Santo Domingo, or ‘La Capital’ as it’s typically called, is a collage of cultures and neighborhoods. It’s where the sounds of life – domino pieces slapped on tables, backfiring mufflers and horns from chaotic traffic, merengue and bachata blasting from corner stores – are most intense. At the heart of the city is the Zona Colonial, where you’ll find one of the oldest churches and the oldest surviving European fortress among other New World firsts. Amid the cobblestone streets, it would be easy to forget Santo Domingo is in the Caribbean. But this is an intensely urban city, home not only to colonial-era architecture, but also to hot clubs, vibrant cultural institutions and elegant restaurants. Santo Domingo somehow manages to embody the contradictions central to the Dominican experience: a living museum, a metropolis crossed with a seaside resort, and a business, political and media center with a laid-back, affable spirit.