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Walking Tour – Zona Colonial
Submitted by dr1guide on August 1, 2009 – 3:45 pmNo Comment

Zona Colonial
Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1991, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo (La Zona Colonial) is 16 square blocks laid out in a grid system between forts. The first and largest European urban settlement in the Americas, La Zona (as it is commonly known) has many firsts of the New World with the first cathedral, hospital, palace, paved street, university and more. The two most visited monuments are the Cathedral and the Columbus Palace (Alcazar).

As well as the neighborhood’s history, which dates back to the turn of the 15th Century, the Zona Colonial boasts a variety of shopping, dining and nightlife options, all within walking distance of one another.

Numbered monuments are listed in the order of a walking tour. See our Zona Colonial Walking tour map in the guide:

WT_01_Puerta_Conde1. Puerta del Conde
The Count’s Gate. A national monument marking where the founders of the Republic proclaimed independence from Haiti on 27 February 1844. It earned its name when the Count of Peñalva, governor of the island in 1655, succeeded in defending the settlement from Oliver Cromwell’s powerful invading army with 56 ships and 9,000 men under the command of Admiral William Penn (who later went on to found Pennsylvania). The gate marks the entrance to Independence Park. Av. Independencia & Calle Palo Hincado.

WT_02_El_Conde2. El Conde
Considered Santo Domingo’s prime shopping strip until the 1980s, El Conde shops run from east to west along eight city blocks closed off to motorized traffic. This pedestrian mall, with its decadent aura, is nevertheless popular with locals and visitors for its bustling bohemian atmosphere. Many shops now cater for tourists, including those arriving on the cruise ships that dock nearby.

WT_03_Iglesia_Las_Mercedes3. Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
Constructed between 1549 and 1555, the church was dedicated to the Lady of Mercedes, named patron of the city in 1617. Note its remarkable frontispiece on its western façade, a monumental main altar in Baroque style and an impressive bell tower, the biggest in the city, dating back to 1673. Visits daily 4pm-5:30pm. Mass daily 5:30pm-6:30pm. Calle Las Mercedes & Jose Reyes, 809.682.3744.

WT_04_Iglesia_Regina_Angelor4. Iglesia Regina Angelorum
An imposing late Gothic structure with gargoyles, demons and buttresses, the church houses the remains of Padre Billini, a 17th century priest famous for his work with the poor and for having discovered Columbus’ bones. Church only open during mass Sun 6pm-6:30pm. Calle Padre Billini & José Reyes, 809.682.2783.

WT_05_Convento_Dominicos5. Convento de los Dominicos
Built in 1510, the convent is one of the oldest churches in the Americas. This is also the site of the New World’s first university, Santo Tomas de Aquino (1538), before it evolved into its present incarnation as the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). From its pulpit, Fray Anton de Montesinos became the first to denounce the violation of human rights in the Americas, when he spoke out against the treatment of the native Indians. Open daily only during Mass Mon-Sat 7am.7:30pm. Free admission. Calle Padre Billini & Av. Duarte, 809.682.3780.

WT_06_Casa_Tostado6. Casa de Tostado
House of Tostado. Built around 1520 for scribe Francisco Tostado who arrived with appointed governor Nicolas de Ovando in 1502. It is distinguished by the Gothic stone decorations atop twin windows, unique in the Americas. The house is now a museum showcasing the way wealthy Dominicans lived in the 19th century. Mon-Sat 9am-4pm. Foreign Adults RD$40; foreign children from 2-7 yrs. RD$40. Calle Arzobispo Meriño & Padre Billini, 809.689.5000.

WT_07_Catedral7. Catedral Primada de América
The oldest cathedral in the Americas, it was built by Alonzo Rodríguez, the architect who would go on to design the cathedral of Mexico. Construction began in 1514 and it was consecrated a cathedral in 1540. Note the wonderful Gothic vault in the interior and the minor influences from the Italian Renaissance periods. Plateresque, Moorish, Andalusian Renaissance and Elizabethan styles are apparent in its 14 lateral chapels added over the years. The Cathedral’s modern stained glass windows by Dominican artist Jose Rincón Mora were a donation by Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop of Munich, Germany. Visits Mon-Sat 9am-4pm, Mass Mon-Sat 5pm, Sun 12pm & 5pm. No Mass Tuesday. Calle Arzobispo Meriño & Arzobispo Nouel, 809.682.3848.

WT_08_Parque_Colon8. Parque Colón
Located beside the Cathedral, this square is surrounded by interesting architecture (colonial, republican and modern) with plenty of shady trees, pigeons, sidewalk cafes and a great people-watching mix of tourists and locals, especially in the late afternoon. The central brass and cement monument with statues of Christopher Columbus and Taino Indian heroine Anacaona by French sculptor Ernesto Guilbert, dates back to 1887, giving the space its new name.

- Hard Rock Cafe
The world famous rock museum/restaurant has a home in Santo Domingo. Walk in to check out two floors of rock memorabilia from famous national and international musicians. Calle el Conde #103, 809.686.7771;

- Calle Las Damas
The oldest paved street in the New World. It was constructed in 1502 and acquired its present name with the arrival in 1509 of Diego Columbus and his noble wife. With them came a large retinue of family members and courtesans who adopted the custom of strolling up and down the street.

WT_09_Fortaleza9.Fortaleza Ozama
The oldest military plaza in the Americas, used as a garrison and prison well into the 1960s. It contains structures dating from as far back as 1503 to the 19th Century. At the center is the five-floor high Torre del Homenaje with its six-foot thick walls, and a lookout platform with a 360 degree view of the river, city and countryside. Daily 9am-6pm. Adults RD$30, children between 10-15 yrs. RD$10. Calle Las Damas, 809.333.8672.

- Plaza Maria de Toledo
Small plaza named in honor of Diego Columbus’s noble wife, niece of King Ferdinand of Spain. Calle Las Damas opposite Hostal Nicolás de Ovando.

WT_10_Panteon_Nacional10. Panteón Nacional
Built from 1714-1745 as a Jesuit convent and church before the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish colonies, the building was used as warehouse and cultural center. In 1956 it was converted to the National Pantheon and now serves as a mausoleum for some of the Dominican Republic’s most influential figures behind its stone walls. Daily 8am-9pm. Free admission. Calle Las Damas, 809.689.6010.

WT_11_Hostal_Nicolas_Ovando11. Hostal Nicolás de Ovando
Overlooking the Ozama River, the manor houses of Nicolás de Ovando, first governor of Santo Domingo and court official Francisco Dávila were combined and restored into a luxury hotel, the Hostal Nicolás de Ovando. Calle Las Damas.

WT_12_Museo_Casas_Reales12. Museo de las Casas Reales
Built between 1503 and 1520, this museum now displays the DR’s history from 1492-1821. From here Spain ruled over the New World Empire. It was the administrative center of the West Indies, housing the Royal Court, Treasury, Governor’s Office and law courts. Tues-Sun 9am-5pm. Adults RD$50, children between 10-15 yrs. RD$20. Calle de las Damas, 809.682.4202.

- Capilla de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios
Originally a private chapel for the early 16th Century Davila mansion next door, today cultural exhibitions and concerts are held there. Calle Las Damas.

- Sundial
This timepiece still tells the time. It was built in 1753 to keep the royal audiences held in the Casas Reales on time. Calle Las Damas off from the Museo de las Casas Reales.

WT_13_Casa_Cordon13. Casa del Cordon
Completed in 1504, this is the oldest stone house in the Americas, originally owned by Francisco de Garay, who came to Hispaniola with Columbus. Its portal features an impressive stone carving of the characteristic cord of the Franciscan order. Banco Popular offices are located there. Mon-Fri 8am-3pm. Free admission. Calle Isabel la Católica & Emiliano Tejera, 809.544.8915.

WT_14_Plaza_Espana14. Plaza de España
What was once the center of colonial power and trade with a mix of merchants, sailors and Spanish high officials, is today a large romantic plaza replete with restaurants, bars and steps overlooking the Ozama River.

WT_15_Alcazar_Colon15. Alcazar de Colón
The Columbus Palace was built (1511-1514) by Christopher Columbus’s son Diego, appointed Viceroy of the Indies to house the stately court he held with his wife Maria de Toledo. Today the Alcazar showcases medieval and Rennaissance furniture and objects depicting domestic life of 16th century Spanish nobility in the Americas. The palace hosted Spanish conquistadores Hernan Cortés (Mexico) and Francisco Pizarro (Peru). During Diego’s period in charge of the colony, the golden age for Santo Domingo, the conquests of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica took place. Tues-Sat 9am-5pm. Sun 9am-4pm. Adults RD$60, children under 9 free. Plaza de España, 809.682.4750.

WT_16_Puerta_San_Diego16. Puerta de San Diego
Down the steps from the Alcazar de Colón are the ruins of the San Diego Gate built in Renaissance style in 1540. For a time, this was the main gate to the city.

- Museo de las Atarazanas Reales
Once a customs house, this museum is filled with sunken treasures salvaged from Spanish galleons. Calle La Atarazana & Vicente Celestino Duarte, 809.682.5834. Under renovation. Opening date not known at time of publication.

WT_17_Santa_Barbara17. Iglesia de Santa Barbara
Built during the 1570’s in honor of the military’s patron saint is this handsome whitewashed church, behind which are the ruins of the Fort Santa Barbara it was once attached to. A formidable point of defense at the time, it was no match for Sir Francis Drake and his men. Visits daily 8am-12pm. Mass Mon-Sat 6pm-6:45pm. Sun 7:30am-8:30am, 9am-10am. Isabel la Católica& Puello, 809.682.3307.

WT_18_Museo_Casa_Duarte18. Museo Casa de Duarte
Once the house of Juan Pablo Duarte, the country’s founding father. He led the independence movement that culminated successfully in 1844. On display are various objects and documents related to his life. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm. Calle Isabel la Católica #308, 809.687-1436.

WT_19_Museo_Ambar19.Museo de Ambar
Visitors can see a range of samples of amber, the semi-precious gemstone the Dominican Republic is famous for. Some pieces include trapped insects, leaves and even lizards. Mon-Sat 8:30am-6pm, Sun 9am-1pm. Calle Arzobispo Meriño & Restauración #452, 809.682.3309.

WT_20_Ruinas_San_Francisco20. Ruinas de San Francisco
With its lovely Plateresque gate with St. Francis’ cord carved in stone still intact, this became the first monastery in the Americas when Franciscan monks arrived with first governor Nicolas de Ovando in 1502. The present stone structure was built from 1543.1664. Daily 9am-5pm. Free admission. Calle Hostos between Calle Emiliano Tejera & Restauracion, 809.686.8657.

- Calle Hostos
Calle Hostos is best known by movie buffs as part of the 1974 Hollywood hit “The Godfather II.” The scene depicts Michael Corleon witnessing a suicide bombing in 1958 Cuba, making him reconsider family business there. Walk down the cobble stone streets after you finish visiting the Ruinas de San Francisco.

WT_21_Ruinas_Hospital_Nicolas21. Hospital San Nicolás de Barí
The ruins of the first hospital in the New World, constructed in 1503 by order of Santo Domingo’s first governor, Nicolás de Ovando. Calle Hostos & General Luperón.

- Monumento de Fray Antón de Montesinos
The 30-meter high statue was donated by the government of Mexico, and is dedicated to this 16th century priest who preached against the atrocities being committed against the Taino Indians. His rage is depicted by the flames in his hair. Located at the westernmost entrance to the Port of Santo Domingo, off the Malecón.

WT_22_Fuerte_San_Gil22. Fuerte de San Gil
On the waterfront, just a token remains of this south-westernmost fort, part of the city’s protective fortifications built between 1540 and 1668 to defend the city from pirates and corsairs. From this site, there is a fine view of the harbor, the lighthouse and arriving and departing ships. Today it houses an open-air restaurant. Malecón & Calle Palo Hincado.

WT_23_Puerta_Misericordia23. Puerta de la Misericordia
Gate of Mercy. Built in Renaissance style in 1543. This was the original gate of the city’s western wall and was named following an 1842 earthquake when local priests set up tents to help the sick and injured. Ramon Matías Mella fired the first shot here prior to marching on to the Puerta del Conde to proclaim independence from Haiti on 27 February 1844. Calle Palo Hincado & Arzobispo Portes.

WT_24_Parque_Independencia24. Parque Independencia
Home to the Altar de la Patria, a marble mausoleum containing the remains of the Dominican Republic’s founding fathers: Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramon Matías Mella and Francisco Rosario Sanchez. The compass in the park’s center is Kilometer 0, from which all distances in the country are measured. It is also an important venue for public art exhibits. Mausoleum open daily 7:30am-6pm. Free admission.

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