Courtesy of Dominican Republic Tourism (Casas del XVI, Pat’e palo).
You don’t have to cross the pond for a European vacation — Santo Domingo delivers in spades. Founded by the brother of Christopher Columbus, the Dominican Republic’s imperial-style capital is the oldest European settlement in the New World, and its deep Spanish heritage is still very much on display.
The city’s Zona Colonial brims with opulent relics from the era of conquistadors: churches, plazas, and mansions — some of which, like Casas del XVI (CasasDelXVI.com), have been lovingly transformed into luxurious hotels. Dip in and out of world-class landmarks, like the Bellapart Museum and Columbus Lighthouse; savor the range of Dominican cuisine — with its blend of Spanish, indigenous, and African flavors — at the popular Pat’e Palo (PatePalo.com); sit in the shadow of the Columbus family palace; and when the sun sets, take to the streets for bachata music and dancing, fueled by Spanish wine and local rum.