A colonial and historical city as acknowledged by the UNESCO, Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic's interesting and catchy capital. Officially, the city is known as Santo Domingo de Guzman, and is known as the largest city in the country and in the Caribbean region by population. In 2010 alone, the city had a population of 965,040 – quite a number more than its neighbors.
Founded by Martholomew Columbus in 1496 on the east bank of the Ozama River and then moved by Nicolas de Ovando in 1502 to the west bank of the river, the city is known as the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. It was also the site of the first university, cathedral, monastery, and fortress in the New World – things that Santo Domingo consider as bragging rights, while its colonial zone declared as a World Heritage Site.
For a time, the city is called as Ciudad Trujillo, owing it to the then dictator Rafael Trujillo. Following his assassination, its name was restored.
Today, Santo Domingo is the cultural, financial, political, commercial, and industrial center of the Dominican Republic. It holds most of the country's important industries, and serves as the chief seaport in the area. The city's harbor at the mouth of the Ozama River also accommodates the largest vessels, and receives heavy passenger and freight traffic.
What to see & do
Catedral Primada de America – set in 1514 by Diego Columbus, son of the great Christopher, the Catedral Primada de America is one of the premier churches in the area during its time. From the 1540s (a long shot after the first stone of the cathedral was laid), numerous architects worked on the church and adjoining buildings, making the church somewhat a record of a multitude of cultures. Inspirations from the Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque periods are all present here, although the bell tower of the church was never built. Today, the church stands as a haunted (rather than haunting) picture of looting; Drake and his crew of pirates have used the basilica as their headquarters during their 1586 assault on the city. The lot stole everything of value inside the church, and has extensively vandalized the church before departing.
Museo de las Casas Reales – built in the Renaissance style during the 16th century, the building was the longtime seat of Spanish authority for the entire Caribbean region, housing government offices and the powerful Real Audiencia (Royal Court), among others. Today, it showcases colonial-period objects, including many treasures recovered from Spanish galleons that foundered in nearby waters. Each room of the building were restored according to its original style, now maintaining displays that range from Taino artifacts to dozens of hand-blown wine bottles and period furnishings. Paintings, old maps of various voyages (made by European explores and conquistadors), are also on display here, along with an impressive antique weaponry collection.
Casa del Cordon – believed to be one of the first European residences in the Americas and one of the first residences in the Western hemisphere with two floors, the Cada del Cordon is one of the many iconic houses in the city. The establishment was briefly a home to Diego Columbus and his wife before they moved into their stately home down the street, before being today's Banco Popular.
How to get around
Taxis, rental cars, buses, guaguas (or shared taxis), and the metro are the main modes of transport in the area. All major rental companies are well-represented in Santo Domingo, while taxis are plenty here. Collective taxis, shared taxis, or locally guaguas are also popular here for its cheap cost (although you might be crammed with four other passengers inside an old Corolla, for starters). Buses, meanwhile, are also available, although first time travelers on this mode might have a hard time getting from point A to point B, as most lines are not clearly marked. Furthermore, a newly commissioned metro with two lines run within the city. It is also cheap and user-friendly.
How to get there
The Las Americas International Airport is the main airport serving Santo Domingo. It is located in the Greater Santo Domingo Area, some 30 minutes from the central business district. The airport has direct flights to between Atlanta, Boston, New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Panama Cit, San Jose, San Juan, Havana, Paris, Madrid, and many others.
Flexible where you fly? Search nearby airports for bigger savings.
Airports near Santo Domingo
Prices shown on this page are estimated lowest prices only. Found in the last 45 days.