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Zona Colonial contains some of the oldest and most beautiful examples of colonial architecture in the western world, much of it fully restored. A good place to start is at the Alcázar de Colón. A palace built by Columbus' son Diego in 1509, it is situated on the Rio Ozama. Religious and colonial art items of the era are found next door at the Alcázar Museum.
Visit the many shops and restaurants along the bustling portside street of Las Atarazanas. This was the first trading center of the New World and is now fully restored to its 16th century splendour.
Stroll along Calle las Damas, considered the oldest street of the Americas. Translated as "Street of the Ladies", it has a romantic aura that is much the same as when the ladies of Viceroy's court would promenade. Stop at the Museo de las Casas Reales, an excellent colonial museum, formerly the Palace of the Governors.
Visit the historical shrine for national heroes at Panteón Nacional, an impressive stone building constructed in 1755 as a Jesuit church. Casa de Bastidas on the Calle las Damas offers a rare view of fascinating archeological excavations and ceramics. Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest fortress in America, was built in 1503 by Nicolás de Ovando, whose house on the same street is now a lovely hotel. The Torre del Homenaje inside the fort has a museum and gallery with changing exhibitions.
For a tranquil respite, be sure to visit Parque Colón in front of the Santo Domingo Cathedral or Catedral Basílica Menor de Santa María. The New World's first cathedral was finished in 1540 and was restored in 1992 with new sculptures representing the indigenous people added at the gates.
Other places of interest are the Convento de los Dominicos, the Iglesia Regina, Iglesia del Carmen and many more shown on the map. Christopher Columbus wrote of Santo Domingo: "This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen." You will agree that the natural beauty is matched by the architectural and historic wonders to be discovered in the Zona Colonial.
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