Parque Colon / Catedral

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on April 19, 2002

The Parque Colon (Colon is in Spanish, Colombo is in Italian, and of course Columbus is in English) is perhaps the most famous plaza in the Zona Colonial. It is an attractive square surrounded by historical colonial and Victorian-style buildings. The main Catedral forms the south boundary of the square. The town hall, dating from the 19th century, faces the west side of the plaza. The significance and central location of the park are magnified by the proximity of a tourist office, post office, tobacco emporium, not to mention a lively assortment of restaurants and shops. There is the presence of tourist police officers to create a sense of security for travelers, while the ever-present tour guides are very anxious to pass their collective historical knowledge to you (for a reasonable fee, of course). The tour guides always sense my reluctance, as they are quick to flash their official glossy government badges establishing them as honest-to-goodness tourism ambassadors. If you feel like you need a helping hand, by all means employ one of these gentlemen but negotiate a fee first. A reverential statue of Christopher Columbus stands as the centerpiece of the plaza; apparently being a statue or a tree is the only way to avoid drawing too much attention from a tour guide.

The Basilica Catedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion (otherwise labeled the Catedral Primeda de America, or just simply the Catedral) is the oldest cathedral in North America, depending on what the exact definition of "oldest" is. The cornerstone was laid in 1514, with construction proceeding grudgingly from 1520 onwards. The Catedral has a very eclectic design style with evolving Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and other influences. The interior has a nice vaulted ceiling and fourteen chapels along the aisles. Be aware that shorts and other informal garb are generally frowned upon. There is a very peaceful courtyard adjacent to the south entrance. A series of peculiar howling wolf gargoyles guard the grounds along the east facade of the Catedral.

The pedestrian-only Calle El Conde connects the Parque Colon from the east with the Parque Independencia to the west. This is an enjoyable mile-long stroll, as there is no traffic down this street. Calle El Conde is fronted by a motley selection of cafes, fast food stops, shops and so forth. If you really need a cheap "pica pollo" fix, why not try a local chain like Pollo Rey over an international conglomerate like KFC (both are on El Conde)? You will encounter a colorful mix of street musicians, vendors, and see tourists being led about by tour guides (or perhaps you are one of these tourists!). In a way, Calle El Conde is the inland version of the malecon, which runs parallel just a few blocks south. If pressed for time, try to do a loop by walking up El Conde in one direction and going down the malecon in the opposite direction.

Parque Colón
Calle El Conde
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
+1 809 687 4722

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