Zona Colonial#1 in Best Things To Do in Santo Domingo
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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.
Even though Zona Colonial is free to explore, keep in mind that several of the area's museums and historic properties charge an entry fee. Typical admission fees range from RD$60 ($1.33 USD) to RD$100 ($2.21 USD).
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#2 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.
Showcasing elements of Gothic, Baroque and plateresque architectural styles, the Catedral Primada de América still holds Sunday afternoon mass. If you're not interested in services, plan your visit from sometime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. And remember to bring some Dominican pesos since the cathedral costs RD$60 (or about $1.33 USD) for adults to enter. Kids, though, get in free of charge.
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