The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, a world’s heritage
A settlement established by Bartholomew Columbus on the south eastern coast of the now Dominican Republic, The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo was the first of its kind in the New World and became the most important city for the Spanish in the Caribbean, used to influence and dominate the surrounding territories. Destroyed and rebuilt multiple times and even relocated, the city of Santo Domingo sits finally on the western bank of the Ozama River with many of its fortifications and infrastructure still intact. As a result, most of the tourists who come to Santa Domingo come for the purpose of viewing this historical city.
Monuments of the Colonial Zone
Being the “city of firsts”, visitors to the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo are able to see the first cathedral ever constructed in the New World, whose full name is Cathedral Metropolitana Santa Maria de la Encarnación/The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor which was initially a hut made of royal palms. The cathedral was improved by several persons which account for the changes we see today and the various architectural styles present. Functioning as a church, prison, slaughterhouse, pirate warehouse, place of refuge, holder of tombstones and even the remains of Christopher Columbus in its lifetime, the cathedral is one of the most historically significant sites in the city.
After exiting the cathedral, you’ll come across Columbus Park or Parque Colón which is another site which gets tons of visitors especially because of the statue of Christopher Columbus/Cristobal Colon located in its center which dates back to 1897 and which features the Taino leader Anacaona.
the “Alcazar de Colon”, the Columbus Palace
Another must see attraction is Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón or Columbus Palace. The former home of Diego Columbus and his wife and later other relatives, the Columbus Palace, a 22 room stone structure which was restored without modifications or nails, is a site to behold. Also functioning as a warehouse, prison and dump in the past, Columbus Palace was open to the public as the Museo Alcázar de Colón on Columbus Day in 1957 and is filled with art, furniture, and other household items from this period.
Next to the Museo Alcázar de Colón is the Las Cases Reales or Royal Houses, which housed the Governor and the Royal Court, and overlooks the Sundial which was used to tell government officials the time at which to meet and which was used also to record the correct time on official documents. The Las Cases Reales currently houses colonial era objects such as treasures and weapons recovered from sunken
Plaza España ( Spanish Square)
Spanish galleons, maps, Taino artifacts and weaponry, furniture and paintings.
In front of the Alcázar de Colón is the Plaza España or Spanish Plaza/Square, home to the monuments of Nicolás de Ovando which also features colonial houses and restaurants and the plaque which officially declares the Colonial Zone a World Heritage Site.
Must see homes now turned into museums include the Casa del Cordón / House of Cords which was used for the housing of Diego Columbus while his house was being built and other noblemen. Here, socialites and aristocrats gathered for celebrations and meetings. The building also functioned as a point at which the inhabitants of the city paid off pirates to get back their city when Santa Domingo was invaded in 1586. It is now occupied by Banco Popular/Popular Bank who oversaw its restoration.
House of Tostado
Another must-see house is the Casa del Tostado/House of Tostado which was home to Tostado, a writer and father of the first person born on the island to become a university professor. With large, spacious rooms, a breath-taking view of the sea and exquisite designs, the Casa de Tostado housed many influential inhabitants and was also used for social gatherings. Currently, the Casa de Tostado is a historical monument, housing a museum filled with documents on Dominican heritage. Another place of heritage is the Museo de Juan Pablo Duarte/Museum of Juan Pablo Duarte which was home to the national hero Juan Duarte whose one story home is now a museum containing documents, painting, and furniture for public viewing.
Casa de Bastidas ( Home of Bastidas)
If you wish to view art, then Casa de Bastidas / Home of Bastidas is the place to visit. Built to function as the residence of the then Governor and Royal Tax Collector and as a storehouse for the royal revenues and treasure, the Casa de Bastidas was a very important building. It also houses a plaque and stone statue of Santa Bárbara above its door and is home to the Trampolín, Museo Infantil/Tramplone, Children’s Museum.
On the waterside stands Las Reales Atarzanas which functioned as the royal shipyard for the Spanish Navy which was also used as a customs house, warehouses, and tax offices. Surrounding the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo are hotels and other accommodations with easy access in and out of the original city. The city is also accessible by the many buses and taxis which take persons there on daily basis. Most of the zone is pedestrianized; therefore tours are taken on foot or by bike. With lots of sites to behold, gift shops, restaurants, and bars, the Colonial Zone of Santa Domingo is full of things to do and see for entire days.