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Best Things To Do in Santo Domingo

Despite its location on the Caribbean Sea, Santo Domingo is far from a beach town. Instead, you should expect to spend some time at historically significant sites like the Catedral Primada de América or the Fortaleza Ozama. Make sure to allot an hour or two for the architecturally significant Columbus Lighthouse. Meanwhile, night owls should check out the city's vibrant nightlife — some say the Malecón's nightclubs and late night entertainment are the best in the Caribbean.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Santo Domingo

Free
Partially barricaded by stone walls, accented with baroque architecture and lying on cobblestone streets, Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial marks the area where Columbus settled in the New World. Visitors say it's definitely a must-see, considering the city's best known historic sites are located here. But this UNESCO World Heritage Site also shelters many hotels, bars and restaurants. Best of all, you can explore the area entirely on foot: For all that's crammed inside, there's really only 11 blocks worth of sights.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Zona Colonial
Partially barricaded by stone walls, accented with baroque architecture and lying on cobblestone streets, Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial marks the area where Columbus settled in the New World. Visitors say it's definitely a must-see, considering the city's best known historic sites are located here. But this UNESCO World Heritage Site also shelters many hotels, bars and restaurants. Best of all, you can explore the area entirely on foot: For all that's crammed inside, there's really only 11 blocks worth of sights.
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#2

#2 in Santo Domingo

Some people refer to this church by its official name, Catedral Santa María La Menor, but it's probably best known as the first cathedral of the Americas. Whatever you call it, visitors agree: This coral-limestone building is magnificent inside and out.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Catedral Primada de America
Some people refer to this church by its official name, Catedral Santa María La Menor, but it's probably best known as the first cathedral of the Americas. Whatever you call it, visitors agree: This coral-limestone building is magnificent inside and out.
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#3

#3 in Santo Domingo

Once the home of Diego Colón, Christopher Columbus' son, this 16th-century viceregal palace (or residence of the governor/viceroy) was the nucleus of the Spanish court for more than 60 years. Inside, you'll find a museum housing an impressive collection of late medieval and Renaissance art. The house itself is also a work of art, featuring Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance touches.
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Castles/Palaces Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Alcázar de Colón
Once the home of Diego Colón, Christopher Columbus' son, this 16th-century viceregal palace (or residence of the governor/viceroy) was the nucleus of the Spanish court for more than 60 years. Inside, you'll find a museum housing an impressive collection of late medieval and Renaissance art. The house itself is also a work of art, featuring Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance touches.
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#4
Malecon Free

#4 in Santo Domingo

Free
This picturesque part of Santo Domingo is where the new overshadows the old: Nowhere in sight is the crumbling cobblestone of the Zona Colonial; in its place are shiny waterfront casinos and hotels that sit beside a handful of cafes and nightclubs. Even if your hotel isn't located in this part of town (on George Washington Avenue, southwest of the Zona and parallel to the Avenida Independencia), you should still come down at least once for some sightseeing and gambling, a delicious meal, or a little nighttime merengue and bachata dancing.
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Casinos Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Malecon
This picturesque part of Santo Domingo is where the new overshadows the old: Nowhere in sight is the crumbling cobblestone of the Zona Colonial; in its place are shiny waterfront casinos and hotels that sit beside a handful of cafes and nightclubs. Even if your hotel isn't located in this part of town (on George Washington Avenue, southwest of the Zona and parallel to the Avenida Independencia), you should still come down at least once for some sightseeing and gambling, a delicious meal, or a little nighttime merengue and bachata dancing.
... more

#5

#5 in Santo Domingo

The Fortaleza Ozama is the oldest formal standing fort in the Americas — reason alone to swing by for a visit — but travelers also describe it as a great place to learn a bit of local history while snapping photos of Santo Domingo. Built in 1502, the fort served the military interests of Spain, England, France, Haiti, Gran Colombia, the U.S. and, of course, the Dominican Republic until it was decommissioned and reopened for public use in 1970. Once you've soaked up the landmark's rich history and are ready to take in the view, just climb to the top of the coral rock Torre del Homenaje (or Tower of Homage) that stands in the center.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Fortaleza Ozama
The Fortaleza Ozama is the oldest formal standing fort in the Americas — reason alone to swing by for a visit — but travelers also describe it as a great place to learn a bit of local history while snapping photos of Santo Domingo. Built in 1502, the fort served the military interests of Spain, England, France, Haiti, Gran Colombia, the U.S. and, of course, the Dominican Republic until it was decommissioned and reopened for public use in 1970. Once you've soaked up the landmark's rich history and are ready to take in the view, just climb to the top of the coral rock Torre del Homenaje (or Tower of Homage) that stands in the center.
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#6

#6 in Santo Domingo

For those looking to take a break from the city's rich history, consider exploring Santo Domingo's tranquil Los Tres Ojos (which translates to "The Three Eyes" in English). This national park — which sits about 5 miles east of the Zona Colonial and is best reached by taxi — houses three limestone caverns, each of which features a lake. (Just keep in mind, though, that swimming is not allowed in any of the lakes.) Once inside the caves, you can either explore by foot or by boat (an additional $0.55 USD fee applies).
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Los Tres Ojos
For those looking to take a break from the city's rich history, consider exploring Santo Domingo's tranquil Los Tres Ojos (which translates to "The Three Eyes" in English). This national park — which sits about 5 miles east of the Zona Colonial and is best reached by taxi — houses three limestone caverns, each of which features a lake. (Just keep in mind, though, that swimming is not allowed in any of the lakes.) Once inside the caves, you can either explore by foot or by boat (an additional $0.55 USD fee applies).
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#7

#7 in Santo Domingo

There's a chance that you won't be blown away by the beauty of the Columbus Lighthouse. El Faro a Colón, as the locals call it, is built in the shape of a cross, and some former visitors described it as downright ugly.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Columbus Lighthouse
There's a chance that you won't be blown away by the beauty of the Columbus Lighthouse. El Faro a Colón, as the locals call it, is built in the shape of a cross, and some former visitors described it as downright ugly.
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#8

#8 in Santo Domingo

Free
During the day, this Zona Colonial ruin isn't much to look at. After all, the Monasterio de San Francisco has been steadily crumbling since a 16th-century demolition squad and a 17th-century earthquake practically decimated it. But your opinion might change when you see how nighttime floodlights illuminate its cracks and crevices. Definitely swing by for a picture or two if you're in the Zona Colonial in the evening.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Monasterio de San Francisco
During the day, this Zona Colonial ruin isn't much to look at. After all, the Monasterio de San Francisco has been steadily crumbling since a 16th-century demolition squad and a 17th-century earthquake practically decimated it. But your opinion might change when you see how nighttime floodlights illuminate its cracks and crevices. Definitely swing by for a picture or two if you're in the Zona Colonial in the evening.
... more
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