Credit

Courtesy of Domingo Leiva/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Santo Domingo

If you have extra time, Monasterio de San Francisco is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Santo Domingo
    View all Photos
    #1 in Santo Domingo
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    So where should you start? Perhaps the Catedral Primada de America, which is located near the heart of the zone (look for the statue of Christopher Columbus). From there you can trek a little farther west to Fortaleza Ozama, located along the mouth of the Río Ozama in the southeast quadrant. Next, walk along the Calle Las Damas (the oldest street, a pedestrian-only zone) to the Alcázar de Colón palace and museum.

  • #4
    Malecon
    View all Photos
    #4 in Santo Domingo
    Casinos, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Casinos, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    Just keep in mind: Though it's by the water, Santo Domingo's Malecon has more of a look-but-don't-touch type of beach. According to some former visitors, the coastline is polluted with all sorts of trash, to the point where a few travelers wonder what the Malecon's appearance says about the country itself. You should also keep your wits about you when moving around at night; this area is prone to pickpockets, according to recent visitors.

  • #8
    Monasterio de San Francisco
    View all Photos
    #8 in Santo Domingo
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    And if you're into odd history, you may want to make a special visit to this site. Although used mainly as a monestary, after it was rebuilt following a second earthquake in the 18th century, officials decided to convert the space into a mental asylum. Once again, though, Mother Nature intervened (this time in the form of a hurricane), resulting in the mental asylum's closure in the 1930s. To this day, portions of chains used to secure inmates are still visible.

Explore More of Santo Domingo

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The Best Travel Backpacks for 2020

U.S. News rated the best travel backpacks using recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019

30 Top Wellness Retreats

Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit at one of these relaxation-focused properties.

Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019

30 Fun All-Inclusive Family Vacations

Book one of these all-inclusive trips that cover food, accommodations and activities galore.

Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019

5 Ways Cruise Lines Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Industry considers impact as it looks to the future.

Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019

11 Unique and Quirky Cruise Destinations

Venture off the beaten path for an authentic cruising experience.

Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019

The 2020 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Gather up the gang and head out to sea with one of these six kid-friendly cruise lines.

Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019

The Top Pyramids in Mexico to Visit

Add these ancient marvels to your Mexico vacation itinerary.

Lyn MettlerOctober 28, 2019

30 Top Babymoon Destinations, Trips and Ideas

From romantic beach getaways to big city adventures to glamping in the forest, these locales will inspire your babymoon planning.

Gwen PratesiOctober 15, 2019

15 Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

These tips will help pregnant women travel the world in comfort and style.

Holly JohnsonOctober 10, 2019

The Best Chicago Segway Tours

See all the top sights in the Windy City without breaking a sweat.

Marisa MéndezOctober 3, 2019