One of the oldest settlements in Spain’s New World empire, Santiago is the country’s second-largest city, spilling over its original border, the Río Yaque del Norte. This sprawling place churns out rum and cigars, feeding off the large-scale tobacco and sugarcane plantations that dominate the valley. The Cordillera Central to the west and Cordillera Septentrional to the north hem in the city, which is divided by the Duarte Hwy.

Overlooked by most travelers, Santiago is a good place to contemplate ordinary Dominican life. Typical of poor barrios countrywide, Santiago’s are a maze of haphazardly constructed homes with corrugated-iron roofs. Meanwhile, just east of downtown is Cerros de Gurabo, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the DR, where roads are lined with mansions concealed behind high walls. But all strata of society cheer for the hometown baseball team and come together around the Monument, the city’s raucous nightlife center.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Santiago.