Were you aware that Santo Domingo prides itself in being the first European city in the New World? Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother Bartolome Colombus in 1496, the capital of Dominic Republic is the most ancient and continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and was renowned to be the first seat of the Spanish colonial empire in the New World. Owing to this, the metropolis appears to have a rich historic and cultural legacy that makes the city worth visiting.
Kick-start the trip by heading over to explore the Alcazar de Colon. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Santo Domingo. Dating as far back as 1510, it is the most ancient vice-regal residence in the Americas. Representing Spanish Colonial architecture, today it is a museum exhibiting a beautiful collection of European Late Medieval and Renaissance art. Some of the highlights include polychrome wood sculptures and tapestries. The National Pantheon is a Neo-classical building, that was originally a Jesuit church and national heroes are buried there.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Ozama River, the Ozama fort was built to shield Santo Domingo from external invaders and pirates. Constructed in 1502, it is a great representation of Spanish Colonial Military architecture. Climb over to the top to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views. Designed in 1503, Casa de Tostado used to be the home of Franciso Tostado. Not only does it exhibit Spanish Colonial architecture, but is also home to the only Gothic window in the New World. The restored building includes the Museum of the Dominican Family showcasing a collection of 19th century decorative arts.
Do visit the first cathedral in the New World. The structure meshes a variety of architectural styles, including Gothic and Plateresque. The interior of the cathedral is home to a nave and two side aisles, ribbed vaults and 12 side chapels. Artwork comprises of altarpieces, paintings and sculpture. Head over to Plaza de Espana that has gorgeous views of the Alcazar and the Ozama River. Do take a evening stroll and marvel at the atmosphere, particularly on weekends when the Ministry of Tourism holds traditional music and dance performances.
If you're craving for a break from the concrete jungle, then a walk around the Colombus Park is the perfect place to give you a breather. This shady park, adjacent to the cathedral, is the ideal spot to relax and lounge around. Those who are nature lovers ought to visit the Jardin Botanico Nacional, that spans over 2 sq.km of lust vegetation native to the island. Some of the highlights include the Japanese garden, the flower clock, aquatic plants, orchids, ferns and more. Do spend some time at the Ecology Museum where visitors can understand more about the country's different ecosystems, with insight on mangrove forests, cloud forests and pine forests, as well as coastal environments.
When it comes to shopping, be on the look-out for handcrafted items, particularly amber jewellery. Other buys include a rocking chair, Dominican rum, hand-knit articles, macrame, ceramics, and crafts in native mahogany. As for cuisine, dig into some of their local specialties such as La bandera (national dish; encompassing white rice, red beans, stewed meat, salad and fried plantain).
The stay options in Santo Domingo are abundant with the best luxury hotels, rental apartments and cheap accommodations available for the tourists to decide which kind to opt for depending on their budget and taste.
Santo Domingo experiences tropical monsoon climate. The best time to visit would be between November and March as the temperatures are pleasant.