Founded in 1496, Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic today, yet still manages to hold the charm it did throughout colonial times, in spite of its stormy past. Originally named for Saint Dominic, the city's name was changed to Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo's City, in English) in 1936 by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The city's name was returned to its original version in 1961 after the assassination of the dictator, but there are still a number of reminders of that part of history to be found around the city, especially in buildings and iron manhole covers that were placed during that era.
Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone has been protected and preserved by the government of the city to the extent that it was named by the UNESCO in 1990, a designation earned in part thanks to its grid pattern layout, which became the model design for a myriad of other cities built during colonial times.
Santo Domingo is a city where history abounds. It is the home of the New World's first paved street. Built in 1502, Calle Las Damas got its name from the women that strolled down it every afternoon. Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone also houses the Dominican Convent, the first convent ever built in the Americas, and the Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest military fortress built by Europeans on the continent.
Santo Domingo is a haven for tourists, with a bustling commercial area established along pedestrian-only Calle Del Conde, a fantastic shoreline, and bustling cultural life. Santo Domingo is also a city that flows at its own pace, and residents enjoy meeting up with friends and the many local cafés that dot the sidewalks around the city. Because of all this and much more, there is no doubt as to why Santo Domingo earned its nickname of "Gateway to the Caribbean" from its early days, continuing to maintain it to this day.