Old Havana

Studded with architectural jewels offers visitors one of the finest collections of urban edifices in the Americas.

old havana

Cathedral Square (Plaza de la Catedral) 

Old Havana’s most uniform square with baroque buildings including the Cathedral dating from the 1700s.

Square of Arms (Plaza de Armas)

Havana’s oldest square (1520s). Nowadays hosts a daily seconhand book market.

San Francisco de Asisi Square (Plaza de San Francisco de Asisi)

Havana Harbor is notable for its uneven cobblestones and the white marble Fountain of Lions carved by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Gaginni in 1836.

old havana streetThe Old Plaza (Plaza Vieja)

It’s Havana’s most architecturally eclectic square where Cuban baroque nestles seamlessly next to Gaudi-inspired art nouveau. It’s sprinkled with bars, restaurants and cafes.

Morro Castle and La Cabaña Fortress

The sweeping views of Havana from the other side of the bay are spectacular and the trip to the two old forts is a must. (They’re located on the opposite side of the harbor) Both forts are included in the Habana Vieja Unesco World Heritage Site. La Cabaña Fortress hosts some Museums, bars, restaurants, souvenir stalls and a cigar shop (containing the world’s longest cigar). The 9pm cañonazo ceremony is a popular evening excursion in which actors dressed in full 18th century military regalia reenact the firing of a cannon over the harbor.

Capitolio Nacional (The Capitol Square)

It’s the most ambitious and grandiose building in Cuba. It's similar to the US Capitol in Washington DC but taller and much richer in detail. It costed US$17 million when built. It was the seat of the Cuban Congress but since 1959 it has housed the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology. It has been undergoing lengthy renovations for more than 2 years.

partagas cigar factory

The Partagas Cigar Factory

(Industria No.520 between Barcelona & Dragones, tours CUC$10 every 15 min. 9-10:15am & noon- 1:30pm) One the Havana’s oldest and most famous cigar factories was founded in 1845 by Spaniard Jaime Partagas. Today some 400 workers toil for up to 12 hours a day in here rolling such famous cigars as Montecristos and Cohibas. It’s the most popular and reliable factory to visit.



Prado (Paseo de Marti)

European-style boulevard (mid-1830s) as splendid as any found in Paris or Barcelona.

havanas maleconHavana’s Malecon

The Malecon sea drive of 8km from Habana Vieja to Miramar it’s one of the city’s most soulful and quintessentially Cuban thoroughfares. Long a favored meeting place for assorted lovers, philosophers, poets, traveling minstrels, fishermen and wistful Florida-gazers.

The Captain General’s Palace

(Tacon No.1 admission CUC $3. From 9am-6pm) Filling the whole west side of Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms) it’s considered the Museum of the City. To be involved of all the history during the Spanish domain, the independence wars and the transition period to the Republic.

The Rum Museum

San Pedro No. 262 admission included a guide for CUC$7 from 9am-5:30pm Mon-Thu, 9am-4:30pm Fri-Sun. It sits opposite Havana harbor with its trilingual guided tour, shows rum-making, antiquities and the complex brewing process. A not over-generous measure of rum is included in the price.

National Fine Arts Museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)

It’s a dual site art museum where international art from 500 BC to the present day is exhibited. Including paintings by El Greco and Greek pots from the 5th century BC.

Cuban Art Museum

(Trocadero between Agramonte & Av. de las Misiones CUC$ 5 from 9am-5pm TueSat, 10am-2pm Sun) is the better of the duo.

museo de la revolucion

Revolution Museum (Museo de la Revolucion)

(Refugio No.1 admission CUC$6 from 9am-5pm) This was the former Presidential Palace constructed between 1913-1920 and used by Cuban presidents, culminating in Fulgencio Batista. The world-famous Tiffany’s of New York decorated the interior and the Hall of Mirrors was designed to resemble the same as Palace of Versailles. In front of the building is a SAU-100 tank used by Castro during the 1961 battle of the Bay of Pigs. Behind the Museum is the Pavillon Granma a memorial of the yacht that carried Fidel Castro and 81 revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.

San Jose’s Handicraft Market

(Centro Cultural antiguos almacenes de depósito San José) (Av. Desamparados & San Ignacio from 10am-6pm Mon-Sat) It used to be an old shipping warehouse. Possible souvenirs include paintings, guayabera shirts, woodwork, leather items, jewelry, etc.

Vedado

Havana's commercial hub and archetypal residential district is bisected by two wide Parisian-style boulevards, Calle G and Paseo. During the 40s and 50s this was the place where Havana’s gambling  reached its heady climax. The Hotel Nacional once boasted a Las Vegas style casino, the Hotel Riviera was the former stomping ground of influential mobster Meyer Lansky, while Hotel Capri was managed by Hollywood actor George Raft.

Havana’s University (Universidad de La Habana)

(Calle L & San Lazaro) Founded in 1728 was moved to its present neoclassical complex in 1902. Today some 30,000 students follow courses in social sciences, humanities, natural sciences,etc.

Museo Napoleonico

(San Miguel No.1159 CUC$3/5 from 9am-4:30pm Tue-Sat) Without doubt, one of the best museums in Havana. It has a collection of 7000 objects associated with the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Highlights include sketches of Voltaire and paintings of the battle of Waterloo.

Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolucion)

Conceived by French urbanist Jean Claude Forestier in the 1920s the gigantic Plaza is the base of the Cuban governmment and a place where political rallies are held. Center-stage in the Plaza is the Memorial Jose Marti which at 138.5m is Havana’s tallest structure. Fronted by an impressive 17m marble statue of Marti it houses a museum and a 129m lookout (reached via a small CUC$2 lift) with fantastic city views.

Miramar

It’s a leafy neighborhood of broad avenues and weeping laurel trees. Along Fifth Avenue many of Havana’s foreign embassies are housed here in old pre-Revolution mansions.

Finca Vigia (Ernest Hemingway’s house)

(San Francisco de Paula, admission CUC$5 from 10am-5pm Mon-Sat/10am-1pm Sun) Located 15km southeast of central Havana this house was bought by the US novelist in 1940 and he lived there continuously until 1960 when he moved back to the United States. The villa’s interior has remained unchanged since the day he left and now is a museum.

The Hamel backstreet (Callejon de Hamel)

(From noon Sunday at the Cayo Hueso neighbourhood) Aside from its funky street murals and psychedelic art shops the main reason to come to Havana’s high temple of Afro-Cuban culture in Centro Habana is for a frenetic rumba music that kicks off every Sunday at around noon.

playas del esteEast Beaches (Playas del Este)

Each of the six beaches that dot this 9km stretch of attractive coastline has its own distinctive flavor. Tarara is a yatch and diving haven, Santa Maria del Mar is where the largest concentration of resorts (and foreigners) can be found. Boca Ciega is popular with gay couples, while Guanabo is the rustic Cuban end of the strip, with shops, a nightclub and a plenty of cheap casas particulares.