When you travel around the Dominican Republic’s Santo Domingo you can feel the history oozing out of the cracks of this ancient city. Santo Domingo’s major claim to fame is that it is where the first whitey set foot in the “New World”, and it is the oldest European city in the Americas.
EARLY MORNING: Go to the Zona Colonial and walk on the cobblestones of Calle Atarazana, the oldest road in the Western Hemisphere and retrace the first Europeans’ footsteps. The Zona Colonial has a shitton of World Heritage historical sites, like Alcázar de Colón, the oldest Viceregal (Spanish government building) built for Columbus’ son, Diego Colon in 1509. Overall there are at least a dozen landmarks.
NOON: After spending a few hours soaking up the history, immerse yourself in the present day culture and vibe with some locals at the Mercado Modelo. This local market is a-maze-ing. Held in a two-story dilapidated old building, these cramped crowded corridors are like walking through a labyrinth. Dress your worst, avoid wearing your bling, skip the deodorant, and practice your Spanish accent to get the best bargain. The Mercado Model has numerous items from wood carvings to love potions.
LUNCH: After all that hustle bustle of the Mercado you are probably starving. Eat some food at one of the many Comedores or Cafeterias. These local joints offer Plato de Dias, local grub served as fixed meals for discount prices. Or check out China Town and eat a unique fusion of Chinese and Dominican cuisine called Pica Pollo. These primarily take out food restaurants serve Chinese food and fried chicken.
AFTERNOON: Now stuffed and tired from, sightseeing, and haggling you probably want to relax. Explore the luscious parks in Santo Domingo and take a load off. The Jardin Botanico Nacional is an oasis of thriving plants and animals that provides a nice respite to the humdrum of the city. They have miniature rainforests, featuring aquatic plants, orchids, bromeliads, ferns, endemic plants, and palm trees. And they even have a Japanese Zen garden. In the Ecological Museum there are exhibits that describe the various ecosystems of the Dominican Republic. Another beautiful park in Santo Domingo is the Parque Mirador Del Sur. This park is nestled up on a ridge of limestone and surrounded by lots of trees. It sports some big ass caves, a few of which have been converted into restaurants and clubs, and a superb view of the coast. However, time accordingly because Mirador Del Sur closes in the mornings from 6am to 9am and in the evenings from 4pm to 8 pm to accommodate hoards of joggers, roller-bladers and casual strollers.
EVENING: Top off this cakewalk of a day with some nighttime icing and check out the Coliseo Gallístico Alberto Bonetti Burgos. Don’t tell PETA, this cockfighting coliseum is the biggest in the Dominican Republic and likely one of the biggest in the whole world. Rooster handlers, bring their cocks from as far away as Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Panama. Practice your shady gambling skills and bet your neighbor for starters. Witness this cultural event but be warned it is not for the squeamish, many of the roosters die or are severely injured. The cockfights last until early morning sometimes, so be prepared for a long night if you want to stay for the whole event.
NIGHTTIME: The nightlife in Santo Domingo is hopping. There are themed bars galore, which span the spectrum of prices. However, because of regulations intended to curtail crime, the majority of bars and clubs close at midnight from Sundays to Thursdays and 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights. On this note, Colonial Zone is notoriously safe but there are several areas in Santo Domingo where you should remain on your toes and avoid some of the sketchier looking alleys. Don’t let this deter you from having an amazing time in Santo Domingo. Be smart and safe and you will have one of the best days of your life sightseeing and vibeing in this unique gem of a city so next time you’re planning your holidays Dominican Republic should definitely spark an interest. Peace out and happy travels!