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Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and is rich in history dating back to 1498 when the then Spanish king granted the city a Royal Letter, the first colonial city to have ever received such an honour. As the first city in the Americas it claims the first cathedral, hospital, monastery, palace, university and fortress. Today, of course, it is a mixture of historical and modern buildings with the area called Zona Colonial steeped in history with its cobbled streets and well preserved buildings many dating back to the colonial period. As the capital of the Dominican Republic it is the main commercial and administrative centre of the country and houses the Palacio Nacional, the residence of the current president Leonel Fernandez, the Congreso Nacional, the seat of government, the central Dominican Bank, as well as the offices of various government departments. Throughout the city can be found museums, theatres, parks, aquariums, libraries and modern shopping malls with all the world renowned fashion names represented.
Some of the fascinating attractions in the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo include not only the unique cobblestone streets but some of the oldest buildings in all of the Caribbean The Catedral Primada de America is thought to be the oldest dating back to around 1514 and 1546. The ruins of the Monastery of San Francisco are another attraction that date back to approximately the same time period. One Zona Colonial attraction that should always be included in your visit is the Alcazar de Colon. The Alcazar de Colon is a 22-room palace built by Christopher Columbusís son Diego Columbus in 1510. There are, of course also a variety of museums dotting the Zona Colonial, all well worth a visit, including the Dominican Republic Museo de Arte Moderno, the Museo de las Casas Reales, and the Museo del Hombre Dominicano.
The Zona Colonial area of the city, which actually covers 12 blocks, also offers a wide selection of cafes, bars and restaurants offering every type of cuisine from traditional Dominican dishes to those popular from every corner of the world. Every taste is catered for and the service, provided indoor or in sheltered outside courtyards, is always of the highest quality.
At night this part of the city transforms into an international hotspot with a variety of discotheques, offering the widest range of sounds from the traditional Merengue to every type of modern dance music, nightclubs with shows of international appeal as well as casinos etc.
You can stay at a wide range of hotels in the Zona Colonial from small hostels to large modern international hotels from world known groups such as the Melia, Barcelo, Clarion, etc. at a variety of prices to suit all budgets.
Away from the Zona Colonial the Columbus Lighthouse is another popular attraction that receives many visitors due to its design. As the night falls the illumination from the lighthouse places a cross in the overhead sky. To see the Columbus lighthouse, you will need to visit Mirador del Este Park.
Nature lovers should also include the Botanical Gardens on their list while enjoying their holiday in Santo Domingo. The Botanical gardens are considered to be the largest in the Dominican Republic and offer a train ride through the exhibits of the fauna and flora that are indigenous to the Republica Dominicana. If you enjoy kite flying, biking, or jogging, you will enjoy other city parks such as the Mirador del Norte Park. Another attraction not to be missed is Los Tres Ojos & National Aquarium. Los Tres Ojos is a magnificent 50-foot cave that is surrounded by three beautiful lagoons. The aquarium is just a short distance from the Los Tres Ojos National Park and is the home to a giant manatee known as Tamaury.
Although often overlooked by holiday-makers, who tend to visit the Dominican Republic for beach holidays in the more touristy areas, the capital Santo Domingo offers the visitor a unique opportunity to retrace the steps of the earliest colonialists, explorers and pirates who first discovered this amazing country and have left their mark for us to still enjoy today
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