In the first city founded by Europeans in America, the steady pace harmoniously blends with tourists and innovative construction projects that give new life to the historic city center
Sitting in his plastic chair at the end of the seaside esplanade, the Malecón, near where Avenida del Puerto begins, Manuel Castro reads the newspaper while he waits for buyers interested in the trinkets on display. This little old man proudly recalls fighting in the 1965 Dominican Revolution and has lived his whole life in the Zona Colonial, where the history of Spanish colonization (1492-1821) is still silently evident. Santo Domingo is similarly proud of its title as the First City of the Americas.
PEACEFUL CITY The city’s historic heart preserves the rhythms of its people’s way of life: neighbors play dominoes on the sidewalk in the late afternoon, fruit vendors roam the neighborhood with carts packed with papayas – called “lechosas” here – and the ladies watch the latest soap operas with their front doors open. And tourists are now part of the mix, enticed by souvenir shops, boutique hotels, and innovative spots that are breathing new life into the neighborhood.
STORES OWNED BY LOCAL ARTISTS One great example is Diseño Local Store(Arzobispo Meriño, 107), a concept store focused exclusively on creations from Dominican artists. Besides being a good place to pick up a unique keepsake from the island, there’s a juice bar, and they serve sushi at night. Nearby, in front of the Malecón where Manuel sits waiting, Tres Cerditos (Av. George Washington, 29) fries up deliciously crispy pork belly chicharrones, typical Dominican fare that this restaurant serves in everything, including tacos.
REVISITED TRADITIONAL CUISINE If you want to explore the local culinary offerings, your obligatory visits to the Cathedral and the Alcázar de Colón can wait for another day. As night falls, head just outside the Zona Colonial to sample a refined version of Dominican street food at Food Truck Town, in the most modern part of the city. You’ll find everything from Venezuelan and Middle Eastern fare to a cart selling guarapo (sugarcane juice). The burgers from Oveja Negra deserve a special mention.
BEACH AND SUN After visiting the city, it’s time to explore the most famous part of the Dominican Republic: its beaches with white sands and crystal-clear waters.