Christopher Columbus' brother, Bartolomé Colón, founded the Dominican Republic's capital city, originally named La Isabela, in 1496. A number of New World 'firsts' occurred here, including the first cathedral, university, monastery and hospital. This is also where Spanish conquistadors set off to conquer the rest of the Caribbean, and regions of North, Central and South America. The city definitely experienced its share of trouble over the following centuries. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1562; captured, looted and burnt down by Sir Francis Drake in 1586; attacked by both British and French forces over most of the 17 th century; and dominated by Haitian forces, more or less until Trujillo took power in 1936, and re-named the city after himself - Ciudad Trujillo. Upon his death in 1961, the name was changed back, and after a military coup and an American invasion in 1965, peaceful order finally returned to the city.
Since that time it has exploded with industry and urban migration. Today Santo Domingo is a bustling and cosmopolitan city with 2.5 million inhabitants. It boasts activities to offer everyone - museums, ballet, opera, baseball games, and the greatest options of nightlife, restaurants and shopping to be found in the Dominican Republic. The most popular draw is the heart of the city, Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone), located on the western bank of the Río Ozama . It's here you'll find cobblestone streets, historical monuments, and wonderful old-world Spanish architecture that remains relatively in tact. While there are dozens of things to see and do in the Zona Colonial, visitors should also see the museums housing the history of the country, such as the Museo del Hombre Dominicano (Museum of Dominican Man); and the Museum of Modern Art; the palm-lined Malecón (boardwalk along the ocean), to get a taste of the city's night life; the Estadio Quisqueya, to watch a game of the Dominican's most beloved, national sport, baseball; and Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes), a group of large caves and freshwater lagoons, used by the country's original inhabitants, the Tainos, for religious ceremonies; and Faro del Colon, built in the shape of a cross and also projects a cross shaped beam of light into the sky at night.