Resting on the Caribbean Sea, Santo Domingo is a cosmopolitan Mecca with dozens of museums, vibrant arts scene, Spanish bistros and spirited bars and historic sites like the Columbus Lighthouse where the explorer’s remains are said to be. The gateway to eight hundred miles of coastline that surrounds the Dominican Republic, the capital city was founded in 1496 and is celebrated as the oldest city in the Americas.
Nestled inside Santo Domingo on the Ozama River, couples can stroll unhurried down cobblestone streets that conquistadors once walked centuries ago. In the oldest European city in the New World, there’s the oldest church in the Americas, the first paved road and the first sewer system. But Santo Domingo also offers plenty that’s new like a gourmet restaurant buried in a cave once used by pirates and a seaside walkway with towering condos on one side and the ocean that carried Columbus to the island on the other.
At the historical heart of the walled city is the Ciudad Colonial or Zona Colonial, which is a favorite of honeymooners and those celebrating anniversaries. Boasting a collection of 16th-century architecture that has been restored and preserved, it was recognized by UNESCO and declared a World Heritage Site in 1992.
Traveling from New Jersey to celebrate their wedding, Sarah and Tom Chang invited their extended family to join them in the Zona Colonial where they said their “I Do’s” amidst a treasure trove of history. “For my sister, it meant long life to be married in a city that has hundreds of years of history,” her brother Ray said snapping photos of his sister and her bridesmaids.
Contemporary hotels sit on ancient streets, fancy sports cars park next to well-worn scooters and street vendors dish up traditional fare like a savory slow-simmered stew called ‘sancocho’ made with seven meats and ‘la bandera dominicana’, a scrumptious platter of chicken, rice and beans served with a side of plantains.
Rooms with a View
Named after one of the first governors of the Americas, HostalNicolas de Ovando is a charming boutique hotel with vistas of the port on the Ozama River. In the heart of the Colonial City on the famous street “Las Damas”, the hotel was built in 1502 and has been turned into a 5-star hotel with a host of modern amenities like Wi-Fi access and a lap pool. Inviting honeymooners, the junior suite – only three in the hotel – is a marriage of contemporary chic and colonial style. International specialties tempt in the open-air courtyard La Residence where a Master Chef from France whips up his delectable signature dishes. The Cibao Bar pours potent rum cocktails that go sublimely well with a Dominican cigar. Visit www.accorhotels.com
Around the corner, Hotel Frances is a smaller hotel that oozes history at every turn. “Wedding parties like to rent our nineteen rooms in order to get a real sense of privacy, “, says Monica Aguilar, general manager, “We host only two weddings a month and with a very romantic staff, we’re delighted to organize flowers and photos to breakfast in bed and gourmet dinners in our courtyard restaurant.” Suite 203 is the top pick of honeymooners who covet the three large windows, soundproofing and views of the historic street just below. Visit www.accorhotels.com
A Leisurely Stroll
The Malecón, a sea-fronting boulevard that dates back to 1936, is the primo venue for cultural events like art shows and merengue concerts. Seaside benches invite people-watching, casinos tempt Lady Luck and vendors pour frosty mugs of Presidente beer.
The famous Calle El Conde pedestrian-only street is chockablock with awe-inspiring art from Haiti, stogie rollers, cafes, shops selling jewelry crafted from amber and old timers who like to show off their handmade sombreros.
Popular for wedding photos, the Botanical Gardens is the largest in the Caribbean. A tram takes nature lovers through the park with its impressive array of palm trees and orchids. An hour east of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica is a lover’s escape with a coral reef-protected lagoon, shallow surf and soft powdery sand lapped by turquoise waters.
Make a Date
Weekends: There is no country in the world that produces as many Major League Baseball players as the Dominican Republic. Sports fans should not miss a game at the Estadio Quisqueya ballpark where Santo Domingo’s two home teams play every weekend.
September 1 – 4: Sans Souci Terminal will host Design Caribbean with ceramics, jewelry and home furnishings crafted by artisans from Barbados, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti and Jamaica
September 23 – 24: Taste Santo Domingo’’ is the biggest culinary event in the country with wines and spirits from all over the world. Visitwww.tastesantodomingo.com,
Get in Touch: www.godominicanrepublic.com