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Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European city in the Americas. The old city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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Points of Interest in Santo Domingo
Despite boasting a rich cultural, architectural and artistic heritage, Santo Domingo has not been exploited for all its tourist potential. You're pretty much on your own to discover this fascinating city. Make the most of your time there.
- Colonial Zone. Santo Domingo was the first major european settlement in the New World. Christopher Columbus walked these streets! Check out the many examples of 15th and 16th century architecture in the Colonial Zone. Don't miss the Ozama Fort, the Alcazar de Colon and the Cathedral, all built in Columbus' lifetime. You can also check beautiful churches and convents, such as the Iglesia Regina Angelorum and the Convento de los Dominicos. Don't miss the Panteon Nacional, where the national heroes are buried, located in the Calle Las Damas, the New World's first (European) street! Also, walk up the Calle del Conde, a very old pedestrian shop-lined street that used to be the commercial heart of the city. This street leads to the Puerta de la Independencia, where the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti, and the Parque Independencia, where the country's founding fathers' remains are kept. On Sunday evenings, check out the Ruinas de San Francisco for live bands playing Merengue, Bachata, Salsa and Son, in a wonderful weekly show where both locals and tourists dance, drink and enjoy themselves. This would be an unforgettable experience! Also check out La Atarazana street after dark for a variety of romantic outdoor cafes with a spectacular view of the Alcazar and bay area. One such brasserie, Pat E Palo, has operated uninterrupted since 1505. Check out the house where Ponce DeLeon lived before he embarked upon his quest for the fountain of youth and ended up discovering Florida.
- Malecon (George Washington Avenue). This waterfront boulevard is home to several huge hotel/casino complexes and dozens of small restaurants, clubs and cafes. Go there to people watch, take a romantic carriage ride or just have a few beers. Site of many festivals and concerts throughout the year. Parallel to the Malecon you will find Avenida Independencia, a tree lined street full of shops, bed and breakfasts and affordable restaurants with a nice mix of locals and tourists. For a unique dining experience check out Adrian Tropical, a traditional Dominican restaurant literally built on the water, or San Gil, a more formal eatery occupying the ruins of a colonial fort. The Malecon Center, located on the far end of the Malecon, is a new and still underoccupied high-end shopping center/hotel/condo complex with a Botero sculpture out front that reportedly cost US$1 million.
- Plaza de la Cultura (Walk all the way down the Malecon to Avenida Maximo Gomez and take a left. Walk past the McDonald's and Pizza Hut.). This amazing complex is home to the National Theater and five museums, ranging from the delapidated and mundane, to the crisp, modern Museum of Modern Art, the largest in the Caribbean and home to exhibits by artists from Jamaica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and of course, the Dominican Republic. If want a nice beautiful garden to read or talk this is your place also.
- Eco-tourism. Find your way to the Parque Mirador Sur, an impressive park overlooking the coast. It gets closed for cars on weekdays between 5 and 8 am and pm, as well as on Sundays, enabling it to get filled with families playing with their children and exercising. Bike rentals are at your disposal.
Also, you can visit the Botanical Garden, a vast, beautiful and lush park situated near one of Santo Domingo's most exclusive neighborhoods. There you can experience different ecosystems from a rain-forest to a Japanese garden!
- Eastern Santo Domingo. Refered to as Santo Domingo Oriental, this separate municipality is not very tourist-friendly. Fortunately, most of its attractions are very close to the Colonial Zone and easy to get to. Check out Los Tres Ojos, or Three Eyes, a series of open-roof caverns and underground lakes for the whole family to explore (with a local this part of Santo Domingo is the most poverty stricken and can be dangerous!!!!). Head over to the Faro a Colon, a huge lighthouse and monument to Christopher Columbus which not only houses his remains but doubles as a museum. Check out the Santo Domingo Aquarium, a small but impressive showcase of the local aquatic life. If you're looking for some shopping, you can go to the Megacentro, Santo Domingo's largest shopping mall.
- Upscale Santo Domingo. If you want to see the cosmopolitan, upscale side of Santo Domingo, head to the Piantini and Naco neighborhoods. Streets like Gustavo Mejía Ricart and major avenues like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are lined with high end boutiques, shopping plazas, expensive cafes and restaurants offering a huge variety of international cuisines and just about anything money can buy, from cigar shops to Ferrari and Bentley dealerships. The Holiday Inn Hotel has recently opened in this area, which is very likely to bring much more tourism into what is the actual "downtown" of Santo Domingo. Don't miss Acropolis Center, an ultra-modern shopping center/office building where you will find everything from TGI Friday's to Prada. Just opened is Blue Mall, which has the most expensive shops in the city from Louis Vouitton, Ferragamo, Cartier, Tous & L'Occitane to more casuals like Zara and Addidas. Also just opened is Novo-centro which opened in a glass tower which was originally going to be a bank, but turned into a 2 story shopping center featuring a Fine Arts Cinema and some high end restaurants and gelaterias. Further away you can find Bella Vista Mall and Diamond Mall, two other big shopping malls in Santo Domingo. If you're looking for more open-air plazas lined with smaller boutiques, you should check out Plaza Andalucia. For bowling, you can go to the Plaza Bolera, which has recently gotten a face-lift. If you're in this area in the early afternoon, you should check out trendy cafes such as La Cuchara de Madera, where you can enjoy delicious deserts such as their dulce de leche "Piramides", and Marocha & Grappa for dining and definitely to high-end nightclubs and bars like Fellini or Praia.
In the Colonial Zone:
- Alcázar de Colón - Visit this stunning villa, built in 1510 and retaining period furnishings and other items owned by Governor Diego Colón, first-born son of Christopher Columbus.
- Naval Museum of the Atarazanas Located across the plaza from the Alcazar de Colon on Calle Atarazana, the oldest street in the Western Hemisphere.
- Museum of the Casas Reales Another great museum featuring collections depicting life in 16th century Santo Domingo. Located on Calle Las Damas, walking distance from the Alcazar de Colon and the Naval Museum.
- World of Ambar Museum An impressive collection of amber stones
- Museum of Duarte A collection of artifacts and writings regarding the Dominican Republic's founding father, Juan Pablo Duarte. Located on Calle Isabel La Catolica, a few blocks west of the above museums.
- Museo del Ron Dominicano Interesting museum presenting the history and evolution of rum production in the Dominican Republic. In the after hours it turns into a bar (read below). 
- Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, Calle Arzobispo Nouel #210, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, ☎ +1 809 688-4440, e-mail: email@example.com. Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana (Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance) presents an ample presentation of 20th century history of the country, and the ordeals endured under the Trujillo regime.
In Plaza de la Cultura:
- Museum of Natural History
- Museum of Dominican Man
- Modern Art Museum, Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue, ☎ +1 809 685-2154, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; closed M. Adults: $50, Students/children: $20, Children age 5 and under: Free.
- National Museum of History and Geography
There are many parks around the city of Santo Domingo. One of the most popular parks are called Los Miradores, which are located on various sections of the city. These parks are very cozy for a picnic, to bike ride, a quick jog, or a long walk to enjoy nature and relax with friends. They’re a quite huge and can be a bit unsafe if wandered during the night, because it lacks street lights. Although Santo Domingo is surrounded by beautiful parks it does lack recreational facilities accessible to the public. Some of the parks that can be found:
- Mirador Norte Park, lies in the north of the city, close to Villa Mella
- Enriquillo Park
- Mirador Sur Park, located in the southwest section of the city
- Independencia Park, located in Zona Colonial
- Colón Park, located in Zona Colonial
- Las Praderas Metropolitan Park
- The Malecón, cityfront coastal park
- Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanical Garden
- Dominican Republic National Zoo
- Parque Ambiental Nuñez de Caceres
About Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo enjoys a tropical climate. Temperature averages from 73.4°F (23°C) in the morning to 89.1°F (31.7°C) by the afternoon. Generally, January and February are the coldest months, and August is the hottest month of the year. The island is prone to hurricanes especially during June 1 to November 30, but fortunately they receive many warnings beforehand to prepare their people and tourist of any harm. Santo Domingo is a great city to visit during any season, because the city's ideal tropical weather runs all year long!
Santo Domingo is an excellent place to study Spanish off the beaten track and get immersed in the language. One recommended Spanish school that specializes in one on one lessons at discount rates is the RoofTop Spanish School.
Two of the top festivities of the year occur in Santo Domingo. The annual Merengue Festival in the summer and Carnival in the spring. Each of these is held on the city's main seaside main road, El Malecon, but tend to spill over into hotel ballrooms, beaches, patios and even parking lots. This is a great way to emerge oneself into the Dominican culture, as well as meet new interesting people from the city. The Merengue Festival takes place between July 26 to 31. The festival is a celebration of Dominican Republic’s main dance, merengue. They invite the top merengue bands to perform free concerts to the crowd. The festival begins with a parade, but later becomes a concert. There are art exhibitions, food fairs, and games that occur at the same time. The main activity that is done during the festival is dancing merengue, so be prepared to be spun uncontrollable when you decide to dance with a local. The other amazing festival is The Carnival, which takes place during the entire month of February, but reaches its peak on February 27, the Dominican Independence Day. The Carnival also takes place in El Malecon, where masks, which symbolizes spiritual spirits;elaborate costumes,and intriguing dances parade down the streets while entertaining and sometimes scaring the crowd.
Santo Domingo offers a variety of cuisines from around the world from Chinese, Italian and Mediterranean to Brazillian. You can also find the main fast food franchises like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, among others.
Be aware that mid-grade and high-end restaurants can be quite costly for third world standards, a dinner with an entrée, main course, drink and dessert can range from US $15-$75 per person, plus 10% mandatory tip plus 16% ITBIS tax. Be careful and ask around as price doesn't always equal quality, especially in tourist areas.
Note: Unless the contrary is specified menu prices don’t include the 10% service charge and 16% sales tax, so real prices are 26% higher than indicated in the menu.
If you want to spend less than US $8 on a decent meal and drink:
- Visit a “comedor” or cafeteria.
Comedores offer a “Plato del Día” or predetermined meal of the day (usually rice, beans, salad and meat or chicken, and a soda) for just US$3 – 8. Cafeterias and Comedores can be found everywhere around the city but specially around business areas and universities, this is where locals eat so is a great way of getting in touch with the culture. “Mimosa”, located on Padre Billini street in the Colonial Zone, offers a great variety of tasty local food during lunch hours. Another great option is Cafeteria "El Parque" which is in front of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park attached to the "Clinica Abreu" one of the country's best and most prestigious clinic,close to the Colonial Zone and the Malecon, great place for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.
- Best sandwiches, juice and shakes in the Caribbean
"Barra Payán", located on 30 de marzo street only five minutes from the Colonial Zone, is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sandwich cafeteria, the place has been a traditional eatery for more than a half century. Buy a sandwich and a delicious squeezed-to-order fruit juice or milkshake for less than US$ 5.
- Chinese and "Pica Pollo"
At some point in history Dominicans became quite fond of fried chicken and chinese food, combining both cuisines into fast food establishments known as "pica pollos". These are usually take-out joints run by first or second generation chinese immigrants, serving up heaping portions of fried rice, plantain slices and tasty (and greasy) fried chicken, along with the usual variety of chinese comfort food. Very inexpensive. Visit Santo Domingo's China Town, near the Mercado Modelo and not far from the Colonial Zone (Duarte Avenue), a very busy zone where working class people do a lot of their shopping. If you feel adventurous enough to enter this usually chaotic but very picturesque part of the town it would an experience to remember. Keep in mind, pick-pockets love the crowded streets, watch your belongings closely.
- Fast food
A Mcdonalds combo costs around US$ 5, Taco Bell, Wendys and Pizza Hut around US$ 6. There are also several very good local franchises like Pizzarelliwhere you can have pasta, pizza or a salad for no more than US$ 10, and others like Pollos Victorina. Also, don't miss some good Dominican "empanadas" at De Nosotros Empanadas. Interesting note: you can walk into a McDonalds in Santo Domingo and order a value meal with a Presidente beer instead of a Coke. How cool is that?
- Adrian Tropical A unique, quality and "affordable" dining experience. There are three restaurants in the city, the coolest one is literally built on the water in the Malecon. Best known for its "Mofongo" dish. This plate is made out of mashed plantains.
- El Conuco Very touristy and rather affordable restaurant in Gazcue, where you can enjoy live traditional Dominican dances.
- Lincoln Road On the Abraham Lincoln avenue, this restaurant has recently been remodeled.
- Yokomo The Dominican Sushi franchise. Enjoy the most unique and inventive Dominican-fushion sushi, such as sushi with sweet plantains.
- Falafel In the colonial zone, a good and affordable Near Eastern restaurant specializing in, as the name suggests it, falafel.
- Atras and Cinnamon in Plaza Orleans, two contiguous open-air restaurants. In this plaza you can order from any restaurant while sitting in the courtyard.
- Buen Provecho Middle range restaurant serving different types of food, a good place to get the "Dominican Flag" of meat with rice and beans.
- Red Grill A very trendy grill with several locations in the city. One is located in Plaza Orleans, another one has its own bar on top. Pricier, but not a splurge.
- Chef Pepper Also very trendy, and it just opened a new branch in Bella Vista. If you're craving a hamburger or a steak and cheese sandwich, this is a good place to go.
- L'Osteria A mid-range but very high quality Italian restaurant, facing the national theater.
- Sapore d'Italia Another mid-range, very good Italian restaurant.
- La Lasagna And yet another good Italian restaurant, very good and pretty affordable.
American and international midrange franchises include:
- TGI Fridays in Acropolis Mall
- Tony Roma's in the Sarasota Avenue
- Outback Steak House in Acropolis Mall
- Aviation Sports Bar in Plaza Central Mall
- Hard Rock Cafe in the Colonial Zone, facing the Cathedral
If you have to ask how much, you can't afford these places. The following are very tourist-friendly:
- El Vesuvio The oldest and finest Italian restaurant on the island, bar none, located on the Malecon
- Pat'e Palo Colonial Spanish/Mediterranean brasserie style restaurant, situated by the "Plaza de Espana" overlooking the "Alcazar de Colon" frequented by locals
- La Briciola Fancy Italian restaurant in a Colonial Garden
- Mesón de la Cava An expensive average restaurant whose chief gimmick is being located within a natural cave underground.
The following are not very touristy, mostly being frequented by locals. However, if you want to explore how the wealthier classes dine in Santo Domingo, these are the places to go:
- Pepperoni Grille Upscale, modern Italian.
- Sofia's Mediterranean cuisine.
- Any of the restaurants around Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenue
- David Crockett The most expensive steak house.
- Mesón de Bari One of the classiest restaurants for Dominican cuisine
- Porter House Grill Steakhouse
- Marocha Very popular cafe/restaurant, especially because of its "Churros"
- Lupe Right next to Marocha, Mexican Restaurant
- La Marrana Very trendy Spanish restaurant
- Cane, Jaleo and Tangerine Three contiguous "Dominican fusion" bar/restaurants
- Aka Possibly the most popular Japanese restaurant
- Fellini's Fancy Italian
- Don Pepe Fancy Spanish restaurant, very pricey
- Mitre Chic restaurant and wine bar
- Tabu Bambu Asian Fusion
- Scherezade Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant, with a lunch buffet on Sundays.
- Michelangelo Restaurant (Winston Churchill and Roberto Pastoriza, Plaza Las Americas). The average price is about six to fourteen dollars a plate, a international menu that includes, imported seafood, imported pasta and cheese, imported steaks and some of the most popular Dominican cuisine. The decoration is artistic, with Michaelangelo finest works on the walls but at the same time very modern and chic all in white, with a outdoor terrace to enjoy frozen cocktails and wine overlooking one of the most popular avenue in the city. The restaurant products are mostly imported and they only cook with bottle water, making it one of the most safe place to eat.
- Sixteen Cuts Restaurant & Marine Lounge. This is by far the best kept secret in Santo Domingo. Offers one of the most exclusive views of the Colonial Zone. Has an excellent international menu, being its main courses the Black Angus and US Certified Cuts, divided in: 16 Tapas & Entrees, 16 Greatest & Newest Cuts,16 Ultimates Sides. All this complemented with a delicious offer of Seafood Meals, Fresh Salads and "More Great Cuisine”, all harmonized with their Wine Selection. Avenida Miguel Barcelo #1, Marina Bartolome Colon, Tel. 809-827-0660, 809-594-9634.
Santo Domingo has an amazing variety of night life options. Unfortunately, most bars and clubs must close at midnight from Sunday to Thursday and at 2AM on Friday and Saturday. This is a regulation imposed since 2006 intended to curtail the escalating crime in the city. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to start partying at 8PM on the weekends. Happily, the regulation is suspended on holidays and the last two weeks of December for Christmas partying. Usually the clubs located inside major hotels are exempt from this rule, although they aren't usually much fun.
As of November 2007, there are a couple of bars that are open until 3AM on weekends since August 2007.
The Malecon is home to several options as well, depending on what's in style at the time.
Check out Jet Set on Monday nights for live Merengue and Bachata shows from the most popular top bands.
Head over to the upscale side of Santo Domingo (Naco, Piantini) if that is your scene. There are a ton of options there, including perennial favorites such as Trio Caffe, Praia and Montecristo. Be aware that those kind of places can have a rather strict admission policy, you usually have to look white enough and rich enough to be admitted. This discrimination hasn't go unnoticed, the Embassy of United States directed all resident official U.S. Embassy employees to refrain from patronizing Loft one of the most popular and exclusive nightclubs in the city, responding to the actions of Loft management in selectively denying entry to African-Americans embassy on July 22 2007. 
In this upscale area of Santo Domingo, consider:
- Amika Dance club and lounge
- Cinema Cafe Within Plaza de la Cultura, adjacent to Museo del Hombre Dominicano. Nice ambient, presents local rock bands on the weekends. In case of concert there is a $15-20 cover. Check the website for the activities calendar.
- Dock Very trendy Bar at the Acropolis Center. Open air, electronic music.
- El Barcito Very nice ambiance, mostly rock music. The owner is always present and very friendly.
- Fellini Fancy Italian restaurant, becomes bar later at night
- LED A nice Club with House music, where some well known DJ's are invited. Near Santo Domingo Hotel.
- Level 2 On the second flour of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Also check out the rooftop bar and pool!
- Maruja New, trendy open air bar, close to La Marrana and Margo
- Mix Right next to the Mix Restaurant, another popular bar.
- Praia The fanciest club, currently moved to the Holiday Inn Hotel.
- Rua Open air bar in front of Aka
- Shots Mostly rock music, very young crowd. Ave. Roberto Pastoriza.
If you you are more into the bohemian scene check out the Colonial Zone for great bars and cafes, as well as a vibrant gay nightlife scene. Here are some hints:
- Bio. Modern eclectic music from regueaton to latin rock, very young public. Famous for serving drinks from buckets. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Bocanegra Currently the trendiest place in the Colonial Zone
- Cacibajagua.. Great rock music, nice decor, adult crowd. Sanchez #201.
- Casa de Teatro Enjoy live jazz and rock concerts, pretty bohemian.
- Doubles Good Latin dance music.
- El Beduino New Hookah Bar on a rooftop in the Colonial Zone.
- El Sarten Latin Dance music
- Encuentro Artesanal. The decor is definitely the best in the Colonial Zone highly selected electronic music, frequented by artists and publicists.
- Misifu New bar in the Atarazana street. Very trendy at the moment.
- Museo del Ron The daytime museum turns into a very cosy bar, offering a wide range of Caribbean rums to taste, as well as some of the best rum based coctails in the city. Nice lounge music, beautiful patio. 
- O' Brien's Supposedly an Irish Pub, and although there's nothing of a pub about it, it is a very trendy place.
- Ocho Puertas Rock, alternative and electronica with live music also, very beautiful place. Jose Reyes #107
- Parada 77. Latin rock, spanish songwriters some merengue and salsa , people in their mid thirties and forties.
- S Bar. Mostly rock music can enjoy some falafels too, you would love the owner Isaac. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Segafredo. A franchise, loungue music, italian food and good coffee.
Whatever you do, don't leave Santo Domingo without visiting La Guacara Taina, the only nightclub in the world inside a huge natural cave. Descend several hundred feet into a fantasy world of lights and sound. You have to see this place to believe it. Located (under) the Mirador Sur park mentioned above. It can be empty if you go early or on weekdays.
Most transactions in the Dominican Republic can be paid in Cash and credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in most stores and restaurants.
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. However most merchants will accept dollars or euros. If you do choose to purchase goods or services in dollars or euros, be wary of the exchange rate. The official exchange rate in the Dominican Republic is set by theBanco Central de la Republica Dominicana and is updated daily.
Foreign Currency exchange services are promoniently available at major ports of entry or are located nearby. Some of the most prominent foreign exchange dealers are:
Agente de Cambio Caribe Express and Agente de Cambio La Nacional Caribe Express offices and major banks which include:
Banco de Reservas, Scotia Bank, Banco Leon, Banco Popular Dominicano among others.
Some of these banks are located at
- Gruen Projects -- Art Gallery, Bella Vista (by appointment), ☎ 809 707 1967. Gruen Projects exhibits and promotes the work of Dominican Artists, such as Hector Ledesma, Miguel Pineda, Leonardo Sanz, Joaquin Rosario, and Joel Gonell.
The Colonial Zone offers plenty of shopping opportunities, especially if you are looking for Ambar and Larimar, the traditional stones of the DR. Don't forget to haggle, as all the shop owners adjust their prices for this purpose. You will also find a ton of Haitian art for sale everywhere at great prices. If that's your thing, great, just remember its not Dominican. The main boulevard in the Colonial Zone is El Conde, a pedestrian boulevard lined with all kinds of shops and eateries mostly aimed at the locales. Have fun shopping and people watching here.
If you are feeling adventurous, have a cab take you to the Mercado Modelo nearby. This indoor labyrinth of shops can be overwhelming for a new tourist but, don't worry, it is safe. Then again, you might feel safer asking the cab driver to escort you through the maze of shops and kiosks offering every imaginable kind of souvenir, jewelry, stone, artwork, etc.
If you want to experience American-style shopping there are plenty of options but here are the three most popular: Plaza Central, Acropolis Center and, for those of you willing to venture into Santo Domingo Oriental, MegaCentro. Remember: no haggling at the malls. While MegaCentro is farther away than the others, it is the second largest mall in the Caribbean (after Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico) and is a destination in and of itself. This place is HUGE!
Please remember when shopping at the malls, this is an island where practically everything being sold is imported and, worse yet, taxed at 16% (ITBIS or Value Added Tax). Don't expect to find too many bargains to brag about back home!
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Santo Domingo on Wikivoyage.