Santo Domingo Zona Colonial Walking Tour
Updated: Jan 1
La Zona Colonial is the historic central neighborhood of the Dominican Republic's capital Santo Domingo. The Colonial Zone dates back to 1496, making it the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas. Many travelers visiting the Dominican Republic skip stopping by the capital and head straight to the beaches. Although the beaches are some of the best in the world, you should still visit Santo Domingo for its epic colonial-era ruins, amazing local city vibes, and rich Dominican cultural history museums that explain the origin of this incredible Caribbean city.
Wear some comfy shoes and join me on this walking tour of La Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This walking tour will take approximately 3 hours, with food and drink stops along the way. The Dominican Republic is more than just beautiful beaches; today, we're tackling this beautiful tropical Island's capital.
Santo Domingo is known for being the oldest Colonial City of the Americas
Table of Contents | Zona Colonial Walking Tour Stops
Transportation in Santo Domingo
The Santo Domingo airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de las Americas) is my favorite for budget airfare prices and a general base to explore the rest of the Island. The Dominican Republic is a big island, so if you're planning a road trip, I recommend a month so you can see it all. For Santo Domingo, I recommend 1-3 days. For this blog post, we're traveling by foot, so no car is needed. I don't recommend driving in Santo Domingo; the traffic rules and drivers are all over the place. If you need to use a vehicle for transportation, Ubers are available in the capital. If walking is not your thing, you can also do this tour with a bike rental from Zona Bici Bike Rental.
Safety in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a vibrant city that's always on the go, and we've never experienced any theft problems while exploring the Dominican Republic. Still, we advise you to be more mindful of your belonging while walking in Santo Domingo.
Colonial Zone Santo Domingo Hotels
We recommend booking one of the three hotels by The Oxo House in the Colonial Zone. We love this option because it gives travelers great lodging alternatives with prices ranging from $30-$147. Check out Hostal La Colonia with a balcony offering amazing birds-eye views of The Colonial Zone for budget travelers. For mid-range travelers, check out Casa Sanchez, with an impressive pool to cool off on hot summer days; Santo Domingo weather can reach high levels during the summer months. For the history buff wanting to stay in a renovated colonial-era boutique hotel, check out Luca Hotel.
Things to do in Santo Domingo | Zona Colonial Walking Tour
We're basing this walking tour on our Hotel (Luca Boutique Hotel), our start and endpoint.
Dominican Convent | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Our First stop on this walking tour of La Zona Colonial is at the Dominican Convent. Built in 1510, the Dominican Convent is home to 5 altarpieces made by one of the most important painters of all time-- the Spanish sculptor Juan Martinez Montañes also known as el Dios de la Madera, "The God of Wood." Inside this church, you can also see and visit the "Nuestra Señora del Rosario Chapel," patroness of Dominicans. The chapel's vault was embellished with the twelve zodiac signs, giving it its nickname "The Zodiac Chapel." It is one of the few chapels where astrological signs and elements are predominant. The Dominican Convent took 12 years to be completed and became the first university in the Americas.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Step Back in Time and Enter the Dominican Convent.
Take your time walking around the beautiful streets of La Zona Colonial. Santo Domingo is full of history and well preserved; it's like going back in time and into a Colonial era.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Walk Around La Zona Colonial.
Parque Pellerano Castro | Parque Rosado | Parquecito de los Poetas.
Parque Pellerano Castro, also known as Parque Rosado or Parquesito de Los Poetas, was a spot for major influential poets. Today, this park is a popular meeting place among the locals. Here you can find the statue of Julia de Burgos, who fought against political injustice.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: People watch at Parque Rosado.
Calle Las Damas | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Cobblestone Calle Las Damas, originally named Calle La Fortaleza, is the first paved street in the Americas, dating from 1502. This street is lined with historical buildings from the original settlement of Santo Domingo. Calle las Damas, "The Ladies Street," received its name after the wives of essential individuals in the Dominican Republic - sophisticated ladies of the court who liked to take walks after dusk down the street in their spare time.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Stroll Calle Las Damas.
Fortaleza Ozama | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Fortaleza Ozama, located in La Zona Colonial, on Calle Las Damas is the oldest standing fort in the Americas. Fortaleza Ozama is recognized by Unesco as the oldest military construction of European Origin in the Americas. Built-in 1502, Spanish Colonizers used Taino and enslaved Africans to build the fortress using coral stone. Fortaleza Ozama is named after the nearby river. Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; you can't miss this site while visiting the capital! An entrance fee of 70 DOP (USD 1.24), with guided tours available for USD 3.75.
Cheap Things to do in Santo Domingo: Visit and Tour Fortaleza Ozama.
Calle El Conde | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo
Next, we're taking a stroll down Calle el Conde. Calle el Conde is the first commercial street in Santo Domingo, stretching ten blocks! This cobbled street road is filled with alfresco restaurants, street music, and local souvenir shopping. Calle el Conde runs from Puerta del Conde to Escaleras del Conde ending at the waterfront malecon by Rio Ozama.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Walk Around Calle El Conde.
Parque Colón | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Parque Colon or Columbus Park, is the central square of La Zona Colonial. Locals and tourists alike gather here to people watch, enjoy an outdoor meal, shop, or pass the time.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Seize the Day at Parque Colón.
Catedral Santa Maria la Menor | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
You'll find the Cathedral Santa Maria la Menor behind the Christopher Colombus statue in Parque Colon. This Cathedral was the first church built in the Americas, noticeable by its Gothic/16th-century look. The outer walls are layers of locally sourced sea corals from the Caribbean sea, giving this Cathedral a distinct Island feel and vibe.
Cheap Things to do in Santo Domingo: Get an Audio Tour at one of the many churches in La Zona Colonial.
Paletas Bajo Cero | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Let's take a mini walking break and cool off while enjoying some artisanal ice cream at Paletas Bajo Cero. This trendy ice cream shop offers local and traditional flavors.
Cheap Things to do in Santo Domingo: Indulge in a Mouth-Watering Paleta.
Panteon de la Patria | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
After, we're heading to The Pantheon of the Fatherland. Built between 1714-1746 in a Neo-Classic Renaissance style and served as the final resting place of the republic's most honored citizens. Notables buried here: Trujillos assasins, Francisco Gregorio Bellini, Gregorio Luperón, and Eugenio Hosto. Open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Travel Tip: Catch the changing of the guard in action at sunset.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Pay respect and honor those who made a difference.
Chapel of our Lady of Remedy | Zona Colonial Santo Domingo.
As you continue walking through La Zona Colonial, you'll pass by the Chapel of Our Lady of Remedy (Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios.) You may enter this impressive gothic-style chapel without official visiting hours if the doors are open. Usually, this chapel is reserved for artistic events and private group tours. This chapel is a historic site in Santo Domingo city that dates back to the 16th century, making it one of the still-standing first churches in The Americas filled with Santo Domingo's History. This chapel is one of those beautiful places not to miss on your walking tour of the colonial zone.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo:
Visit the Chapel of Our Lady of Remedy.
Museum of Royal Houses | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Our favorite museum in the city of Santo Domingo was The Museum of Royal Houses. Built during the Colonial era and boasting beautiful courtyards, The Museum of Royal houses is one of the top places to go for a look into the origin of this Caribbean Island. This museum has two floors, housing 20 exhibition rooms that showcase the blending of Spanish, African, and Taino cultures, resulting in the Dominican heritage.
Cheap Things to do in Santo Domingo: Brush up on some Dominican history at the Museum of Royal Houses.
Take your time walking around the beautiful streets of La Zona Colonial. Santo Domingo is full of history and well preserved; it's like being back in a Colonial era.
Cheap Things to do in Santo Domingo: Try a Dominican Candy Bar
Take a well-deserved Santo Domingo city break from this walking tour and enjoy some sugary bites at La Casa de Los Dulces. Handcrafted Dominican candy is a great souvenir to take back home.
Colonial Zone Santo Domingo Foods to Try |
La Casa de los Dulces, Dominican Republic.
Plaza España | Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo.
Plaza España is a small square in the Colonial Zone next to the port where you can stop by for another alfresco bite, drink or take a break, sit down, and people watch.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: People Watch at Plaza España.
Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco | Zona Colonial.
The Monastery of San Francisco was built in the Dominican Republic between 1509-1560 as a Monastery for Dominican Friars. In the 1880s, the Monastery was converted into a mental asylum and later destroyed by a hurricane in 1930. The Monastery has never been repaired after. What remains today are the eerie ruins that will run chills down your spine upon entering! After reading about the history and transformation of this place, I knew I had to visit when exploring Santo Domingo and touring la Zona Colonial. Some say these Caribbean ruins are haunted. Every Sunday, Bonye (a local band) plays live music from 6-10 pm; locals, tourists, and visitors from the now and then socialize with a drink and dance.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Visit the Ruins of the Monastery of San Francisco.
Wander the Many Colorful Hills of La Zona | Zona Colonial.
On your way from the Ruins of the Monastery of San Francisco to the Ruins of the hospital of San Nicholas de Bari (the first and oldest hospital of the Americas), you'll pass a very scenic and colorful hillside street. Each street side is lined with local Dominican colorful homes. You can walk on the road or climb a few stairs to the sidewalk also the home's front entrance. Please be respectful of your surroundings when visiting and don't stare inside these local homes-- it isn't polite! However, if you encounter a chatty local sitting on the front porch, do strike a conversation! I've found while traveling, these are the memories I cherish the most when remembering my trip and travel adventures.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Take a hike and chat with a local.
Ruinas del Hospital San Nicholas de Bari | Zona Colonial.
Recognized by Unesco as the oldest hospital built in the Americas, Las Ruinas del Hospital San Nicolas de Bari was constructed between 1503-1508 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was inspired by the Italian Renaissance. This hospital was later used as a construction model for all future European hospitals. These Dominican ruins are still very well preserved and a bit creepy to walk through, in my opinion, yet beautiful nevertheless and a great site to roam around and explore with admiration.
Free Things to do in Santo Domingo: Visit the ruins of the first hospital built in the Americas.
Early Dinner at Valiente Restaurante | La Zona Colonial
This trendy, sleek, sexy restaurant offers a modern twist on Dominican Cuisine. Valiente Restaurante in La Zona Colonial is a great spot to unwind with some cocktails, live jazz, and an exquisite culinary fusion of local and international bites.
La Alpagateria | La Zona Colonial
A great souvenir to take home and remember your trip to Santo Domingo can be found at La Alpagateria. This shop offers handcrafted shoes and a hidden speakeasy restaurant in the back of the store where you can stop for a bite and a drink after shopping.
Nightlife in Santo Domingo | Zona Colonial
Head back to your hotel and freshen up for a night in town. One of my favorite restaurants to visit in La Zona is Maraca. Remember to dress up as this spot is one of the trendiest restaurants in the area, and don't forget to take a pic with the iconic painting located at the entrance of Maraca; there's usually always a line, but you gotta do it for the gram!
If you have more time in Santo Domingo, add these extra stops to your itinerary.
And with an additional day, you can visit Los 3 Ojos National Park. Here's what to expect on your visit:
I Hope you enjoyed this walking tour of La Zona Colonial. As always, thanks for reading!
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