Located in Santo Domingo, the colonial city or ‘’Ciudad Colonial’’ as named by locals, was founded in 1498 and it’s where the native, European and African cultures crossed paths to develop a mixture of knowledge, language, beliefs, and experiences. While walking through the streets of the Colonial City, you will feel connected to its European heritage, as it has preserved most of its architectural monumental structures and streets almost unaltered. This is the city where the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first university, and the first customs office on the American continent were built.
The Colonial City has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is one of the main tourist attractions of Santo Domingo. There are years of fascinating history in every part of the city so come along while we show you the best places to visit and explore in La Ciudad Colonial.
1- El Conde Street
El Conde is an iconic street that you must walk through for many reasons. This is where the first art deco and elevator-integrated buildings appeared in the Dominican Republic. It is currently a very busy pedestrian street full of artisanal shops, a variety of businesses, hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions.
During the period known as La Danza de Los Millones, there were small cinemas and various hotels on this street and it was decorated with trees that gave it a European appearance, while today there is a lot of the Caribbean and contemporary decoration.
2. Columbus Park
This park was created during the colonial period along with several other residential and commercial buildings. This was the main entertainment center back in the days since it gave life and splendor to the town of La Isabela and its surroundings. You can easily get there by walking through the end of Calle El Conde.
Nowadays, many buildings are surrounding the park such as Santo Domingo's Municipal Palace and the church, as well as many restaurants and shops so you can relax and have a good time while you’re visiting. A statue of Christopher Columbus was laid on its center, in whose honor the square was renamed in 1887.
3. San Nicolás de Bari Hospital ruins
This is the oldest hospital built in the Americas and it got its name from Saint Nicholas of Bari. The hospital began operating in 1522 and provided its services to more than 60 people per day, however, it was abandoned in the middle of the 18th century due to financial reasons, lack of personnel, and resources.
The ruins, which are remains of a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, are located on Hostos and Luperón street. This hospital also survived numerous historical events such as pirate attacks, earthquakes, and countless revolutions.
4. The first church in America
The Dominican Republic has places devoted to saints and religious figures in Catholicism and the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor is no exception. The front has a golden-tinted coral limestone façade. The building is mainly gothic, one of the few examples of real gothic architecture outside Europe. There is also a treasury that has an art collection of ancient
wood carvings, furnishings, funerary monuments, silver, and jewelry. It is located between Calle Arzobispo Merino and Isabel la Católica, next to Columbus Park in the city of Santo Domingo de Guzman. There are services performed at this church on rare Sundays and special occasions such as religious holidays.
5. Ozama Fortress
This is the oldest fortress built by the Europeans in the Americas to protect the city from the attacks of pirates, corsairs, and conquerors who stalked the place. It was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Ozama Fortress incorporates the Torre del Homenaje, a massive medieval tower made of coral stone. This square building dates from 1503 and contains an iron spiral staircase. From the top of its 18 meters, you can admire the entire city and the Ozama River. The statue in front of the building depicts Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, governor of the fortress from 1533 to 1557.
6. Panteón de la Patria
This is truly a place you must see on your trip to the colonial city. Panteón de la Patria was originally built in the 18th century as a temple of the religious folks in the country but as the years went by it was turned into the mausoleum which bears the remains of great figures of the Dominican Republic. Its facade is very sober and has a neoclassical style. The upper part has a cornice, a bell tower, and two stone statues on both sides of the bell tower. The inside is made up of a central part with a cross and chapels on the sides. It has been used for different functions over time: theater, tobacco warehouse, or even headquarters of public offices.