Santo Domingo Things to Do Tips by mikey_e
Santo Domingo Things to Do: 156 reviews and 375 photos
Sculpture outside Museo de Arte Moderno
The is SD's main art gallery and it has a nice collection of Dominican art work. The main floor is reserved for special exhibits (there was an international tile exhibition when we visited), the basement has features on Caribbean artists and the second floor contains the permanent collection. The art work is arranged chronologically and are explanations of the social and political environments in which each of the artists worked, as well as the primary influences on Caribbean art at that time. A word of caution to those who are sensitive to humidity: the Museum has very poor climate control and the top floor is really just a sauna (which can't be good for the art work).
Address: Plaza de la Cultura Juan Pablo Duarte
Phone: (809) 685-2153 al 56
Belfry of the Convento
The Convento de los Dominicos was the first university in the Spanish New World, but this institution was later moved to the Catholic University and the building here returned to its earlier use as a church. It contains Mudejar portals and blue tiles (azulejos, like in Spain), as well as Isabelline (a later form of Gothic architecture) vine decorations. Inside, there are zodiac wheel decorations - they escaped the counter-Reformation's censorship here in Santo Domingo - in the Chapel of the Rosary. We didn't go into the Convento, but it does provide some excellent opportunities for picture taking.
Address: Padre Billini and Hostos
Directions: South of the Catedral
The famed double Gothic window
The Casa Tostado was constructed in 1503 by Francisco Tostado, a scrivener whose son was later killed by a cannonball fired by Drake's men. The truly remarkable feature of this building is the double Gothic window above the entrance - the only one you'll find in this hemisphere (allegedly). Inside is the Museum of the 19th Century Dominican Family. Joanna and I decided to skip this museum, which contains mainly antique furnishings from some of Santo Domingo's better off families.
Address: Billini and Meriño
Directions: On the southwest corner of Plaza Billini
Monument in the Plaza de Cultura
The Plaza de Cultura is a large cultural complex in the norther end of Santo Domingo that contains four museums: Museo de Arte Moderno, Museo del Hombre Dominicano, Museo de Historia y Geografía and Museo de Historia Natural. The Teatro Nacional is also located here. It is a bit of an odd location, given that what surrounds the park is either residential or warehouse type buildings. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful green space with many fountains and outdoor sculptures to entertain you even when you are not inside the museums. My sister and I wandered the grounds, but it appeared that the only institution that was open for visitors when we went (December 2006) was that Museo de Arte Moderno. You should likely check all the museum's before heading out there if you are intent on visiting them all. Nevertheless, the sculpted gardens, some of which have monuments to various famous Dominicans, are quite nice.
Address: Máximo Gómez and Ureña
Directions: North of Gazcue - quite a hike if you do it on foot
Altar de la Patria
The Altar de la Patria is a massive white marble monument to the heroes of the Dominican independence movement. This is where you will find the graves of Mella, Duarte and Sánchez, all members of the group that rebelled against Haitian occupation in the 1840s. Official, you are not supposed to enter the Altar de la Patria in shorts or tanktops, but the guards don't seem to mind (when tourists do it). When we were there, one of the soldiers (who looked 18) was playing on his PS2 and barely noticed our presence.
Address: Parque Independencia
Directions: Towards the western edge of the Parque
Palms in the Parque Independencia
Parque Independencia - that is, inside the walls and not the street - is best described as an oasis. Although it was originally designed to honour the memory of those who fought for and died in the name of Dominican independence, today it provides an impressive get away from the traffic, noise and pollution of the street Parque Independencia - made worse by the fact that this is the pick up spot for most intercity guaguas.The park's centrepiece is Altar de la Patria (see my tip on that attraction) but it also contains beautiful flowers and trees, as well as benches for you to sit on in the shade in order to escape the heat and noise of the city, even if just for a few minutes.
Address: Parque Independencia
Directions: Across from the western-most edge of El Conde
Christmas on El Conde
El Conde is the pedestrian centre of Santo Domingo - not in a historical sense, but in a modern, commercial sense. This is the street where everyone comes to Promenade and it is packed with shops, cafés and restaurants, some of which are cheap fast food joints while others are authentic, local places that have a good reputation for a reason. The Conde is also lined with street vendors selling toys, paintings, split coconuts, CDs, DVDs and empanadas - comes here if you want anything cheap and quick. The street is also done up with displays for major holidays, like the one below, done for Christmas.
The Parque Colón serves as a sort of Plaza Mayor for Santo Domingo and lies at the eastern end of El Conde (and is much classier than Santo Domingo's main drag). The centre of the park contains a statue of Columbus pointing out towards the horizon, with a Taíno woman (topless) at his feet. The south side of the Park is dominated by Santa María de la Encarnación (the Cathedral) with the other sides have impressive colonial and Victorian structures, including the Victorian town hall, which is no longer used as a seat of municipal governance. The north side of the Park has a number of high-end shops, including an art boutique, a cigar shop and several cafés with decent coffee and juices. The green areas of the parks are quite nice to relax in and escape the sun, although it is almost certain that you will be pestered by the small Haitian boys who shine shoes (any type of shoes, including sneakers and sandals) or beg for money. There are also a few token hat and ostume jewellery sellers here, although you're best bet for those items is to head to El Conde.
Address: Parque Colón
Directions: In front of the Cathedral, at the eastern end of El Conde
Iglesia Santa Bárbara
The Iglesia Santa Bárbara is not exactly on the tourist path for those who visit Santo Domingo. We stumbled on it while (stupidly) attempting to walk from the Zona Colonial to the Faro a Colón, and even then we didn't know what it was until afterward. The Church is actually tacked onto the ruins of the Fort Santa Bárbara, which was established in the 16th century when this area of Santo Domingo was a slum for Taíno and African slaves who worked in the limestone quarry nearby. Santa Bárbara is the patron saint of the military defenses of the city (a statue of her is also over the entrance to the armoury in the Fortaleza Ozama) and, although the Fort was supposed to protect the northern end of the city, it was also meant to keep the workers in check. The church is quite pretty and is today amidst a shopping district. You can enter an inspect the interior, but the most notable part of the structure is its pretty whitewashed façade and belfry.
Address: Puello and Isabel la Católica
Directions: North end of the city, towards the end of the Zona Colonial
Façade of the Regina Angelorum
The Regina Angelorum (Queen of the Angels) was once a nunnery, but its true draw is the massive exterior to required over a century of work to be completed. The odd thing is that, unless you come specifically to find this impressive Baroque structure and its enormous butresses, you're unlikely to find it, as it is sort of tucked away on Billini, amidst residential housing and shops. The nunnery and church were begun the 1560s and were turned into a College by Padre Billini in 1868 after the government of the Dominican Republic turned it over to his care. The buttresses and gargoyles on the outside may be decaying, but the interior of the church (you have to ask the caretaker to let you in) is still in fine Baroque form and contains the earthly remains of Padre Billini, an Italian priest who was revered for his charitable works on Hispaniola during the 19th century, as well as those of San Luis Gonzaga, who, among other acts, discovered the remains of Christopher Columbus during the last century.
Address: Billini and José Reyes
Directions: Just west of the Convento de los Dominicanos
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