Cuba – Havana
Havana is known as one of the most unique and spectacular places to visit. Any visit to Cuba must include a few days to explore Havana also known as the capital. The city of Havana is split into three districts – Old Havana – Centro Havana and Vedado. As you walk round and explore Havana, you will feel like you are in an open air museum, from old classic cars from the 50’s, to brightly coloured historical buildings, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. Havana is a bustling city with so many wonderful things to do and see. Havana also has a great nightlife scene as well as numerous museums to learn about the history of Cuba, a great destination to keep you occupied during your visit. We have put together this guide on
“15 Of The Best Things To Do and See In Havana – Cuba”.
LA HABANA VIEJA
La Habana Vieja has been a UESCO site since 1982, it is an area packed with old architectural incredible buildings. The architecture ranges from 17th century baroque to 19th sentry Art Deco. The area has about 900 magnificent buildings of historical significance. Some of the major landmarks here to check out are:
Plaza de la Catedra: which is home to Cathedral de San Cristobel
Bodeguita del Medio: Hemmingway’s favourite hangout.
Castillo de la Fuerza: The military fortress
Casa del Conde Jaruco: Is a stunning 18th century building with stained glass windows
Camera Obscura: A fantastic tower which will provide you with views from its 35 meter height.
La Habana Vieja is a popular place for tourist to stay and a great place to start exploring the city. It has over 500 years of old heritage buildings and a number of famous museums and art galleries in this area. If you want a take a photo with the famous mulattas who are dressed in traditional costumes with vibrant makeup who are usually smoking cigars this is the area to get that snap.
4 HISTORICAL SQUARES
A great tour of the city is visiting the Four Plazas: this exploration route will take you on a magical journey through five centuries of history and architecture through the capital Havana. During this walk you will come across numerous UNESCO buildings, various types of architecture from the Spanish Colonial to Neoclassical era’s. The areas are packed with wonderful old churches, cathedrals, monuments and houses where the locals live. Whilst on your tour you can stop off for lunch or a drink in one of the many cafes, restaurants or bars. The areas are lively with the hustle and bustle of Havana, usually with live music being played. There are also many shops here if you want to pick up some touristy souvenirs.
TAKE A YANK TANK AROUND HAVANA
These government licensed cars are the more expensive way to see Havana, but a memory you will definitely remember, these cars operate like taxis in Havana and you can find them usually outside luxury hotels dotted around the capital. Some of the models of cars are: 1958 Oldsmobile 98 convertible, the topless 1957 Chevrolet, and the 1956 Dodge convertible. They charge by distance not time.
The square was designed by Frenchman Jean Claude Forestier during the 1920s and was originally called the Plaza Cívica (Civic Plaza), but it was patriotically renamed after Fidel Castro’s rise to power. It is known to be one of the largest squares in the world and a location where many events are held.
There are many buildings in the square of historical importance such as the Ministry of the Interior building, famous for a gigantic etching of revolutionary hero Che Guevara with the phrase “hasta la Victoria siempre” (onwards to victory, always) in addition to the telecommunications building, which also features a fine museum about Cuba’s postal service, the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, which is Cuba’s largest library, as well as Cuba’s National Theater. The most prominent being the Memorial José Martí, which is 139 metres tall and one of Cuba’s most famous landmarks, you can access the observations deck for a small free.
There is also a museum dedicated to the life and work of Martí. This is a wonderful place to learn about the history of the Cuban Revolution and the Wars of Independence.
America’s most well remembered novellists and one of the 20th century’s greatest authors is said to have loved Cuba. He spent much of his life on the island and wrote several books inspired by Cuba. Hemingway left a huge mark on the island and you can visit may of the places he frequented. Many locals refer to Hemingway as “Papa Hemingway”. Hemingway left his mark on the island in many ways, there are numerous cocktails, events and monuments named after him, around the capital and island.
Hemingway’s famous Pulitzer-prize winning, “The Old Man and the Sea” is said to have been inspired by Cuba’s fishing town of Cojimar, and its main character was one of his closest fishermen friends, Gregorio Fuentes, to whom he left his beloved boat Pilar.
Hemingway frequented El Floridita to enjoy his favourite cocktail, which is the Cuban daiquiri. El Floridita bar located in Old Havana. At this bar you will find lots of old photos of Hemingway and a statue of him which the bar has placed right next to Hemingways favourite bar stool.
La Bodeguita del Medio
La Bodeguita del Medio, is another local bar he enjoyed as he often stayed in Ambos Mundos hotel. This bar is a great place to visit and has a fantastic cocktail list and great atmosphere.
Ambos Mundos Hotel
Ambos Mundes Hotel was one of the first places Hemingway stayed nn during his first trip to Cuba in 1928. The hotel has now converted his room into a mini museum which you can visit for approx $2. The walls of room 511, is located on the hotel’s fifth floor, where you can see numerous photographs which surround the famous mahogany desk with his original Remington typewriter, a few spread-out manuscripts and several old magazines. Don’t forget to check out the rooftop bar.
This was the Hemingway’s residence in Cuba which he paid £12,500 for in 1940 and spent a lot of time here writing many of his books. When Hemingway died in 1961 it is said he left the property in the hands of the Cuban government. It is now a museum called Museo Ernest Hemingway. Visitors cannot enter the house but you can view each room from outside the windows, also you see his swimming pool, tennis court and his boat. Once you finish the tour you can round it off with a well deserved drink at the bar on site.
Fishing town of Cojimar
Cojimar is a beautiful fishing town located 6 miles east of Havana. It is said that Hemingway wrote the book “The Old Man and The Sea”, based on this town, where he also kept his boat. There is a bar and resturant here where Hemingway visited. The town has retained its charm and character.
The Cuban cigar is a world renowned and one of the top souvenirs, thats is bought in Cuba, that is made from tobacco leaves and historically rolled by hand. It consists of three parts – a filler, a binder and a wrapper.
Here are a few Cigar Factory Tours you can do.
La Corona Factory
Location: Havana City
La Corona Factory is one of the largest cigar factories in Cuba. The factory is known to produce cigars to at least 25 cigar brands. Tours last about 40 minutes.
Partagas Cigar Factory
Location: Havana City
Partagas Cigar Factory is one of Cuba’s best known and most popular factories. it was established in 1845 and it produces cigars to many famous cigar brands. The building is a beautiful histroric building and an fantastic example of Caribbean architecture. The tour of the factory allows visitors to see the cigar making process from start to finish.
Is Havana’s oldest square which has been there since 1520s, soon after the city was founded. First named Plaza de la Iglesia after a small church that stood here until 1741, when it was destroyed following the explosion. It got it’s new name Plaza de Armas during late 16th century when the governor used this square to conduct military training. The square was used in colonial times for military parades, musical concerts and evening promenades. Located in the center of the square is the statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, initiator of the Cuban wars of independence.
VISIT THE CRAFT (TOURIST MARKET)
If you want to bring back a memory from your visit to Cuba, go to Almacenes De San Joe. They have art crafts from all over the country. You can put your bartering skills to use here.
The Malecón is one of Cuba´s most famous streets. It’s an 8km avenue, which borders the sea. It’s the place where locals and tourists chill out in the evening to watch the beautiful sunsets. This is one of the spots to enjoy a nice cocktail or beer whilst people watching.
Is the the work of architects Maruri, of Cuba, and Jean Beleu, of Belgium, who came up with an eclectic design, which harmoniously combines Spanish, French and German architectural concepts. It was originally designed to house the Provincial Government of Havana, but it was finished in 1920 to be the Presidential Palace. It was the HQ for the Cuban government for over 40 years. Today the museum has numerous exhibits including the (History of Cuba, Archeology, Weapons, Paintings and sculptures). The “Granma” Memorial can be found outside the museum, the memorial is an huge glass display case that shows the ship used by Fidel Castro.
SUGAR CANE JUICE – Guarapo Frio
Guarapo frio is the sweetest, healthiest, most delicious drink you can find in Cuba made from sugarcane and served with ice. It’s popular all over the Caribbean and Central/South America. Find stall and shops selling this delicious refreshing drink all around Havana.
MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a spectacular museum and it houses the largest art collection in the country, with its collection divided between two completely separate buildings.
You can find the history of Cuban art here by various artists and featured artists from the rest of the world which are represented in the Centro Asturiano, which has an impressive collection of art, including Roman ceramics and nineteenth-century Japanese paintings.
If you’re on a budget, try eating out like the locals do. There are plenty of different street food options to try, and they’re all really cheap. Here are a few choices you can try:
Plantian (similar to a banana) fried till they are crispy served with a delicious dip.
Hamburguesa de cerdo
You can buy these pork burgers for approx $1.50 each, this is a yummy filling meal.
Pie de coco
These are little pies with coconut and they cost about $0.20, this will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth.
You can pizza for about $0.90 annd the pizza in Cuba is famous for being topped with sweet pineapple.
Batido de guayaba
Guavas are found everywhere on the island, and in Cuba they make them into tasty shakes. Refresh yourself for just $0.25.
Sandwich de huevo
These egg sandwiches are a popular breakfast choice staring from $0.75.
These deep-fried dough sticks coated in sugar definitely aren’t the best if your weight conscious, but are great for a delicious treat.
A must do experience in Havana at a paladar. They are usually small family run establishments. Paladares translates to “family-restaurant” or “self-run restaurant”. They have this name because they are typically built inside of the big houses or buildings that people live in, who have converted all or a section of it into a restaurant.
CASA De La MUSICA
Is essentially a massive indoor nightclub, except with live music, and lots of salsa dancing! You can get a cheap bottle of rum and sit at a table, or get up and have a dance. A fantastic way to end your day.