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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    American Capital of Culture 2010

    The Seven Treasures of Santo Domingo, "American Capital of Culture 2010"

    Following the election of Santo Domingo as the “American Capital of Culture 2010” by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals, seven national treasures were chosen by popular vote with the goal of promoting Inter-American integration in the area of culture.

    The selected monuments are: Columbus Palace (Alcazar de Colon), the Cathedral, the Ozama Fortress, the Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales), the Botanical Gardens, the Malecón and the Palace of Fine Arts which constitute, in this order, the Seven Treasures of Santo Domingo.  

    El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón

    El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón
    El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón

    Construction of this majestic palace began at the end of 1510 and by 1512 Diego Columbus, son of discoverer Christopher Columbus, and his family were living in it. At that time, Diego Columbus was Viceroy of the West Indies, the third ruler of Hispaniola.

    The Palace, a rectangular, two-storey building with a wide “U” shaped staircase, has two other spiral staircases and a third smaller one at the base of which is a re-creation of the Maria de Toledo Chapel.

    The palace was built mostly with coralline blocks that came from the Santa Barbara quarries. The approximately 85-centimeter thick walls surround a surface area of 1,525 square meters. The main entrance, with a large arch, is of late Gothic design with stone, hand-carved ornamental motifs.    

    El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón
    ázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón
    The palace was inhabited by three generations of the Columbus family, from 1512 until 1577 when they left the country and returned to Spain due to health issues. In 1586 the palace was sacked by Francis Drake after which it was abandoned and fell into ruins as its infrastructure deteriorated significantly over the years. It was rescued on several occasions over the years and several renovations took place until finally, in 1870, it was declared a National Monument.   

    Currently, the mission of the Museum of the Columbus’s Palace is to research, conserve and familiarize Dominican and foreign visitors with the history of the Vice Regal Period of the Dominican Republic.

    Isabel la Católica Street, across from Plaza España, Colonial City. Map
    Tel.: (809) 68247-50 and (809) 221-1737
    Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to  4:00 pm
    General admission: $50.00 pesos per person

    Catedral Primada

    Museo de las Casas RealesEl Museo de las Casa Reales

    The first church, made of straw and wood, was built in 1502 and consecrated two years later by Pope Julius III. According to orders from the Bishop, Fray Garcia Padilla, the cathedral underwent renovations under the direction of Luis de Moya.

    Bishop Alejandro Geraldini ordered the construction of the cathedral which began in 1521. Architect Alonso González designed the building which was inspired by the Cathedral of Seville, Spain.

    In 1540, Pope Paul III conferred upon the church the status of “Metropolitan Cathedral and First in the Indies” and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Incarnation.

    Museo de las Casas RealesEl Museo de las Casa Reales

    The First Cathedral of America is one of the Dominican Republic’s most important architectural monuments. Its official name is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Holy Mary of the Incarnation.

    The basilica is unique in the New World because of its urban setting as well as the quality of its construction which is reflected in its carvings and ornamental details. An eclectic architectural complex, the church has Gothic style windows while the outside of the structure has a sober aspect and the main portal – finished in 1537 – demonstrates the great care put into the carvings and composition. 

    When Francis Drake landed in Santo Domingo in 1586, the Cathedral suffered severe damage and valuable losses as Drake and his men destroyed and sacked it.

    In 1920, Benedict XV called the Cathedral the “Minor Basilica of the Virgin of the Annunciation.”

    In the 1970s the cathedral was restored and is still the venue for all special Christian celebrations.

    Arzobispo Meriño Street, corner with Arzobispo Nouel, Colonial City. Map
    Tel.: 809-689-7665
    Hours: From Monday to Saturday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
    Free admission.

    Fortaleza Ozama

    Fortaleza Ozama El Alcázar Virreinal de Don Diego Colón
    Fortaleza Ozama

    The Ozama Fortress is one the oldest military installations on the American continent. It was the most important military plaza in Santo Domingo.

    It is comprised of various structures from the XVII, XVIII and XX centuries and include: Tower of Homage (Torre del Homenaje) begun in 1503; the Polvorín (Powder Keg), the Santiago Fort; the Platform; Tiro Alto and Tiro Bajo; Carlos III Portal and the ancient and newer walls.

    • Tower of Homage, an imposing medieval structure that stands 18.5 meters high, was built in the XVI century. Its location was personally chosen by then governor of the island, Fray Nicolás de Ovando when he moved to the city of Santo Domingo along the western shore of the Ozama River.
    • Carlos III Portal was built during the XVIII century renovations of the plaza. The portal bears a commemorative stone plaque which reads: “Built during the reign of Carlos III in the year 1787.”  
    • The Polvorín (Powder Keg) of Santa Barbara, an XVIII century rectangular construction, has 3-meter thick walls above which is displayed the royal symbol of the reign of Carlos III.  
    • The Santiago Fort (Fuerte de Santiago) was built with stone and brick and dates back to the middle of the XVI century. It was the first line of defense of the Fortress.

    Fortaleza Ozama Fortaleza Ozama
    Fortaleza Ozama

    The Fortress of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and, according to historians, the monument was built by Nicolás de Ovando from 1502 to 1508.  The Fortress was named after the Ozama River which it overlooks.

    The main objective of this building was to protect the city from pirate attacks as well as invaders from England, France and Portugal.

    Las Damas Street, Colonial City. Map
    Tel.: (809) 686 0222
     Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00 A.M. – 7:00 P.M. and Sundays 10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
    Admission: $2.00 dollars per person

    Casas Reales

    Museo de las Casas RealesEl Museo de las Casa Reales
    Museo de las Casa Reales

    This building has been called Royal Houses since the early years of the Spanish Colony and, according to historical archives, was built by the Governor Nicolás de Ovando in 1508.
    The decision to build this structure was made by the Spanish Crown for the purpose of housing its official institutions and offices in America, such as: The Royal Court, the General Accounts Office and the Palace of Governors and General Captains. Other historical documents suggest that it was also used as the House of Trade and the Foundation House.

    A look at the architectural details reveals that it was built in the same style as the Royal Houses of the era, thus characterized by the transition from Gothic to Spanish Renaissance. It was made of stone blocks shaped from molds that also have detailed reliefs of three-light patio arches and shields. 

    Museo de las Casas RealesEl Museo de las Casa Reales

    The architectural value of the building includes some very valuable museum pieces. The various halls were built to collect and highlight the history of Santo Domingo during the Spanish colonial period. Issues related to the Ministry of the Indies were dealt with in the Royal Court and General Accounts Office; the Town Halls carried out their functions and competences. Other halls displayed the main Laws of the Indies. Important and difficult court cases went on in the official Residence.

    The galleries of the museum contain countless collections of valuable objects including furniture and artwork from the XVI to the XVIII centuries.

    Las Damas Esq. Mercedes Street, Colonial City. Map
    Tel.: (809) 682-4202 (809) 688-8298
    Fax: (809) 688-6918
    PO Box 2664
    Email: museodelacasar@codetel.net.do
    Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Mondays, Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
    Admission per person: Dominicans and foreigners $30.00 pesos; elementary school groups and students $3.00 pesos; high schools $5.00 pesos.

    Jardin Botanico

    El Jardín BotánicoFortaleza Ozama
    El Jardín Botánico

    The Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanic Garden was created in 1976 under the mandate of the late President Joaquín Antonio Balaguer Ricardo. Since its creation, the installations of the garden form a permanent museum displaying the eight most important eco-systems of the country.

    The park combines natural beauty, tourism and scientific research and has significantly contributed to the identification and discovery of endemic and medicinal plants.

    Some of the objectives for which the garden was created are the following:

    • To carry out floral and topographical research in areas which conserve their natural vegetation.
    • To develop, with community support, conservation strategies for native and endemic plants in danger of extinction.
    • To disseminate information to the media on the latest findings and information about Dominican flora.

    The mission of this institution is to promote knowledge and awareness within Dominican society of the country’s floral resources in an effort to increase the level of consciousness and reason in the sustainable management of Dominican flora.

    República de Colombia Ave., The Northern Gardens of Santo Domingo. Map
    Tel: (809) 385-2611 / (809) 385-2613
    Fax: 809-565-4331
    PO Box 21-9
    Hours: Year round visits can be made from de 9:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M.
    Admission per person: Adults: $50.00 pesos; Children: $40.00 pesos; Foreign visitors: $5.00 dollars.
    Website: www.jbn.gob.do

    Malecon de Santo Domingo

    Malecón de Santo DomingoFortaleza Ozama
    Malecón Santo Domingo Hotel Jaragua

    The name Malecón comes from a recent era - the first decade of the 20th century. Prior to this time, the embankment along the waterfront was known as “The Tripero,” “Malecón Padre Billini” or “La Boca del Infierno”.

    It was in 1908 when the construction of this walkway began although the idea had been sitting in the offices of the Town Hall since 1905. The plans were designed by French engineer Henry Thomasset who was also in charge of mounting the statue of the Admiral in the Plaza Mayor during the government of Heureaux.

    Malecón Center Santo DomingoMalecón Center Santo Domingo
    Malecón Center Santo Domingo

    This stone coastal walkway represented an important urban advance for the era in that it helped eradicate the slipperiness in this part of the city. The project was part of a vast program of public works that were going on at the time. The Malecón construction began almost at the same time as the building of Independence Park.

    The extension of the Malecón, whose main avenue is George Washington Street, stretches from the 30th of May highway (at kilometer 12 of the Sanchez road) to Port Avenue.

    Malecón de Santo DomingoFortaleza Ozama
    El Obelisco:

    The Obelisk was erected to commemorate the name change of Santo Domingo to Trujillo City in 1936. It also stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the San Zenón hurricane that hit on September 3, 1930. The majority of the casualties from the hurricane were buried in the Plaza Colombina (Eugenio María de Hostos Park).
    The Malecón can be traversed on foot and by carriage. With the passage of years, art galleries and food stands have sprung up along the various stretches of the esplanade where visitors can look at paintings and pass time relaxing with family and friends.


    Palacio Bellas Artes

    Palacio de Bellas ArtesMalecón Center Santo Domingo
    Palacio de Bellas Artes

    This impressive building was inaugurated on May 15, 1956 during the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina; it was designed by the architect Francisco Manuel “Cuqui” Batista Bisonó

    The palace, built to house the offices of the Fine Arts, is a neo-classical design characterized by its refined interiors. There are available open spaces around two interior patios that act as fountains and a central space with a low dome over a drum in the central axial of the complex

    The Palace of Fine Arts is 13,000 square meters in size and has two main floors with a basement and a third floor concealed in the terrace roof. There is an auditorium that can hold 650 people, exhibition galleries, offices, rehearsal rooms and storerooms. Under the large dome are two 9-meter tall statues made by sculptor Antonio Prats which symbolize the various artistic expressions that take place in this cultural center.   

    Malecón Center Santo DomingoMalecón Center Santo Domingo
    Palacio de Bellas Artes

    The construction of this building, which used high quality workmanship,
    also utilized a variety of decorative elements and material installations such as Carrara marble, jade, alabaster, reinforced steel, gold and silk along with the 116 pure Doric columns that line the periphery. The building cost more than $1.5 billion dollars in 1956.

    The current Dominican President Leonel Fernández Reyna supported the recent remodeling of the building to provide for several new requirements. The new construction was inaugurated in October 2008.  

    The Palace of Fine Arts is on Máximo Gómez Avenue with Independencia, in the Gazcue sector of Santo Domingo. Map
    Tel: 1-809-682-1325
    Admission is free

    Note: They are also intending to establish new tourist routes to better help visitors become acquainted with the rich heritage of Santo Domingo.


    • Brea, J., Domínguez, M., Roca, L., Silvestre, R., Enríquez, J. (2006). Santo Domingo Architectural Guide. Sevilla. Ed. Junta Andalucía.
    • Old Names of Land and Places in the National District. (1984, April 7). Listín Diario supplement. p.p. 5
    • Botanical Garden to Celebrate its 25th Anniversary with Scientific Events. (2001, July 3). El Siglo. p.p. 3B.

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