The Dominican Republic is much more than just sun and beautiful beaches, in fact Santo Domingo is known as the city of the new world where very important historical events were developed for what is now known as America, this island is witness to many great stories that were very important for the conformation of Dominican society and what is now known as the new world. The Dominican people have been forged by history several times, where the places were a witness and main protagonists of events of great repercussion, not only on the island but also internationally.
If someday you visit the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, you will have a much more complete experience of the spaces you visit if you already know its history and the events that took place in them, so here I describe, some places with great historical value in Santo Domingo.
Personally, I love war tourism; I hope someday to visit places where the Second World War took place so that in this guide you will meet some historical places in the city of Santo Domingo where violent events took place and other places of great historical value that are few promoted.
Los Molinos and Copello Buildings, Colonial city
The Conde Street, in the colonial city is one of the most visited tourist places in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, this street was declared a World Heritage Site, by the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is the only pedestrian street in the city, stands out for its shops and buildings of colonial architecture which feels a romantic air in the environment.
El Conde Street was the scene of important political negotiations and clashes. During the April 1965 revolution, this revolution was a civil war because of major socio-political conflicts of the time, where there was a US military intervention, US President Lyndon B. Johnson sent 42,000 soldiers.
The attention of Dominicans and foreigners remained in El Conde street, because the Copello building was the seat of the Constitutionalist Government (the good ones) that the president Francisco Alberto Caamaño presided over in an ephemeral way, the Dominican people bravely fought in the el conde street , but they were surpassed both in numbers and in armament.
The Americans, positioned snipers on the roof of the building “los molinos”, which was one of the tallest buildings in the environment, these snipers annihilated over 20 Dominicans, los molinos building can be seen at the end of the el conde street, on the other side of the Ozama River, snipers possessed long-range weapons.
The Ozama Fortress, Colonial city
The Ozama Fortress is one of the oldest historical buildings in America. The city of Santo Domingo was strategically settled on the edges of the Ozama River and the Caribbean Sea because it was a key point of commercial trade. This same location made the city vulnerable to pirate attacks that hit the Caribbean Sea.
This pirate threat motivated the construction of the walls for defense and protection of the city, started in 1543, the design and construction were under the direction of the Spanish architecture master Rodrigo de Liendo.
20 defense stations were created across the entire cobbled wall. Six were defensive entry doors such as the San Diego Gate, which today looks at the Ozama River and the avenue of the Port and el Conde Gate, which is another historical monument of great importance.
Colón Park, Colonial city
The Colon park created in 1506, has been recognized internationally as one of the best public spaces in the world, with an interesting mix of architecture and vegetation, where different architectural styles and leafy centennial trees converge, in the center of the park is a Bronze statue of Christopher Columbus by the French sculptor Ernesto Guilbert (1887), With his left arm extended to the northwest, Columbus points out where he came from.
the half-naked indigenous woman who lies at the Colon statue feet, for some symbolizes the encounter of the two cultures, while for others it is a symbol of the abuse and mistreatment to which the natives of the island were subjected by the conquerors.
The colon park is accessible both by car and on foot, it is considered the best place to start an excursion in the colonial city of Santo Domingo, in this space different social and cultural activities are developed.
Santo Domingo Cathedral, Colonial City
As an architect, this is my favorite building in the colonial city, the cathedral of Santo Domingo, also called the primate cathedral of America, owes its name precisely because it is the oldest cathedral in America, its architecture is exquisite and spectacular, does not have a unique style, it is a mixture of Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance, Plateresco and Herreriano architectural styles. Its construction dates from 1521, by Spanish architects Luis de Moya and Rodrigo de Liendo.
In 1586 During the invasion of the English privateer Francis Drake to the island of Santo Domingo, the cathedral served as the headquarters of the English. However, they stole everything of value that the church had, including the bell tower of the cathedral, and performed acts of vandalism before leaving the island.
The exterior of the cathedral is built with limestone, when I was an architecture student, I remember hearing at the university that some of the stones used to build the cathedral was brought directly from Spain in ships and that ships carrying stones returned to Spain loaded with gold and other elements to provide stability to the boat, I am not sure that this information is accurate, but it is interesting.
Inside the cathedral contains numerous precious art objects, including the funeral tombstone of Simón Bolívar, known as the Liberator of America, there are also mausoleums of important archbishops of the colonial era.
Alcázar de Colón, Colonial City
The word “alcazar” comes from Arabic and means castle, the Alcazar de Colon is one of the most iconic buildings in the colonial city, known as the virreal palace of Don Diego Colon, son of Cristobal Colon, began to be built at the end of In 1510, the palace was a gift from King Ferdinand the Catholic to the family of Don Diego Colon who was then the viceroy of the Indies, the viceroy was the king’s representative in the region belonging to the kingdom.
This place represents a link between the days of the discovery of America and the current times, between the colony of the Spanish Island and the Dominican Republic, between the family of Christopher Columbus from the time of colonization and the current ministers of the country.
The palace is built on a plot of 1,542 M2 near the cliffs of the Ozama River, the architectural style of the palace is a combination of Gothic, Mudejar and contains some Renaissance elements, it is built with coral stones, originally the palace had 55 rooms, of which are preserved only 22, the palace is the only known residence of a member of the Colon family, three generations of the Colon De Toledo family inhabited it.
Later the palace was abandoned and became ruins until it was remodeled and turned into a museum in 1955 during the government of the Dominican dictator president Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the remodeling was in charge of the Spanish architect Javier Barroso.
Square of the Sun Clock, Colonial City
The sundial is in front of the Museum of the Royal Houses in the Colonial city, established in 1753, is the oldest sundial in America, highly appreciated for its antiquity and for the historical and scientific value, The clock of the Sol is one of the biggest attractions for tourists to visit in Santo Domingo, as it is one of the few in the world that is still preserved in such good conditions.
The sundial was used by military and officers of the time to know the time of day; The clock is a square column-shaped structure; it works on two faces, the Southeast face where the morning hours and the face are seen Southwest where the afternoon hours are read. The hours are marked by a metal plate whose projected shadow marks the hours on the faces.
Puerta del Conde/Gate of the Count, Colonial City
The door of the Count was originally called “Bastion of San Genaro”, service of entry and exit of the city, it is a military building that has two solid cubes with a stone vault between them. The military installation is completed by a wall cloth, a triangular-shaped pit facing west and several checkpoints. The gate, which remained closed, was opened in the mid-17th century.
The name of Puerta del Conde honors the defense of the city carried out by the Count of Peñalba, Mr. Bernardino de Meneses Bracamonte y Zapata, during the English invasion in 1655.
This door also represents a historical element of great importance for the Dominicans, because it was the scene of the first acts that culminated in the independence of the Dominican Republic, in 1844.
The count gate gives entry to the Altar de la Patria, in the Independence Park, of which both are part, which honors the three Fathers of the Fatherland: Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, and Ramón Matías Mella.
Las Damas Street, Colonial City
If you come to the colonial city, you should definitely walk down this street, it is full of history and nostalgia, known as “the first street of the new world” of the year 1502, it is the first street drawn in the city of Santo Domingo, and so both the oldest, It was called that, Calle de las Damas, for having lived in it the ladies of the courtship of Mrs. Maria de Toledo, wife of Diego Colón (son of Christopher Columbus). Here the first stone houses of important characters were built.
Lace House/ Casa del Cordón, Colonial City
It is the first stone house built in America, from 1502, it is located on Isabel La Católica street, the name of the Casa del Cordón is due to the adornment of a stone cord that it has on its facade, around the door principal.
Within the civil architecture of the first colonial period in Santo Domingo, la Casa del Cordón stands out for its palatial dimensions and its beautiful work of sculptural stonework that hierarchies and gives nobility to the great main portal, its Franciscan cordon symbolizes the name of the owner Original: Francisco de Garay, companion of Christopher Columbus, specialized in the collection of gold and other metals, since he practiced mining as usual, in the first colony of Spain in America.
Coin House/Casa de las Monedas, Colonial City
The House of the Coins is also known as the House of Medallions because of the five medallions carved at the entrance of Plateresque style. The construction date is not known exactly, but it is believed to date from the first half of the 16th century around 1540, coinciding with the completion of the Cathedral.
Casa de la Moneda was the name by which the Spanish crown called the building where coins were minted. In the Dominican Republic, this institution existed in the colonial era where silver coins were minted with an S on one face that showed their origin. The coins could be used in any territory belonging to Spain.
The House of the Coins was not the original place where the coins were made, the true Mint was in front of this house, but it was demolished.
The name, misused of this building is for the medallions carved at the entrance, these medallions exhibit a man at different ages, it is believed that it is Carlos V, who was King of Spain. The building was restored in 1972 and the Dominican Numismatic Museum operates.
Museum of the Royal Houses/Museo de las casas reales, Colonial City
In this beautiful place the Palace of the Royal Audience or Palace of the General Captains worked, also, were the first official institutions of America.
The museum of the royal houses, is a colonial building made of stone, of great historical character, represents the colonial period, and was established on October 18, 1973, officially opened on May 31, 1976. It shows an austere and flat facade.
The creation of the museum was done to collect and show the customs and way of life that was lived on the Hispaniola Island during the colonial era.
In this beautiful place, the Palace of the Royal Audience worked were also the first official institutions of America.
The museum contains nine rooms inside and comprises two buildings that communicate with each other, previously one was dedicated to the Palace of the Governors, where these officials had their homes and the other housed the Royal Accounting Office and the Royal Audience.
The rooms that make up the Museum of the Royal House are: the great hall, the dais room, the weapons room, the family room, the Ceramology, also has the meeting room between two worlds, the legislation room, the Accounting room, and the economy room.
This museum is considered the one of the most complete in America, because no place has such a cultural collection in the entire American continent.
The museum has a reading room, library, conference room, and a temporary exhibition hall.
San Francisco Monastery/Monasterio de San Francisco,Colonial City
These ruins are the vestiges of what was the Monastery of San Francisco, it was the first monastery of the new world., It began its construction in 1508 upon the Franciscan priest and the work was completed by 1560.
The monastery was one work built by Nicolás de Ovando, who is credited with building the most beautiful houses of the colonial era in Santo Domingo.
It was sacked in 1586 by the privateer Francis Drake, which left damage to its original design that was repaired in 1664. However, the monastery was destroyed in 1673 after an earthquake, being ruined, as it is known in the actuality.
Then the events that contributed to the almost complete destruction of the monastery would continue. The French occupied this place in the Battle of Palo Hincado and destroyed part of the roof with the use of a cannon. Then the cyclone San Zenón arrived, also causing significant damage to the building.
A very interesting fact of this place is that from there the first aqueduct of the city arises, at present these pipes distribute the water of the entire colonial city.
Trampolin Children's Museum/Museo Infantil Trampolin, Colonial City
The concept of the Trampoline Museum has a cultural approach designed for the whole family, especially for children, it is an interactive museum where children learn different themes while having fun.
The Museum occupies the so-called Rodrigo de Bastidas House, of which its colonial structure has been kept intact, dates from the 16th century, adorning it with diverse works and exhibitions that give the colonial atmosphere a childish touch, adapting it to the purpose of the museum.
It is in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, combining the colonial structure with the color of a museum for all ages. In the museum, there are interactive exhibition activities, movies, games, various workshops.
The content of the museum is divided according to different areas in a sequence of information and knowledge, these areas are: The Universe, Human Being, Energy, Paleomundo, Solar System, Earth, Dominican Republic and miscellaneous. The visit to the trampoline museum is guided.
Ruins of San Nicolás de Bari/Ruinas de San Nicolás de Bari, Colonial City
Built by mandate of Commander Nicolás Ovando from 1502. Annex to the temple was built the Hospital of San Nicolás, first of America. It was founded by Nicolás de Ovando who was then governor of the island, the San Nicolás de Bari Hospital was the first hospital in America, there are only ruins and it is on Hostos street, Luperón corner in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo.
In 1522 this building was in operation, where over 60 people were served daily. However, in the middle of the 18th century, the place was abandoned, the reasons for its abandonment are still unknown.
Together with the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, it makes up one of the three first fruits of the New World in the city of Santo Domingo, which has made the Dominican Colonial Zone declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Dominican convent and church/Convento e Iglesia de los Dominicos, Colonial City
The Dominican Convent is one of the oldest Spanish constructions in America. Its construction began in 1510, becoming a religious point of reference for the inhabitants, the work was established at one edge of the city.
The order of preachers actively took part in the city’s life since their arrival in America, rebuking the abuses committed by the Spanish conquerors against the native race, this motivated the famous Advent Sermon in 1511.
Fray Antón de Montesinos was the spokesman to denounce the mistreatment to which the natives were subjected by the encomenders, this made the colony the first in history to protest human rights in a society that remained still with a slave mentality and medieval, and lacking a sense of equality, concepts that spread much later with the French Revolution.
The educational work of the Dominican Order always remained active, leading to the creation in 1518 of a General Study of open doors, 20 years later it became the University of Santo Tomas de Aquino, being the first university in America. The construction and supervision of the church and convent were in charge of the Spanish Architect Rodrigo de Liendo.
The Tribute Tower/La Torre del homenaje, Colonial City
The Torre del Homenaje fortress was the stronghold of Haitian troops during the Haitian domination of the island.
It is the oldest military tower built in the New World; it was built under the mandate of Nicolás de Ovando in 1507 and under the direction of Cristóbal de Tapia, who then moved in his commander.
The tribute tower, It is a prominent tower, taller than the wall, is the central structure of the medieval castle., It could also be excluded from the rest of the fortress. It is the main tower that fulfills the most important functions of the castle and serves as the residence of the Lord, welcoming the most important rooms and occasionally the grocery stores.
Concerning an external attack, the tower is in the most protected position in this way, if the rest of the defenses succumb, serve as the last refuge.
Don Diego Colón stayed at the Tower on his arrival on July 9, 1509, with the title of Viceroy of the New World, Governor of Hispaniola, first Duke of Veragua and first Marquis of Jamaica and accompanied by his wife, María de Toledo, from uncles Diego Colón Bartolomé Colón, from brother Fernando, and from his followers.
It was headquarters of the offices and stay of the mayor; the mayor climbed the tower to pay tribute to the newly arrived fleets; hence the origin of the name. The famous chronicler Don González Fernández de Oviedo, died on June 26, 1557, in one of his rooms.
At the time of the Haitian domination on the island, it was headquarters and jail; it was commanded by General Desgrotte, in charge of the surveillance of the surroundings and commander of the Plaza de Santo Domingo.
The young Deó Herard, son of Haitian President Charles Gerard, left the night of February 27 from the Tower of Tribute, leading a patrol car, to learn about the situation that was happening around the Puerta del Conde, facts historical that started what is now known as Dominican independence.
National Panteon/Panteon Nacional, Colonial City
The Pantheon of the Homeland is one of the most sacred places in the Dominican Republic, because in which the remains of a series of historical personalities of great relevance for the country rest, the building dates from the 18th century. It is located very close to the Plaza de España in Santo Domingo.
Originally as a Church of the Jesuits, it was built between 1714 and 1746, by money donated by Gerónimo Quezada y Garçon, it is one of the last buildings that the Spaniards made in the country; it served for multiple uses throughout the years until which was converted after the 1958 restorations in the National Pantheon, a mausoleum in which people who have stood out notably to the development of the Dominican Republic as a nation have been buried.
You can still see some empty spaces and a place that has no plaque since it is dedicated to the unknown soldier. Normally in this mausoleum is the guard of honor protecting this place.