Dominican Republic stands out primarily for its beautiful beaches, but also for its colonial cities, and the old town of Santo Domingo is one of the referents in America. It was the first city founded by Europeans on American soil, so it is not surprising that we can find there the first cathedral of America, the first Royal Audience, the first stone-built house… The colonial area has deservedly won being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you are lucky enough to visit this city, we recommend you to explore its old town on foot and to soak into the history that abounds in its streets and buildings. Get your best walking shoes and your camera ready to enjoy these 10 charming colonial places in Santo Domingo:
1. Parque Colón
It is the ideal place for seating peacefully in a terrace to have a coffee and watch the people that chats, walks around or feeds the pigeons. Historically, it has always been the most important square of the colonial city, and that is why impressive buildings and residences, such as the cathedral or the Town Hall, where built around it. It is the ancient Main Square of Santo Domingo (in the cover image) and it was inaugurated in 1506, but it was not known with the name Parque Colón (Columbus Park) until 1887, when a statue of Columbus was placed in the middle of the park.
2. Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
2. Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
Located in Parque Colón, it is one of the gems of the colonial city of Santo Domingo and it was the first cathedral built in America. In 1546, Pope Paul III granted it the status of Primate of the Americas at the request of Charles V. It is said this cathedral contains the remains of Admiral Christopher Columbus, but there are no documents that prove it.
3. Old Town Hall
A big 29 metres tall Clock Tower stands out in the old town. This neoclassical-style building was once Town Hall and it is located in Parque Colón. Even though you cannot visit the building’s interior, you can look at it from one of the park’s terraces.
4. Tower of Homage
This tower, built as watchtower in 1503, was used as sighting location for spotting the pirates before they arrived and as a place where tribute was paid to the boats that arrived to the port, but years later it also served as a prison.
5. Calle de las Damas
It is the oldest street of Santo Domingo, created in 1502. It was called Calle de las Damas (Ladies’ Street) because the ladies of the court of doña María de Toledo (wife of Diego Colombus, son of Christopher Colombus) lived in it. The first stone houses of important people and conquerors were built in here.
6. National Pantheon
Located in the famous Calle de las Damas, in the mid-20th century this former Jesuit church became a place for paying homage to national heroes, such as general Santana, first president of the Republic. Inside the building there is always one soldier watching over the symbolic flame in a solemn atmosphere that you have to respect when you visit it. If you are lucky, you will be able to witness and to take photos of the change of the guard.
7. Museo de las Casas Reales
This Museum (Museum of the Royal Houses) is one of the most complete history museums of America, a good place to start your visit to the city and to get in touch with the history of the island from 1493 to 1821, when it achieved independence from Spain. You cannot miss the stone sundial from 1753 that is in front of the museum, it is the one in which the judges checked the time back then.
8. Colombus Alcazar
Located in the huge Plaza de España, it was the residence of the viceroy and first governor Diego Columbus, son of the first Admiral Christopher Columbus, America’s discoverer. His family and descendants lived in the Colombus Alcazar until 1577, and, later, it became a museum that preserves most of the furniture from that time.
9. The Cord House
Located in Isabel La Católica Street, it is the first stone-built house of America, dating back to 1502. It is called the Cord House because it has a stone cord as ornament in its façade, around the front door. Today it is an office of Banco Popular Dominicano.
10. Church and convento of the Dominicos
The convent of the Dominicos, founded in 1510, was the first of this order installed in America and the studies of the Chair of Theology that were taught in there were promoted to the category of University, the first one in that continent. Moreover, the church of the Dominicos, situated right next to the convent, is considered as the oldest one still standing in America.
There are many other colonial places worth a visit in the old town of Santo Domingo that we have not included in the list. If you have been there, we encourage you to tell us about it in the comment section.
Where to change money in Dominican Republic
Global Exchange is in this country since 2006, under the designation Globo Cambio. You can change your money for Dominican peso at the Hotel Dreams La Romana, at Punta Cana International Airport, at Las Américas Airport, in Santiago de los Caballeros, in Santo Domingo, at the hotels in the tourist areas of Bayahibe and Bávaro, and in the shopping centre Palma Real. In all, they have 39 branches in 25 workplaces, and a total of 221 employees. For further information about the services they offer, please check their website.
If you are going to travel to Dominican Republic and you prefer changing your Dominican peso beforehand, visit Global Exchange. With more than 220 branches in 20 countries, they are your best ally when it comes to managing foreign exchange transactions.
And if you are already there and you plan on changing money upon your arrival (or your coming back home), we will make it easier with a 15% on the margin applied to your change at any of the Dominican branches. To benefit from the discount, show this coupon at the branch and start your trip off on the right foot.