Friday, February 4, 2011

Top 10 Santo Domingo Nightlife

With new bars and dance clubs popping up every month, Santo Domingo’s nightlife never disappoints.  From bohemian hangouts to old school dance halls, there is something for every mood and style, from sundown to sunup.  Here are the city’s top nightlife destinations, in chronological order.

1. Rinconcito
Every Sunday starting around 5PM, El Grupo Bonye gets together in the shadows of colonial ruins to give lovers of merengue and son their weekly dose of music and dance.  This Dominican group has been performing in Rinconcito (“little corner,” which refers to this cobblestoned corner in the ruins) since 2008. Although the event has increased tenfold in size and popularity, it still remains a primarily locals’ event for all ages.  Grab a beer or bottle of rum from a nearby colmado (corner store) and watch as the experienced dance couples sweep the floor with a passionate bolero-son or get in on the action with a merengue when the whole crowd joins in for this fast-paced favorite.
(C/ Hostos, in front of the ruins of San Francisco, Colonial Zone)

2. El Centro Cultural de España
The Spanish government continues to fund projects in the Dominican Republic, including the Centro Cultural de España, which regularly hosts cultural events free to the public.  On most evenings, El Centro will have exhibitions, performance art, or concerts, oftentimes with complimentary wine or beverages. 
(C/Arzobispo Meriño & Calle Arzobispo Portes; Colonial Zone; 809-686-8212)

3. Casa de Teatro
Casa de Teatro is the best place to find excellent cultural events in Santo Domingo.  Featuring a small  theater, outdoor stage, screening room, two art galleries and a bar and restaurant, all the great Dominican artists grace the walls or stage of this establishment.  The screening room offers international film every weeknight at 8PM for RD$50. The galleries generally exhibit Dominican painting, drawing and photography, but international artists are occasionally featured as well.  Nearly every night there is either free live music or reasonably priced jazz concerts.
(C/Arzobispo Meriño 110, Colonial Zone; 809-689-3430;

José Duluc & Gagá group from Villa Mella

4. La Espiral
Known to the locals as Ocho Puertas, this bar has character bursting from its colonial walls from the psychedelic mural in the Spanish outdoor patio, to the Mudéjar style wooden panels on the doors and dreadlocked staff.  This venue hosts unique acts ranging from Gagá (a type of percussion-based music with Voodoo roots), to reggae, to Dominican rock.  Try a fresh watermelon or passion fruit caipirinha while dancing it out or mingling with the young, artsy crowd. 
(Corner of Calle Jose Reyes and Salomé Ureña, Colonial Zone)

5.  El Sartén
If you still have energy after Rinconcito, head to El Sartén to rub shoulders with the old school dance professionals.  Although it is open seven days a week, Sundays after 10PM is the time to go. Impeccably dressed damas and caballeros show the young folk how a son is done.  If you are lucky, try to grab a table and order a service of cuba libre while watching generations of Dominicans show off their merengue.  Ladies, don’t be afraid to make eye contact with one of the gentlemen standing around the perimeter of the shotgun dance floor. They love to share their knowledge with others, and these are some of the best teachers on the island.
(153 C/Hostos, Colonial Zone; 809-686-9621)

6.  Misifú
A hangout for the young, hip and beautiful, this tiny bar with outdoor patio has become a popular weekend hangout.  Tapas and other light fare are offered, but this is more a place to drink and mingle surrounded by outrageous furnishings involving converse sneakers, Papa Smurf, crystal chandeliers and alluringly dark walls and upholsteries. 
(1 C/ Restauración & Atarazana; Colonial Zone; 809-685-7166)

7.  Parada 77
The walls of this alternative bar are covered with graffiti, murals and modern art by Dominican painters.  Friday nights this is the place to dance due to its extended curfew (3am) and the lively bohemian crowd that it draws.  Grab a local to teach you merengue or bachata or rock out to some American favorites. 
(255 Isabel La Católica;;

8.  CHA
Opened by the renowned Dominican drag queen, Chacita Rubio, this gay dance club welcomes all offering late-night dance parties, drag shows and strippers.
(165 Avenida George Washington;; Open Fri. 9pm-4am, Sat 9Pm-3Am & Sun 9pm-1am)

9.  Café de Toi
Also known as La Resistencia, this after-hours bar is  the place to rub shoulders with the artists and musicians of Santo Domingo.  The proprietor, Odalis, turned her home into this underground, late night haven (she continues to live there).  Using her mysterious ways of persuasion, she has managed to keep this bohemian hangout open despite its post-curfew hours (after 12PM).  Each room is full of plushy lounge furniture, paintings by local artists and a whimsical décor reminiscent of a Toulouse Lautrec painting.  The bar has a great selection, but prices are a steep because it is only bar open until the wee hours of the morning.
(An unmarked smoked over glass door on Arz. Portes between C/ 19 de marzo and José Reyes)

10. And for the late night bite: Barra Payan
You can’t get any more local than this 24-hour diner serving up hot-pressed sandwiches, freshly squeezed juices and batidas Try a pierna con gouda sandwich (shredded pork with Gouda cheese) or a derretido (grilled cheese with tomato) with a batida with “Ca,” which is Payan’s shorthand for Carnation milk.  If you come in a car, roll down your window and a waiter will serve you 50s style (minus the roller skates).
(140 C/ 30 de Marzo; Colonial Zone; 809-689-6654)

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