Old City Walking
Tour Part 2
The New World's oldest fort
3. Puerto de San Diego : Built in 1571, for a time this was the city's main gate. The wall was intended to defend against any attack from the river. Some of the original wall remains.
4. Museo de las Casas Reales: The Museum of the Royal Houses is considered one of the DR's best. Each of its rooms, displaying artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries including salvaged treasure, has been richly restored. The great anchor outside the museum belonged to the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe that sank in 1724 during a storm in the Bay of Samana , located far to the northeast. Open 9-5 Tuesday through Saturday and 10-1:30 on Sunday.
5. Reloj de Sol: The sundial was built in 1753 and situated so that the nobility could easily tell the time from their windows.
6. Pantheon Nacional: Constructed in 1747 as a Jesuit church, this impressive building and its neoclassical façade are built of limestone blocks. It later became a tobacco warehouse and theater until Rafael Trujillo turned it into the National Mausoleum in 1958. Many of the country's top leaders are sealed in the two marble walls. A soldier is always stationed at the entrance. Open to the public but no shorts or tank tops.
7. Hostal Nicolas de Ovanado: This large building with a Gothic façade dates to 1509. It was the home of Gov. Nicolas de Ovanado who ordered the city rebuilt in its present location after the settlement on the east bank was destroyed by a hurricane. The French firm ACCOR/Sofitel has a 25-year contract from the Dominican government to turn the Ovando residence and the attached buildings along the entire block into a 300-room five-star hotel, scheduled to open in 2001 (though probably it will not be open until a year or two past that very optimistic date).
8. Casa de Francia: Built in the early 1500s, this was the house in which Hernan Cortes lived, who planned the conquest of Mexico . It was later turned into a series of government offices, a bank and court offices. Today, the House of France is home to the French embassy. This building apparently had the same architects as the Museo de las Casas Reales. Similarities include double bays in the lower and upper stories and the repeating pattern of windows and doors on both levels.
9. Fortaleza Ozama y Torre del Homenjae: Built in 1505, this oldest fort in the Americas was amazingly well constructed. Until the 1960s it served as a prison and military garrison. From the main gate you'll see the Torre del Homenjae whose 2-meter thick walls are rampant with rifleholes. Its tower offers an excellent view of the city.
A statue of the famous historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo is on the esplanade. Tour guides normally station themselves at the main gate. If you take one, agree on a price beforehand. The fort is open daily 9-5.