La Parada Cervecera (Av. George Washington, no phone, 8 a.m.–midnight, free) has been around for a very long time and is a favorite on the Malecón. The beer is ice cold, the people-watching is fantastic, and the idea of a quiet conversation is downright laughable because the music is at top decibel, but that is also part of its charm. Music at speaker-distorting levels is a true Dominican institution.
Merengue, bachata, salsa. Let it thump, baby! You’re on vacation. You’ll know it when you see the glowing frosty overflowing beer mug sign and hear the thumping music. This is a casual-dress outdoor joint with food as well, it’s open all day long, and it has off-street parking and an adjacent car wash!
Atarazana 9 (Ciudad Colonial, Atarazana 9, tel. 809/688-0969, 9 p.m.–3 a.m., free) is just off Plaza de la Hispanidad  in a very historic building and a safe area for tourist bar-hopping. It opens around 5 p.m., but live music doesn’t get going until later (on the second floor). The drinks are great and the crowd is young and hip. Live emerging musicians like Pavel Nuñez have been known to play here. Dress is casual.
Abacus (Ciudad Colonial, Hostos 350 and Luperón, tel. 809/333-7272) is a good place for a stylish cocktail with your friends. The lounge has couches and soft lighting with DJ music.
Bio (Calle Sánchez and Padre Billini, no phone) is one of the newest and hippest bars in the Ciudad Colonial . The interior has a warm inviting glow that beckons you to approach and there’s a great mix of music (house, techno, some Latin). However, there is an ooze of “cool” that can look a bit practiced. Nevertheless, this is a fun place to experience.
Parada 77 (Ciudad Colonial, Calle Isabel La Católica 225, tel. 809/221-7880, 9 p.m.–3 a.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 p.m.–“infinity” Sat.–Sun., www.parada77.com ) is not a typical tourist bar at all. This small bar is at the far end of Isabela La Católica and is hot with the younger art crowd. It got its name from being bus stop (parada) number 77, so they never changed it. Not fancy in the least, it is almost completely devoid of furniture save for the bar stools and a few tables and chairs; management says this “encourages dancing.”
The only pictures allowed on the walls are of revolutionary thinkers (like Charlie Chaplin, Che Guevara, and Bob Marley), and the rest is decorated with the graffiti, poetry, and artwork of patrons from all over the world clear up to the ceiling. Just ask for a pen from the very friendly bartender and leave your mark—I did.
An eclectic variety of mostly alternative and world music is played, as well as merengue and salsa on occasion. The young-adult crowd is gay-friendly. There is an empty leg cast hanging on the wall that the manager said had “a long story” that would “go untold.” It’s that kind of odd Dominican humor that appeals. Coming here is a way to experience a different but very real part of Santo Domingo  that tourists rarely see.
In stark contrast to Parada 77 (and at the opposite end of the same street), K-ramba (Ciudad Colonial, Calle Isabel La Católica 1, tel. 809/688-3587, 10 a.m.–3 a.m. Mon.–Sat.) is a very popular tourist bar owned by an Austrian expat. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and rock music is played. Many tourists feel safe going here late at night.
At Café del Teatro (Arzobispo Meriño 110, tel. 809/688-8173, www.casadeteatro.com ), in the Casa de Teatro courtyard, nightly musicians playing classic jazz and Latin-jazz entertain an all-ages crowd with a sophisticated ear. Casual dress.
Walking past Proud Mary (Ciudad Colonial, Av. Duarte 55, tel. 809/689-6611, 8 p.m.–late, closed Mon.), you’ll notice one thing right off the bat. There is no Latin beat pumping from inside. That might make some keep walking, but to many it’s a magnetic pull. Maria, Spanish expat and owner of this 40-person-capacity bar, is indeed proud to say that she plays blues, jazz, and soft rock and that you will never hear Latin music coming from her stereo. Maria made the bar herself; literally every piece of decor was hand-crafted by her or a family member, and she enjoys talking to the expats and foreigners that hang out here (she has a few languages under her belt).
It is a dimly lighted, wonderfully welcoming place with bar stools, some tall tables made of old cable spools, and a small couch area in the back. The music is uncommon in this merengue-or-die town, and played loud enough to enjoy but low enough to meet new friends. The full bar has good prices. Dress is casual.
Hard Rock Café Santo Domingo (Calle El Conde 103, tel. 809/686-7771, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m. Fri. and Sat., www.hardrock.com ) hardly needs any introduction, but many locals now regard this American joint as a good spot to see occasional live acoustic music and get a good burger.
Doubles (Arzobispo Meriño 154, tel. 809/258-2580, www.doublesbar.net ) offers a very classy interior where you can have a drink on a plush couch with your sweetie or entertain some business clients at the classic long wooden bar. The music is a good mix of Latin and pop, but often it’s too loud for a truly intimate conversation (clashing with the romantic couch setup). Still, this bar has been a favorite among locals and tourists for a long time.
Nowhere (Hostos 205, tel. 809/877-6258, 9 p.m.–4 a.m. Wed.–Sat., free) is a very popular bar for a late-night drink, mostly with the young crowd. House music, hip-hop, and Latin music are played in the different dance floors inside.
Cigarro Café (Lina Hotel, Av. Máximo Gomez, tel. 809/687-7685, 1 p.m.–1 a.m. Sun., 10 a.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–3 a.m. Sat.), a small cigar lounge adjacent to the Barceló Lina Hotel (in the back parking lot), has a huge walk-in humidor that cigar aficionados will love and big comfy couches and chairs to disappear into. A full bar serves everything from quality whiskies and rums to rich espresso drinks. There are also outdoor sidewalk tables.