque Colon) in the middle and, on the far side of that street, has the Parque Independencia (Independence Park).
Fort Ozama is a 16th-century castle built overlooking the Ozama River in the Colonial Zone. This is the oldest European-designed fort in the Americas.
Ruins of San Francisco are the remains of a monastery built in preparation for Franciscan Fathers in 1508. This is considered a major ruin and was the work of governor Nicolas de Ovando.
panteon of the Patria originally it was a church for the Jesuits, later turned into a mausoleum to house the remains of some of the most famous national, civil and military heroes of the Dominican Republic.
El Parque Colon (Columbus Park) was the main meeting center for celebrations in colonial times and continues to be today. Located on Calle Conde across from the Hotel Conde and adjacent to the Cathedral of Santa Maria, it is a great place to sit on a park bench under a tree and take a break from visiting the museums and ruins to soak in the beauty and the culture.
Restaurants, bars, cafes and night clubs
There are many restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs in the Colonial Zone. I will focus on the ones that have historical significance, the ones that I have enjoyed, and some that our past customers have enjoyed.
Facing both Plaza Espana (Spanish Square) and Alcázar de Colón (house of Deigo Columbus) are 8 restaurants located in a row. Each of them has a menu located in front of the restaurant in Spanish and English. All 8 restaurants are elegant and the longest running restaurant in the New World is one of these 8. Pate Palo (the wooden leg) once owned by a one-legged pirate is a 500-year-old restaurant where Sir Francis Drake once dined. Whether you’re dining at Pate Palo or one of the other 8, you can’t go wrong choosing one of these.
On Calle Conde there are several restaurants to choose from. They are casual for lunch and either casual or upscale casual at night. Segrefrados, an Italian restaurant is a great place not only for food but for people watching. They have great coffee in the morning to start your day, and their pizzas are great too. For more traditional Dominican cuisine, you can visit the first floor of the Conde hotel. This restaurant has a patio with a view of both Parque Calon and Cathedral de Santa Maria.
At the end of Calle Conde is a very famous cafe/restaurant called Grands, formerly Pacos. This restaurant is open 24 hours a day and is a great place to grab a coffee and some breakfast to start your day. This is not a fancy place but a regular cafe that on any day of the week, you will see people gathering here to enjoy good conversation with their coffee, and Dominican style food, no matter the time.
LuLus Tasting Bar is a great place to enjoy a cocktail and dinner. It’s a very trendy place that is sophisticated casual.
Onnos is a nightclub located in the heart of the Colonial Zone, where you can hear the countries favorite music (Bachata, Merengue and Salsa).
As I mentioned before, there are many more restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs to choose from, but I wanted to give you a list of what we consider to be the popular options. While walking around you will see many others, if you see one you like just go in and enjoy.
Between the history, museums, great restaurants, cafes and nightlife, the Colonial Zone should be a must-see for anyone visiting the Dominican Republic. This is an English speaking friendly area that is very safe to walk around as a tourist.
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