One-Day Itinerary – Explore the Colonial Zone
If you only have one day in Santo Domingo, visit the Colonial Zone. This is where most tourists spend their time, and with good reason. The area boasts many of the “firsts” in the new world: the first cathedral, the first paved street, the first university, and much more.
Start your tour with the Alcázar de Colón. This beautifully restored Spanish Colonial residence dates from 1510. It was originally the home of Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus. Now the building is a museum that has a fine collection of European Gothic and Renaissance art.
The Alcázar de Colón is on the Plaza de España, another top attraction in the Colonial Zone. This enormous square often hosts events like antique car shows or music in the evening. The square is lined with great restaurants, so this is a good place to stop for lunch.
If you have extra time to spend in the Plaza de España area, you may want to check out the Museo de las Casas Reales. This is one of the most spectacular colonial buildings in the city, with beautiful porticos facing the peaceful interior courtyard. The museum is also interesting, with a small collection of Taino artifacts, colonial furniture, and room filled with antique weapons.
Next, take a stroll down Calle Las Damas – the first paved street in the New World. The street is lined with beautiful historic buildings that are now museums, government buildings and hotels.
After Calle Las Damas, head over to the Catedral Primada de América the first cathedral in the New World. A wonderful example of Gothic architecture, it features ribbed vaults, side chapels and beautiful art.
After exploring the cathedral, take a break in Parque Colón. The park offers plenty of shady benches where you can relax and watch the people strolling by. You can also get a table at the cafe facing the park and enjoy a cold drink or coffee.
If you are interested in seeing more of the historic buildings and monuments, consider taking a ride on the Chu Chu Colonial. This electric tourist train provides a great way to see the major sights in the area. Spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the small shops on Isabel la Católica, El Conde and the side streets north of El Conde.
End the day with dinner at one of the many fine Colonial Zone restaurants.
Two-Day Itinerary – Explore more of the city
On your first day in Santo Domingo, explore the Colonial Zone as described in the One-Day Itinerary above.
On the second day, spend at least half of the day visiting modern Santo Domingo. Depending on your interests, there are many options to choose from.
One of the top attractions outside of the Colonial Zone is the Botanical Garden. This large, beautifully maintained garden has areas with different themes, including a magnificent Japanese garden. If your feet are tired from too much walking on your first day, you can take a guided tour on the little tourist train.
Another option is to visit one of the interesting museums at the Plaza de la Cultura. A top choice is the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, an archaeology and ethnology museum that has a fascinating collection of Pre-Colombian art. Another option is the Museum of Modern Art, which provides a good introduction to the world of Dominican Art. Works on display include paintings by Celeste Woss y Gil, Dario Suro, Yoryi Morel and Gilberto Hernández Ortega.
If these options don’t sound appealing, try visiting one of Santo Domingo’s shopping malls. The city has numerous new shopping centers featuring international chains as well as Dominican boutiques.
Afterwards, enjoy a relaxing meal at one of these Santo Domingo restaurants.
Three-Day Itinerary – Explore the surrounding area
Spend the first two days of your trip to Santo Domingo exploring the Colonial Zone and the modern city.
On your third day, go a little further afield. There are three attractions that are located about 15-20 minutes east of the city, in the direction of the airport. The first is the National Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Caribbean. Visitors can see a wide range of marine species, including sharks, turtles and manatees.
The second attraction is Columbus Lighthouse. Opened in 1992 to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of America, this monument houses the remains of Christopher Columbus.
The third place to visit is Los Tres Ojos, a limestone cave that contains three beautiful lakes. This spectacular natural site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
Four Days or More – Explore more of the country
If you are staying in Santo Domingo for four days or more, visit one of the amazing beaches to the east of the city (35-45 minutes). There are several to choose from, each with its own unique character.
You may also be interested in taking an excursion to a national park, Saona Island, Altos de Chavon or one of the many other points of interest within easy driving distance of Santo Domingo.