Parque Colón - Columbus Square, Santo Domingo
Parque Colón is the beginning of all my school trips to the Old Town and where Calle El Conde begins (or ends, depending on which direction you're walking to). It's a nice place where one can sit down by or under the big trees and get away from the hot sun and feed the doves :) Observe that no one is allowed to touch or try to take one of those doves home or the regulars will chase you until you give up hehe. Before, when I was growing up, you could sit here pretty much undisturbed but since this is a big (if not the biggest) tourist zone you might be receiving undesired visitors in the form of beggars, taxi drivers offering their services, informal guides, street sellers, shoeshine boys...
On the photo you can see the ancient Cathedral of Santo Domingo in which the Great Admiral is burried. There is also a monument of Columbus who is pointing northward and a native Taino is climbing up to reach him. In this pose the Discoverer points the way to new discoveries and symbolizes the era in which Santo Domingo, the historic name of this island, was the capital of the Spanish Empire.
Columbus is BIG in Santo Domingo. The most famous plaza in the Zona Colonial is a square named in his honor on the north side of the Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor (Plaza de Colón), which has a large bronze statue honoring the discoverer, made in 1882 by a French sculptor.
The square surrounded by historical colonial and Victorian-style buildings. The town hall, dating from the 19th century, faces the west side of the plaza and on the north end, is the Amber Museum. There is also a tourist office, post office, tobacco emporium, and an assortment of restaurants and shops. 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.
The Parque Colón serves as a sort of Plaza Mayor for Santo Domingo and lies at the eastern end of El Conde (and is much classier than Santo Domingo's main drag). The centre of the park contains a statue of Columbus pointing out towards the horizon, with a Taíno woman (topless) at his feet. The south side of the Park is dominated by Santa María de la Encarnación (the Cathedral) with the other sides have impressive colonial and Victorian structures, including the Victorian town hall, which is no longer used as a seat of municipal governance. The north side of the Park has a number of high-end shops, including an art boutique, a cigar shop and several cafés with decent coffee and juices. The green areas of the parks are quite nice to relax in and escape the sun, although it is almost certain that you will be pestered by the small Haitian boys who shine shoes (any type of shoes, including sneakers and sandals) or beg for money. There are also a few token hat and ostume jewellery sellers here, although you're best bet for those items is to head to El Conde.
The 19th century precursor to the megalomaniac “Faro a Colon” mausoleum is the monument to the Gobernador in the old town on the grounds of the ex Plaza Mayor, nowadays baptised Parque de Colon. The composition is apparently produced by a French master whose name is not that important to posterity so it won’t be quoted. It comprises of Colon’s figure proudly stepping forward on a stone base with the smug gesture of pointing towards the new horizons and most probably the bright future. UNDERNEATH is a topless Taino woman who somehow has been able to learn how to write in Spanish well enough to spell his name most probably with great deal of gratitude. What a patronizing pathos so typical of the European superiority complex which presumes that civilization on their terms is what the locals have always clamoured for! It is rather comical that this stance moulded in bronze is reminiscent of Soviet Russia and its spheres of influence where it has been copied million times in the shape of Lenin, the lesser prophet, pointing to victory on global scale albeit with a different ideological slant.
You should smoke a cigar at one of the many cigar factories along Parque Colon. You can even take a tour during the week to see them being made. Since the cigar makers who run these places fled communist Cuba, these cigars are actually 'cuban' cigars.
The best starting point to visit the Colonial Zone is Parque Colòn. Here is the Monument of Christopher Columbus, who looks like being ready to leave with his arm pointed at the sea. In the background is the Catedral Primada de America.
This beautiful little park is the central square of Santo Domingo. From here starts the Calle El Conde, the main shopping street. Also, the Calle de Damas, the first street in the new world.