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Blick auf Santo Domingo, Bild: sharptoyou / shutterstock

Santo Domingo de Guzmán – capital of the Dominican Republic

On the south coast of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola lies Santo Domingo de Guzmán. The capital of the Dominican Republic presents itself as a modern metropolis and is the largest city in the country with around 3 million inhabitants.

The special fascination of the city lies not least in the fact that Santo Domingo de Guzmán was the first city built by Europeans on the American continent, from which today’s metropolis could grow. Santo Domingo de Guzmán is one of the most fascinating cities today, because from modern, sparkling shopping streets to the colonial city center, Santo Domingo surprises its visitors with a very special atmosphere and numerous contrasts, which combine in the metropolis to create a unique cocktail.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Santo Domingo

As early as 1496, the first Europeans settled at the mouth of the Ozama River. Bartolomeo Columbus officially founded Santo Domingo de Guzmán in 1498 and thus the current metropolis of the Dominican Republic is the oldest city founded by Europeans in the New World.

Originally founded as La Neva Isabela, the city was rebuilt on the west bank of the Ozama River due to a hurricane and an ant plague and received its current name. The new foundation was accompanied by the fact that the city was built according to plan. Accordingly, a colonial city emerged, as the city planners of the Renaissance wished. The Plaza de Armas was laid out as the center of the ideal city. Around the square, the streets were laid out at right angles, which was unique in Latin America and served as a blueprint for later colonial cities.

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The Cathedral of Santo Domingo was built between 1521 and 1540, making it the oldest cathedral on the continent. In addition, the first university on the continent of America was founded in 1538. In 1990, the historic old town was named a World Heritage Site, because the old town on the western bank of the Rio Ozama is largely preserved and gives interesting insights into the colonial era. An impressive collection of buildings from the founding period ensures that Santo Domingo de Guzmán has unique sights.

The main attractions of Santo Domingo

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

Cathedral of Santo Domingo
The statue of Columbus in front of the cathedral, Image: Baranov E / shutterstock

The Cathedral of Santo Domingo is part of the colonial city of Santo Domingo and therefore part of the World Heritage Site. With its coral limestone façade, the church attracts attention. Architecture enthusiasts will be fascinated by the church with its Gothic and Baroque elements. Equally impressive are the art treasures of the basilica and the treasury with its art collection, with the high altar made of silver proving to be an absolute eye-catcher.

Alcázar de Colón

Alcázar de Colón
Alcázar de Colón, Image: murkalor / shutterstock

Located directly on the Rio Ozama, the Alcázar de Colón Palace, which was once built under Diego Columbus between 1510 and 1514, is impressive. The palace in the old town was already listed as a national monument in the 19th century and renovated in the 1950s. Today, the Renaissance-style building impresses with its architectural subtleties, excellent location and, of course, its eventful past.

Fortaleza Ozama

At the mouth of the Ozama River, the Forteleza Ozama was built in the 16th century. The historic castle complex rises above the port area of Santo Domingo and the view that reveals itself to visitors here is correspondingly charming.

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Museo de las Casas Reales

Once when kings held audiences here and later the building was used as the governor’s palace. Today, the historic building is worth a visit because of its architectural features, its beautiful courtyard and also the exhibitions, because the palace is now used as a museum. Exhibitions about the history of the country and colonization inspire with interesting details and fascinating exhibits.