Ciudad Colonial (Zona Colonial)
A bronze statue of Christopher Columbus sits at the center of Parque Colon, and nearby Calle Las Damas is the oldest paved road in the New World. These historic sites, paired with incredible colonial architecture, are just part of what makes this UNESCO World Heritage Site a popular destination for those who want to experience the nation’s capital as it used to be. Its historical and cultural importance means the neighborhood features heavily on just about every tour of Santo Domingo, including colonial walking tours, food tours, shore excursions, bar hops, and even day trips from Punta Cana. Guided visits to the area typically include a stop at the Catedral Primada de America (one of the oldest in the Americas), Plaza de Reloj del Sol, and the Jesuit Church.
Things to know before you go
- Don’t forget to bring your camera, as this is one of the most photogenic areas of the capital.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes suitable for the neighborhood’s cobbled streets; the area is best explored on foot.
- Accommodations in the Colonial Zone range from budget-friendly to high-end, though rooms tend to be on the smaller side.
How to get there
Zona Colonial covers approximately two square miles (five sq. km) on the western side of the Ozama River in the heart of Santo Domingo. Public transportation can be difficult to navigate for those who don’t speak Spanish, but several buses stop at Parque Independencia at the western edge of the zone.
When to get there
The best season to explore the Old City is between November and March, when the weather tends to be warm and dry, though the streets can get crowded during the high season (December and January). Plan to tour the neighborhood early in the morning when it’s still relatively quiet, and come back at night for a sense of its more romantic side.
Best Museums in the Zona Colonial
In addition to being one of the most historically significant areas of Santo Domingo, the Zona Colonial is also home to some of the city’s best museums. Start at the Alcázar de Colón, the former governor’s palace that once served as the home of Diego Columbus (Christopher’s son). Those with an interest in natural history should spend some time at the Amber World Museum, with exhibits on the origins of amber, its mining process, and its uses. The Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance chronicles the dark period of Dominican history under the regime of Rafael Trujillo.
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- Columbus Park (Parque Colon)
- Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América)
- Ozama Fort (Fortaleza Ozama)
- Calle Las Damas
- Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales)
- Alcázar de Colón (Columbus Palace)
- Plaza de España (Plaza de Armas)
- National Palace
- Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colón)
- Los Tres Ojos National Park
- Palacio de Bellas Artes
- National Botanical Garden
- Boca Chica