The Perfect Day in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial

Zona Colonial – Santo Domingo’s historic district, is a  World Heritage site of UNESCO, and a place that will forever hold a piece of my heart. If you’re spending one day in Santo Domingo or if it’s your first time in Zona, for those who like to browse shops and eat, this is your list! If you’ll be spending a weekend, then add in some tours of the historic churches and museums. Personally guilty of packing WAY TOO MUCH into one day trips, please go at your own pace, and be sure to rest in the heat and stay hydrated.

Zona Colonial
The old streets of Santo Domingo

Start your morning at the Puerta del Conde and Parque Independencia where you can walk around the plaza and see the Founding Father’s resting places. This is where Dominican independence was proclaimed and the first Dominican flag was raised. Now, there is a masoleum housing the remains of the three Founding Fathers as well as an ‘eternal flame’ to commemorate them.

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Some of the stunning historic architecture

Walk down Calle del Conde and check out the shops on your way to Parque Colón. (Don’t buy anything yet – just see what you like!) Grab a coffee at one of the shops there and take in the sights. Many tourists pass through here daily and there are usually some buskers playing music or vendors trying to sell their wares.

Check out ChocoMuseo for Dominican chocolate, a rarity at the supermarkets – if you have time to take a chocolate-making class then sign up! Otherwise, sample a few of the sweet treats. I suggest buying chocolate bars only if you are planning to eat it right away, or have somewhere cool to keep it – otherwise it will melt in the heat.

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Chocolate samples at ChocoMuseo

If you’ll be in the area for more than a day, perhaps you’ll consider paying for a trolley tour of Zona Colonial (some companies are just east of the plaza so you can get the schedule for the day in your language).

For lunch, head to Barrio Chino, Santo Domingo’s Chinatown (such as Delicia Campestre on Calle Benito Gonzales), or to Casa del Mojito on Calle 19 de Marzo.

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Gateway to Barrio Chino at night

Walk over Calle Mella for souvenirs – this is where you will get better prices, be prepared to haggle, and find a better assortment of larimar or amber jewelry, pottery and other goods. Whether they are made in the Dominican Republic is your guess but you can definitely find some nice, cheap pieces to take home or give as gifts.

Head back down the hill after checking out Las Ruinas of San Fransisco, built in the early 1500s and was the first monastery in the New World.

Pop into Casa de los Dulces for sweets and other goodies (and always – if you pass by a Helados Bon ice cream shop/Yogen Fruz, get some ice cream!)

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Yogen Fruz, delicious and cold.

In the evening, make your way over to Plaza de Espana and for a fancy, American-priced dinner at one of the restaurants there while looking over the Alcázar de Colón, formerly the home of Christopher Columbus’ son.

Zona Colonial
Alcázar de Colón, beautifully lit at night

After dinner, head to the nearby club Quintana for dancing and drinks.

  • Caveat: if it’s Thursday, head to Fortaleza Ozama for live Jazz (not sure if this is still going on but Jazz en Dominicana blog has information about Jazz in DR), and if it’s Sunday, head to the Ruinas for Grupo Bonye (weather dependent and seasonal).
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Jazz along the River Ozama

End the night with a late night trip to Barra Payán where you can get the best greasy sandwich you ever had.

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Barra Payan for the win!

What would you add to the list?

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