Discovered in 1496 by Christopher Columbus, the city of Santo Domingo holds the title of the oldest European settlement in the New World. In 1498, the city was properly settled by his brother, Bartholomew Columbus, on the eastern bank at the mouth of the Ozama river and was first called “Nueva Isabela” in honor of the then Queen of Spain, Isabella.
A thriving seaport and the main point from which the Spanish conquest spread, Nueva Isabela was dubbed the “Gateway to the Caribbean”. This city was the model from which all other settlements were constructed and the grid pattern layout is used in Caribbean towns and cities to this day. In 1502, the city was destroyed by a hurricane and was relocated by the then governor, Nicolás de Ovando to the western bank of the river where it currently stands. Here, fortifications were made to withstand future natural disasters and attacks and institutions such as the cathedral, university, bank, school, monastery, and hospital were established. Nueva Isabela was also renamed “Santo Domingo” in honor of Saint Dominic. Despite all the fortification, the city was again destroyed in 1562 by a massive earthquake, was reconstructed and in 1586 was burnt by Sir Francis Drake, an English buccaneer. Again in 1930 the city was almost completely destroyed by a hurricane and was renamed Ciudad Trujillo by the then president who oversaw its reconstruction. After his assassination, the name of the city was restored to Santo Domingo and has not changed since. Because of the historic significance of Santo Domingo, it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1990.
Located on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, the city is accessible by its seaport and also by two international airports. Here also lies a cluster of high-end and budget-friendly hotels to accommodate guests from all across the globe. Closer to the coast stands the old fortifications which are ideal for those who wish to bask in the history rather than the sea-sand-sun experience. They may also enjoy old cathedrals , museums and other places of historical significance located in the heart of Santo Domingo.
With a total estimated population of four million people in its metropolitan area, Santo Domingo is bound to be buzzing both day and night. In the night time there is tons to do: from barhopping to casinos to dance clubs to lounges, the party never stops. People roam the streets at night stopping at one of the many colmados to have a drink and vibe to Latin music. But if you’re not a fan of the hustle bustle there are night time tours and Oceanside restaurants where you can unwind and enjoy the city all the same.
From Columbus to tourists, Santo Domingo has been able to capture the hearts and attention of people from all over the world because of its history, culture, people and physical beauty. To read about this glorious city is simply not enough as the full extent of its glory may only be experienced through a visit.
Filled with remnants of a past colonial society, the colonial zone of Santo Domingo is one of the world’s most visited and preferred sites for historians and lovers of history alike. Otherwise called “Ciudad Colonial” or “Zona Colonial”, this district of fewer than five kilometers was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in the 1990’s.